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Montana Western to Provide Asymptomatic COVID-19 Testing for Students

January 8, 2021

The University of Montana Western will begin providing free, voluntary COVID-19 tests to asymptomatic students this week and for the first two weeks of classes, which start Monday, Jan. 11.

Main Hall and Roe House

Asymptomatic testing will be available for students living on campus through the university’s testing staff, which has been operating since last fall to test students who show symptoms of the coronavirus.

“We have been working since November to find ways to expand asymptomatic testing specifically targeted at our students living in on-campus residence halls across the campuses of the Montana University System,” said Brock Tessman, Deputy Commissioner of Academic, Research and Student Affairs with the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education in Helena.

“We have come up with a solution that uses existing state resources and can be used across the system,” Tessman said. “It is one more tool the campuses can use to help reduce the risk of virus transmission. It is not a silver bullet, but it adds to the steps we continue to take which include requiring masks on all our campuses, social distancing in classrooms and providing symptomatic testing as well as quarantine and isolation housing.”

The testing is being offered first to students living in on-campus residence halls, and then to all UMW students as supplies allow.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services has approved the use of the rapid test kits for the state’s campuses, which provide results in 15 to 30 minutes. Montana was provided the tests by the federal government, which purchased more than 150 million for use nationwide. DPHHS is providing the campuses the tests from its supply.

At UMW, the tests will be used for the first two weeks of classes to identify the presence of COVID-19 among asymptomatic students. Those who test positive will then be isolated for 10 days so they do not spread the virus to others.

“We’re very grateful for our partnership with DPHHS and other statewide leaders for assisting the system with this option for re-entry testing at the start of the spring semester,” Tessman said. “By working together with the state, we’ve been able to bring a lot of resources to bear at our campuses.”