Reducing the Risk of COVID-19

This message was sent to all faculty, staff, and students.

As we begin the fall semester at Montana Western, we are excited for a return of the vibrant environment that makes UMW such a unique place. We also recognize, however, that we are living during a continuing pandemic.  Unfortunately, we have seen a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases in Beaverhead County over the past week, placing us in a “high level of community transmission” category as defined by the CDC. As many of you know, the CDC reports that the Delta variant is more contagious than previous strains. This is a risk primarily to unvaccinated individuals, although data indicate that vaccinated individuals can contract the virus and may transmit it to others. Available data suggests “breakthrough” cases are rare, however, and vaccinated individuals are extremely unlikely to contract a severe case of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization.

The availability of safe, effective vaccines reduces “the risk of COVID-19 and its potentially severe complications.  All COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for use in the United States help protect people against COVID-19”. UMW will be providing free vaccination clinics throughout the fall semester.

I again urge every member of the UMW community to work with their healthcare provider to determine an appropriate vaccination course.

UMW’s COVID-19 Taskforce is working closely with state and local public health officials as we continue to adjust our operations to protect the health and safety of the Bulldog community. As directed by the Commissioner of Higher Education, we will continue to work with the Beaverhead County Public Health Department (BCPHD) in adapting our campus guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including the more contagious Delta variant.

In light of these developments, and at the recommendation of the Beaverhead County Public Health Department, we ask all individuals on our campus – vaccinated or not – to wear masks indoors (including state vehicles) when in publicly occupied spaces where social distancing is not possible.  Additionally, as a friendly reminder, please do not come to campus if you are feeling sick.

As students return to our campus from various parts of the country, health officials have advised us that by immediately wearing masks in these settings where social distancing is not possible, we can more successfully mitigate the spread of the Delta variant during the initial weeks of the semester. As we’ve seen over the past 18 months, the pandemic will continue to ebb and flow in Beaverhead County, and we will revisit this guidance at the end of the block.

At this moment, we must come together as the UMW community, treating each other with compassion, kindness and respect. If we each take small steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we will enable and protect the vibrant campus our students deserve and the experiences that are so vital to their education.