Frequently Asked Questions about Coronavirus

Health and Wellness

According to the CDC, novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold. Patients with COVID-19 will be evaluated and cared for differently than patients with common coronavirus diagnosis.

Reviewed Aug. 3, 2020.

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms. CDC will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19.

Read more from the CDC about COVID-19 Symptoms.

Reviewed Aug. 3, 2020.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person to person, mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). 

COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in many affected geographic areas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

Reviewed Aug. 3, 2020.

If you are sick, stay home.

Practice good hygiene.

  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Do not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing, and immediately dispose of the tissue.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean your hands by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol immediately after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.

Monitor your symptoms closely. Take your temperature daily.

Stay home from school and work until at least 72 hours after your fever ends, without the use of fever-reducing medications. If you must go out of the house or be around others, wear a mask and avoid close contact. Be especially careful around people who have compromised immune systems, underlying health conditions or are age 60 and older.

Take care of yourself. Rest as much as possible. Drink lots of fluids.

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 infection — such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath — please take the steps listed below:

First: Call your health provider in advance. Please do not show up at a clinic, urgent care or other health facility without calling first. Your provider will need to take special measures to protect other people in the clinic. Telemedicine may also be available, enabling you to consult a provider from home.

  • Students on the UM campus may contact Curry Health Center at 406-243-2122.
  • Students who have a primary health care provider should contact that doctor.
  • Faculty, other academic personnel and staff should contact their primary care provider.
Reviewed Aug. 3, 2020.

If you had close contact* with a person with confirmed COVID-19, but you do not have any symptoms (fever, coughing, shortness of breath):

  1. Stay at home for 14 days after your last contact with the ill person. Do not go to school or work. Avoid public places.
  2. During the 14 days, monitor your health for fever, cough and shortness of breath.
  3. Notify the Missoula City-County Health Department at 406-258-4770.

*Close contact is defined as being within about 6 feet of a person with confirmed COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time, or having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case without wearing personal protective equipment.

Reviewed Aug. 3, 2020.

According to Missoula City-County Health Department:

  • The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath. These can be symptoms of other respiratory illnesses as well as COVID-19.
  • If you are in a high-risk category, and have symptoms of COVID-19, call your health care provider for advice. If you are at risk for serious illness, your health care provider may arrange a test for COVID-19.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Avoid sharing personal household items. Clean your hands often. Clean all high-touch surfaces like doorknobs often.
  • Monitor your symptoms and call your health care provider if symptoms worsen.
  • Stay home and avoid others for 72 hours after your fever goes down and symptoms get better.
  • Visiting the Missoula City-County Health Department Testing and Screening Resources website for information on testing.
Reviewed Aug. 3, 2020.

Testing is typically conducted at a health care provider’s office or at the Missoula City-County Health Department testing site. Always call ahead before visiting your health care provider or testing site.

UM students who have symptoms, have been in contact with someone who tested positive or believe they have COVID-19 symptoms should call Curry Health Center at 406-243-2122. 

Curry Health Center is using a point-of-care COVID test that we run in our lab. Curry Health Center coordinates all COVID testing services with ongoing guidance from the local health department.

At this time, Curry Health Center is prioritizing the testing of symptomatic students. Employees should contact their own health care provider or the health department for testing. If you have symptoms and would like to schedule a test at the county testing facility, call 406-258-INFO and select Option 2 to speak to a nurse. Tests are free and by appointment only. 

Updated May 17, 2021.

Your health care provider will contact you to notify you of your test results. That information is not shared with UM. If you test positive, your results will be provided to the Missoula City-County Health Department.

Updated Aug. 11, 2020.

All contact tracing is handled by employees of the Missoula City-County Health Department. UM cooperates with the health department to provide relevant information, but the University does not conduct its own contact tracing. UM students who are participating in contact tracing as part of their academic experience are hired and employed by the health department. 

Per CDC guidelines, all efforts to locate and communicate with COVID-19 patients and close contacts must be carried out in a manner that preserves the confidentiality and privacy of all involved. This includes never revealing the name of the client to a close contact unless permission has been given (preferably in writing), and not giving confidential information to third parties (e.g., roommates, neighbors, family members).

Updated Aug. 11, 2020.

If you are sick, stay home. You should take steps you normally would when sick, including focusing on caring for your health, contacting your health care provider if you feel you need and don’t attend social events. 

Reviewed Aug. 11, 2020.

People with preexisting health conditions are at higher risk to develop complications from a COVID-19 infection. People at higher risk of severe illness should stay home and stay away from people as much as possible.

People at higher risk include people:

  • More than 60 years of age.
  • With underlying health conditions, including include heart disease, lung disease or diabetes.
  • With weakened immune systems.
  • Who are pregnant.

If you are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, you should:

  • Stock up on supplies
  • Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others
  • When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick
  • Limit close contact and wash your hands often
  • Avoid crowds, cruise travel, and non-essential travel

If there is an outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible. Watch for symptoms and emergency signs. If you get sick, stay home and call your doctor. 

Reviewed Aug. 11, 2020.

The novel coronavirus outbreak presents stress and worry for members of our UM community. This is a critically important time for all of us to reinforce a community of care on our campus and support one another.

If you would like to talk with someone, support is available to students through through Curry Health Center Counseling

Reviewed Aug. 11, 2020.

The Missoula County Infectious Disease Line has COVID-19-specific support from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday at 406-258-3896. The county also has a COVID-19 website. Local government leaders are providing regular video updates on the Missoula County YouTube channelVisit the Safer Missoula website for information about our community response.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services staffs the Nurse First Line 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Reach it by calling 1-800-330-7847.

Missoula's Community Medical Center provides a Nurse-on-Call hotline 24 hours a day, seven days at week. Call 406-327-4770 to speak with a nurse.

If you are in need of immediate emergency assistance, call 9-1-1.

Updated Aug. 10, 2020.


The best way to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19 and influenza, is to avoid exposure to the virus. Take the CDC-recommended precautions to reduce your risk of exposure, including proper handwashing; covering your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others, covering coughs and sneezes and then throwing the tissue in a trash receptacle; cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces; and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.

Reviewed Aug. 11, 2020.

You can reduce the risk of spreading coronaviruses by taking the same steps as you would to prevent infection from the flu and the common cold:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for a least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer, with 60-95% alcohol if water is not available.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home while you are sick and avoid close contact with others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and immediately dispose of the used tissue.
Reviewed Aug. 11, 2020.

Effective May 17, 2021, masks will no longer be required on the UM campus, with the exception of Curry Heath Center, which will still require patients and staff to wear masks. Per CDC guidelines, we recommend that unvaccinated individuals continue to wear face coverings indoors and outdoors when in close contact (less than 6 feet) from others. 

On May 10, 2021, Missoula City-County Public Health Officer Ellen Leahy signed an order that changed the county’s mask/face covering requirement to a recommendation.

On May 13, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated mask guidance for fully vaccinated individuals, stating “fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”

Updated May 17, 2021.

University Operations

On May 14, 2021, Montana Commissioner Clayton Christian has announced the formal sunsetting of the Healthy MUS Planning Guidelines, which were in effect during this previous academic year. UM's leadership team, COVID Response Team and, and the Campus Preparedness and Reponse Group will work through the summer on updates to our planning for the fall semester. 

An important change with this announcement is that, effective immediately, the mask requirement for the Montana University System becomes a recommendation. Campuses will consult relevant authorities and guidance at the local, state and federal levels when developing ongoing guidance related to masks.

Effective Monday, May 17, masks will no longer be required on the UM campus, with the exception of Curry Heath Center, which will still require patients and staff to wear masks. Per CDC guidelines, we recommend that unvaccinated individuals continue to wear face coverings indoors and outdoors when in close contact (less than 6 feet) from others. 

Though not required in most areas of campus, there may be situations where individuals feel more comfortable wearing a mask. Consider wearing masks as a precaution when returning to work from out-of-area travel, if you’ve recently attended a large event or if there’s a possibility you've been exposed to COVID-19.

There are also businesses in the community that are continuing to require masks. For these reasons, keep a mask available in case you need one. Likewise, please respect the decisions of others to continue wearing masks if they choose to do so. They may be doing it to protect you!

Updated May 17, 2021.

The University of Montana is hosting in-person campus visits.

Contact our Campus Visit Coordinator at for more information and/or to set up a visit.

If you are unable to schedule ahead or visit campus in person at this time, please take advantage of our Virtual Visits.

Updated May 17, 2021.

UM is planning for a return to normal operations for the fall 2021 semester. We look forward to a campus brimming with activity, filled with students and colleagues we have missed, and alive with events and gatherings over the summer as we prepare to welcome students home in August, reuniting the UM family on our beautiful campus.

Human Resources

UM has a goal of returning to our usual in-person operations by the start of the fiscal year on July 1, 2021. Timely discussions will enable thoughtful planning for this transition.  All telecommuting agreements currently in place will expire on June 30, 2021.

All telecommuting agreements (including those not related to or resulting from COVID-19) must be updated using a new form available on the HRS website that requires annual evaluation and renewal. Employees will work with their supervisor to complete a new form if their work location will continue to include a remote location. 

We realize that there are instances where working remotely benefits the employee, the University and its constituents. Working remotely, either on a full-time or part-time basis, will be available, with the requirement that all telecommuting agreements be evaluated and renewed on an annual basis.

Updated May 17, 2021.

Employees requesting to work remotely as a reasonable accommodation for a disability must contact Michele Wheeler of Human Resource Services to confidentially discuss their request. Employees who currently are telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation for a disability must contact Michele Wheeler regarding the status of their accommodation.

Updated May 17, 2021.

If you are sick, stay home. Staff and student workers should continue to follow their unit’s procedure for requesting sick time off and can find more information on the HR website.

Updated May 17, 2021.

Travel and Study Abroad

Based on recent guidance from the Commissioner of Higher Education for the Montana University System, the following protocol related to UM-sponsored international travel is effective immediately: Any UM-sponsored travel to countries rated CDC Level 4 is prohibited. Faculty, staff and students wishing to travel to countries rated Department of State Levels 3 or 4 or CDC Level 3 are required to petition permission for travel from the UM International Travel Review Committee (ITRC) by submitting a risk management plan with enhanced COVID-specific risk mitigation and contingency plans with final approval by the UM provost.

UM will conduct a program-specific review on UM-sponsored study abroad programs scheduled to start beyond July 31. UM is using a nuanced multi-factorial approach that considers, for example, host nation COVID-19 dynamics, travel and border restrictions, housing and food security, and host organization programming. Students participating in an approved program will be required to participate in an online health and safety orientation and will complete an enhanced risk management plan as part of this required orientation. Every approved traveler is also required to sign a COVID-specific additional agreement and acknowledgement of risk, register their travel and purchase a GEOBlue International Insurance Plan.

The University of Montana acknowledges that the COVID-19 situation is evolving quickly around the world. As a result, CDC and Department of State levels may change with very little notice. The ITRC is committed to reviewing petitions with a quick turnaround to accommodate these changes. We recognize the challenging conditions created for our community by the pandemic while acknowledging its uneven impact around the world.

NOTE: Native students, faculty and staff who have reserves on both sides of the US/Canadian border (individuals covered under Jay's Treaty) are exempt from the international travel suspension for travel to Canada. 

For more information about this announcement, please contact Marja Unkuri-Chaudhry, Associate Director, Global Engagement Office at:

Updated June 8, 2021.