MISSOULA — Tuesday marked the first day of the Spring Semester but the fifth semester of the COVID-19 pandemic at the University of Montana.
Students, staff, and faculty were back in action as campus opened back up and with masks on hand, students headed to their classes and appointments.
“This is the fifth semester that students have come to our campus and had to deal with the virus," UM spokesman Dave Kuntz told MTN News.
UM continues to require masks in classrooms and labs, keeps campus events social-distanced, and asks students to be watchful of symptoms.
“Ultimately, really stick to that core principle we have of maintaining in-person classes while protecting our students in the community to our best abilities," Kuntz explained.
Each morning, campus leaders meet with the Missoula City-County Health Department (MCCHD) to walk through the current caseload. COVID-19 positive UM students and employees are part of the data reflected on the MCCHD website. However, not all of these positive cases are on-campus, some may be remote.
Missoula County is experiencing a wave of COVID-19 cases. There were 2,085 active cases in the county along with 169 new cases on Tuesday. (Read the full report here) Right now there are 116 UM-affiliated cases which make up approximately 5% of the county's caseload.
Students can get tested on campus at Curry Health Center, but only if symptomatic," to protect our supply here, we're really trying to prioritize testing students who are showing those symptoms," Kuntz explained.
Positive cases result in quarantine and spaces are available on campus to do this.
"We're working on a case by case basis to do what's best for the students, but to make sure that students aren't coming to the class sick and spreading the virus," Kuntz said.
While the pandemic makes for a college experience that’s anything but normal, the fifth time around means people are getting used to the drill.
“We know our students want to be here, be in person, have as much as the traditional college experience as possible. So we're going to continue to provide that and it's our responsibility to make those adjustments accordingly to keep them safe as they continue their education." - UM spokesman Dave Kuntz