Montana Public Radio

As School Approaches, Some UM Students Are Already In COVID Isolation

Aug 14, 2020

As college students move in to dorms on Montana university campuses this week, some are already moved into isolation units, sick with COVID-19.

Classes will begin at Montana State University and the University of Montana next week. Officials from both universities say they won’t be publishing how many students are sick with the COVID-19 illness during the semester.

Jeffery Adams, medical director for the University of Montana’s student health clinic, said he couldn’t give an exact number of how many students are in isolation on campus, but that it’s less than 10.

“Yeah, they’re on campus, and again, we don’t want to stigmatize anybody by disclosing a location and having people do a looky-loo by there to see who might be coming and going.”

Montana universities are also offering space for students living on campus to isolate if they’re awaiting test results or directed to quarantine by a medical provider.

Both UM and MSU say they are leaving it up to their local health departments to keep track of positive cases on campus as part of their countywide data. Neither are publishing how many students or staff contract the virus.

Tracy Ellig, spokesperson for MSU, said in an email that COVID-19 case numbers related to campus could be identifying. Ellig said that for this reason, MSU could not say if or how many of its students are in isolation as the first day of school approaches.

Both MSU and UM are offering testing on campus.

Adams said the UM clinic saw up to 30 people per day seeking tests during the first three weeks of July. He said the demand for tests has tapered off, but that could change as more students arrive on campus, potentially carrying the virus with them.

"The big mystery is how much is going to come in from out of state, or even from within hot spots in the state."

Adams said he’s confident in UM’s plan to curb the spread of the virus.

Classes begin at UM next August 19 and at MSU on August 17.