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Another COVID-19 spike reported at the University of Montana

Posted at 6:37 PM, Sep 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-17 23:21:58-04

MISSOULA — COVID is spreading, and we know a good chunk of Missoula County’s cases are tied to the University of Montana, but more specifically, the cases are clustered in the athletics department and Greek life.

According to COVID Incident Commander Cindy Farr, seeing cases in clusters is good news.

"The fact that we're seeing it in clusters is actually a good thing because what we don't want to see are sporadic cases popping up, whether it's out in the community or related to the University of Montana or related to one of our schools. We don't want those cases to be popping up sporadically and not know where they came from," said Farr.

Positive cases and their close contacts, even if identified within a cluster, still need a place to isolate or quarantine.

Spokesperson for the University of Montana Paula Short said the University has identified a number of units for isolation and quarantine.

UM can’t share where those units are located, but Short said they’re equipped with the essentials - bedding, restroom and kitchen facilities, along with a handful of dining accommodations.

"We try to make it as homey as we can. We also have a quarantine coordinator that is available, essentially 24 hours a day by phone and email, if a situation arises where they need something immediately or they need additional support," said Short.

UM hasn’t reached their quarantine housing capacity yet, but the simple question of capacity really isn’t simple at all.

"I want to say it's around 100 individuals," said Short, "but it's hard to pin that number because some of those spaces are configured differently."

Daily COVID meetings for the University tackle every issue you could think of and more.

Short said like everyone else, they’re learning as they go.

"First thing in the morning we have a meeting to discuss our capacity and how we're able to meet that, and we also talk about contingencies for when we exceed our campus capacity and what options we might have off campus."

UM officials say they’re not at a point where they need to move entirely online, but as cases rise, we could see gradual adjustments made to campus operations, events, or individual classes.