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

Montana’s Two Largest Universities Implement Mask Mandate For Classrooms

Montana State University
Montana State University

Students are returning to fall classes at Montana Universities at a time when COVID cases are increasing. Mask mandates are now in place at Montana’s two largest universities.

Two days after classes began at Montana State University in Bozeman, mask guidelines for inside classrooms changed from a recommendation to a mandate.

The university had previously stated it would require masks if they were not being worn or if hospitalizations rose in Gallatin County, among other factors.

In a letter to the campus community Thursday, Montana State University President Waded Cruzado said the change was made after what she described as “widespread disregard for the need to wear masks in our classrooms.”

The mandate applies only to instructional spaces such as classrooms and labs. Masks are recommended, although not required for other indoor campus spaces.

University Spokesperson Tracy Ellig says that if a student shows up to a classroom without a mask faculty are first advised to have a conversation with that student about the mask policy.

“If a student just continues to not wear a mask then that student can be referred to the dean of students and it can be considered a violation of the student code of conduct,” Ellig says.

Ellig says this could eventually result in suspension from the university. The university says it may update the mask requirement and make further changes on or before October 1.

According to the Gallatin City County Health Department’s most COVID report, there are 16 active cases at Montana State University. Gallatin County is currently in the CDC’s high category for community transmission.

Classes at the University of Montana in Missoula begin on Monday. University President Seth Bodnar wrote in an email to students and staff that with rising cases in Missoula County, now in the high CDC threshold category, the university will require masks for instructional settings including classrooms and labs. Regardless of vaccination status, masks are strongly encouraged at residence halls and other indoor spaces on campus.

University Spokesperson Paula Short said that the university will revisit this policy and adjust if needed on September 20.

Copyright 2021 Yellowstone Public Radio. To see more, visit Yellowstone Public Radio.

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