University of Montana faculty member tests positive for COVID-19

University of Montana Campus
Posted at 10:51 AM, Aug 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-26 20:54:38-04

MISSOULA — A faculty member at the University of Montana has tested positive for COVID-19.

College of Arts and Media Interim Dean John Kenneth DeBoer has confirmed that a faculty member in the School of Theatre and Dance has been "quarantined after testing positive for COVID."

The Missoula City-County Health Department conducted contact tracing and the letter states the exposure happened off-campus and was the result of community-spread.

The letter added that "unless you hear from MCCHD, you should not have to quarantine or seek testing."

Additional information about the University of Montana's COVID-19 response can be found here.

Below is the letter sent out by the University of Montana:

Please share the following message with your Schools:

This semester we have already had a Faculty COVID diagnosis in our College. You may learn about more cases, or presence of COVID-positive individuals in our buildings and in your classes outside of the College. I acknowledge that this can cause a good deal of anxiety. The health and safety measures that UM and our School have set in place for Healthy Fall 2020 should by and large mitigate risk for community spread:

  • regular cleaning schedules
  • physical distancing
  • classroom modifications
  • mask requirements
  • disinfectant and hand sanitizer in all buildings, etc
  • personal responsibility

Despite all of this, you may learn that you were around someone who was exposed to COVID or who is COVID-positive, and wonder if and when Missoula City-County Health Department (MCCHD) contact tracers will contact you. This happened over the weekend in the School of Theatre and Dance.

There are very specific criteria for contact tracing focusing on those who have been in “close contact” with a contagious individual. Not everyone who’s been around someone with COVID or COVID exposure meet these criteria. MCCHD defines “close contact” as being within 6 feet of someone for at least 15 minutes during a time when the person was contagious.

The contact tracing for this potential exposure included speaking to faculty and staff in the school, reviewing our spaces, our specialized learning procedures, and our mitigation plan. According to the Faculty member who tested positive, their case worker was impressed and considered our mitigation practices in line with MCCHD recommendations. After conducting this thorough contact tracing, MCCHD determined that this individual was exposed off-campus.

Unless you hear from MCCHD, you should not have to quarantine or seek testing. If we stick to our mitigation efforts of 6-foot social distancing and required masks, instructors will not need to cancel face-to-face class or other events if one of your colleagues or classmates tests positive for COVID.

Also, please remember, just because a colleague or student voluntarily discloses information about their health status does not mean they have given you permission to share that information with others. Sharing information like that requires the individual’s written consent.

A few reminders: sick employees should quarantine, apply for COVID leave, and not work at all while sick. Sick students should quarantine and contact their advisors for help staying on track academically. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for resources or assistance while in quarantine. No one needs to face this alone.

If employees who are not ill want to work remotely, they can discuss that with their supervisor per the instructions on the Keep on Working webpage. Students who are not ill but have concerns about face-to-face instruction should talk with their faculty mentors and advisor.

Thank you all for everything you are doing to keep our community healthy and safe. We cannot eliminate all risk, but we can mitigate it if we work together and care for each other.

PROFESSOR and DEAN (Interim)