NewsMissoula County


UM prepares COVID-19 protocol as students return to campus

UM Campus Students
UM Campus
Posted at 4:51 PM, Aug 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 11:33:39-04

MISSOULA — The University of Montana starts their autumn semester on August 30 which will bring thousands of students back to Missoula.

COVID-19 numbers are on the rise in Missoula County and with the virus still looming, students are being encouraged to fall back into some old habits -- masking up, providing social distance. Additionally, students who haven't yet been vaccinated are being encouraged to do so.

UM is planning on having this school year look as normal to a pre-COVID year as possible. Spokesman Dave Kuntz says that they are switching from a combination of teaching methods to focus on in-person learning.

“A lot of the decisions we make are really driven by the students when you talk to students, they want to have that traditional university experience and that means being in person for classes. That means, being able to have access to student clubs and student groups [will] be able to go to the football games on Saturday." - UM spokesman Dave Kuntz

UM's housing team has also been preparing to make student living accommodations look as normal as possible. For students who want to live alone, they can, and those looking for a traditional dorm or apartment living style, they can have that too.

And if a student in a resident hall tests positive? UM Associate Vice President of Campus Operations Preparedness and COVID Response Paula Short says they have a plan.

“So if a student in our residence halls were to test positive for COVID-19 they would be in isolation under the orders of city county house, but we do have spaces for our campus residents to move into temporary quarantine or isolation housing,” said Short.

UM Campus Students

Overall, the University of Montana is following US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations.

“Our faculty, our public health experts are meeting on a weekly basis with Missoula City-County Health, and we're putting into place, a lot of the mitigations that we know that works and that's requiring masks indoors, especially in public areas and encouraging vaccine and take as much as possible,” said Kuntz.

“Our students are, are doing the things that we all know work, which are masking good respiratory hygiene, hand washing and some of those just careful practices,” said Short.

UM is encouraging its students to get vaccinated if not already. Come move in day, there will be pop-up vaccination sites on campus and booths giving students all the information they need or want to know about the vaccination.

UM Campus

“We know that one of the best mitigations that we have is the availability of vaccines, so expect that that first month back on campus students are going to be encouraged to have ample opportunities to get a vaccine,” said Short.

"Throughout the 2020-2021 school year, UM-affiliated cases made up on average less than 10% of the county’s total COVID-19 cases," said Kuntz.

Short and Kuntz say that the school is excited to welcome back students and provide them with a safe place where students can continue their education.

What we're encouraging our students is, now that we can come together, let's do what we can to stay together,” said Short.

When Griz students do come back for the fall semester they will be given health kits, complete with their own mask, disinfecting spray, a rag and hand sanitizer, to keep everyone safe.