Monday, January 11th is officially the first day of the Spring 2021 semester at the University of Montana, and students returning to campus residence halls will have access to free COVID-19 tests, even if they are asymptomatic.

“To keep our campus and community safe, it is critical that students who live in our residence halls have access to COVID-19 tests as they return to campus from winter break,” said Dr. Jeff Adams, medical director of UM’s Curry Health Center. “Being able to offer asymptomatic testing as students return to residence halls will result in early detection and rapid response to prevent COVID-19 transmission within these congregate living environments. The medical team at Curry Health Center went above and beyond to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our residence halls last fall, and we are in strong position to provide the same level of high-quality care to all UM students again during the spring semester.”

Due to limited testing resources statewide, only UM students living in residence halls will be eligible to receive free asymptomatic COVID-19 tests during the first two weeks of the semester. The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education wanted to offer the testing for students living on campus first, however, all students experiencing COVID-19-related symptoms also can receive a free COVID-19 test regardless of their living arrangement.

In addition, the U of M updated their Campus Covid Operations Plan this week, you can read full guidance and best practices here. In addition to curbing the spread of COVID-19 this spring semester, UM students, faculty and staff are actively working to end the pandemic. UM was named as a COVID-19 vaccine provider and distributor last month, and is on standby for the arrival of vaccines. Last year, UM’s Center for Translational Medicine was awarded $2.5 million from the National Institutes of Health to produce a COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

As you know, just because it's a new year and a new semester, that doesn't mean the virus has magically disappeared. Stay diligent with your hand washing, sanitizing, mask wearing, and social distancing, and good luck with those Zoom classes, especially the break out rooms!

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