LET’S HELP SLOW THE SPREAD OF COVID IN THIS COMMUNITY:
CHANGES IN UNIVERSITY OPERATIONS FOR THE WEEK OF OCTOBER 5.
On October 2, Beaverhead County Public Health reported 51 active COVID cases. Less than half of those appear to be university-related. BCPH updates university-related case numbers on Monday.
Montana Western is very concerned about these escalating numbers. We are working together with local and state Public Health and other agencies to increase our mitigation and response efforts even further. It appears that gatherings of all kinds (weddings, church services, banquets, parties, even smaller social gatherings) where distancing and mask-wearing are not practiced are the biggest causes of this increase. Health officials are still seeing cases that appear to have resulted from Labor Day weekend activities here and elsewhere.
The only way for this community to slow the spread of the virus, short of a return to Phase 1, is for these gatherings and lack of distancing and masking in any setting, large or small, to stop. Not forever. For now, until we slow the spread.
Montana Western urges everyone to take precautions for the good of all. Our students continually interact with the community: at work, in shops and restaurants, and churches, and in so many other settings. It is clear that this health crisis belongs to all of us: university and community. We can only solve it together.
For our part, we are going to be increasing our efforts and make adjustments to our operations in a number of ways, re-evaluating them each week. These numbers constantly shift, but today, in addition to those who have tested positive, we have approximately 44 students quarantined in their off-campus housing and 15 quarantined in on-campus quarantine rooms. This is because they are either symptomatic and awaiting testing and test results or were close contacts to a positive case.
OUR PLAN TO SLOW THE SPREAD:
Testing will increase in a number of ways this week. Working with Public and Community Health, more hours and more tests will be available. (Details to come.) We have also located new technology from the state and will conduct rapid antigen testing, and have testing available on campus.
The following adjustments in operations are in effect for the rest of Block 2, from October 5 through October 13, and will be re-evaluated each week.
Class delivery methods: Those courses that are being delivered face-to-face may remain so. We have little evidence that face-to-face classes that are following COVID protocols are contributing in any significant way to the spread of the virus. Of the seventy courses being offered this semester, approximately thirty are face-to-face and may remain so, at the discretion of the instructor in consultation with the division chair and notification of the provost. Strict distancing and masking must continue in every class.
Meetings should be held by conference call or Zoom, not face-to-face.
Events, extra-curricular activities, and gatherings, other than classes, must not include more than 10 people. Masks and social distancing are required. Please move these activities outdoors when possible.
Spirit Week will be rescheduled for Block 3.
Virtual events are encouraged.
Athletics practices are suspended.
Facilities: The BARC and the Garage Gym will be closed for the rest of Block 2.
Use of other facilities is being evaluated. In ALL facilities, strict social distancing and mask-wearing must be practiced.
Outdoor exercise and workouts are encouraged, but not in groups of more than 10. Physical distancing is still required and masks are required if distancing cannot be maintained.
Staff members are to stagger shifts, using teleworking agreements, where possible. Please work with your supervisors.
Students who work, either on- or off-campus absolutely must not attend work if sick or are awaiting test results.
Quarantine and isolation rules violations as well as unauthorized gatherings and parties, on- or off-campus, of which we are made aware will result in discipline, which could include suspension or expulsion as they are violations of the student code of conduct.
We are all tired of this pandemic and all of the restrictions it requires. The only way to move past it is to fight it in the only ways we know how: with masks, with distance, with good hygiene, with patience and the knowledge that we can only fight this as a community, with care and respect.
As they say in the Montana Youth Challenge Academy: Stay in the fight!
And as they say in Residence Life, keep the pack healthy!