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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

Montana University System Ends Mask Mandate

University of Montana campus.
Freddy Monares
/
Montana Public Radio
University of Montana campus.

Over the last few days, Montana State University in Bozeman, University of Montana and Montana State University-Billings each dropped their mask requirements. The three universities are now recommending unvaccinated people wear masks. 

Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian issued a memo last week removing the system wide mask requirement. The decision comes days after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced fully vaccinated people can go without masks or physically distance in most situations.

Paula Short, a spokeswoman at UM, says there’s a lot of optimism going into the summer and looking to the fall school term. 

“I think we’ve got a good track record of success in the last year and how we’ve navigated in the pandemic. And I see no reason why that won’t continue into the summer and into the fall.”

Short says the campus will continue to provide disinfectants, hand sanitizer and plastic barricades in some administrative buildings. 

Michael Becker, a spokesman for MSU in Bozeman, says rescinding the mask requirement made sense after Gallatin County’s health department last week lifted its face covering requirements. He says the university is transitioning to normal operations for the fall.

“As we move forward, we will be much more aligned with what normal looked like before the pandemic.”

David Nordel, commander of MSU-Billings’ response to COVID-19, says the campus is comfortable moving to a higher level of personal responsibility and less formal oversight. 

“It is not an end, it is a step in the process to fully recover from this.” 

All three university officials say they don’t plan on asking whether an unmasked person is vaccinated. 

The universities each offer places to get vaccinated and encourage everyone to get a shot if they haven’t already. 

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