Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions MSU has received about the pandemic.

Last Updated: June 16, 2021

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Health and Wellness

No. As of May 14, 2021, under guidance from the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, masks are not required on the campus of Montana State University.

This aligns with action taken May 14 by the Gallatin City-County Health Department to rescind the county's mask requirement.

While not a requirement, individuals who still want to wear a face mask are welcome to continue doing so voluntarily in classrooms, residence halls and other facilities of Montana State University. Due to the nature of some research projects conducted in labs and other specific units, face masks might still be encouraged or required. In those instances, specific guidance will be provided by the Office of the Vice President of Research.

The Gallatin City-County Health Department is the only agency comprehensively tracking the number of COVID-19 cases in the county. All MSU students, faculty and staff who are Gallatin County residents and who are tested are tracked in the county's numbers, which are reported every Friday in the health department's "Weekly COVID-19 Surveillance Reports, which can be found at healthygallatin.org/about-us/press-releases

MSU does not have a separate number of cases that are affiliated with the campus; only the Gallatin City-County Health Department has access to and compiles that information.

MSU students do not undergo surveillance testing.

Students who develop COVID-19 symptoms can seek testing at the Student Testing Center near Bobcat Stadium. There is no cost for testing at the Symptomatic Student Testing Center. 

Symptomatic students can also seek testing from their own health care providers, and if they need medical services beyond a COVID-19 test, they can also make an appointment with University Health Partners.

Information about vaccine availability from University Health Partners is available on our vaccine information page.

CDC guidelines state that vaccinated individuals do not need COVID-19 testing before or after travel; however, please see the CDC's detailed recommendations regarding testing guidelines for individuals who are not fully vaccinated.

If the test result is positive, students should delay their return to campus by isolating as directed by health care professionals.

If a student needs to delay their return to campus due to COVID-19, faculty and staff will work to provide remote coursework and online support until the student can return safely in person.

Follow the direction of your local county health department and your personal health care provider on when you can leave isolation or quarantine to travel to MSU. Stay home in quarantine or isolation until then.

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Academics

For fall semester 2021,MSU will offer in-person, traditionally formatted instruction, campus activities, non-remote campus operations, and cultural and athletic events in a manner closer to "normal" than has been seen since the start of the pandemic. 
 

All classes that were held in-person before the pandemic will be conducted in-person in fall 2021. Courses that are part of online programs will continue to be offered fully online if that was how those courses were delivered before the pandemic. 

Fall semester classes for 2021 begins on Wednesday, Aug. 25. The final day of the semester will be Thursday, Dec. 16, with commencement following on Dec. 17.

Students can find information about how classes will be offered in the schedule of classes available in MyInfo. Students can also check their Brightspace/D2L accounts for further detail from their instructors on how their individual class sections will operate.

MSU has put into practice measures to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread while providing a high-quality, on-campus educational experience. Classroom seating will maintain proper social distancing. Students are expected to adhere to other public health practices, such as hand hygiene and monitoring themselves for COVID-19 symptoms.

If you get sick, first of all contact a medical professional and see to your health. When it's practical, reach out to your instructors to let them know you are ill.

Students do not need to provide details or personal information other than to tell instructors that they have a medical issue and will miss class. The faculty are prepared for this eventuality and will work with students when they reach out.

When it comes time to return to class, no doctor's note or written excuse is needed. We simply ask that students be honest and clear throughout in their communications with faculty members.

Students with a medical or immunity related issue are invited to reach out to MSU Office of Disability Services at 406-994-2824 to discuss accommodations.

 

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Residence Life

Yes, unless they have been approved for a housing exemption.

Students should consult with their advisers about course planning. An exemption to the live-on campus requirement can be requested via the Housing Portal. Students who are contracted with Residence Life - Residence Halls and wish to do all online courses in the fall semester and not relocate to campus will need to provide documentation of this plan in their housing exemption application. This is not an automatic approval process; a committee will review the housing exemption application. For more information on housing exemptions, visit the Residence Life website.

Custodial staff clean building public areas daily, including shared restrooms, using EPA-registered disinfectants.

  • High-touch areas and community restrooms in all buildings are disinfected in accordance with CDC guidelines.
  • Units with a shared bathroom (Residence Life Apartments, Headwaters Complex, Semi-Suites, Quads, etc.) will have an assigned day and time for a member of the custodial team to enter and clean the shared bathroom.
  • Appropriate cleaning protocols are in place to respond to a positive COVID-19 case
  • All entries to student residence, dining and amenity spaces will have continually replenished hand sanitizer dispensers

 

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Quarantine and Isolation Housing

These questions are specific to quarantine and isolation housing for MSU students living on campus. See this page for general questions about quarantine and isolation.

The university will have a limited number of spaces available on campus for quarantine and isolation for students who live in our residence halls.

If a student is placed into quarantine — whether because they are awaiting COVID-19 test results or are a close contact of a COVID-positive person — they would be housed alone, separate from other students. Residents placed into isolation due to a confirmed case of COVID-19 could share space with others who have tested positive for the virus. 

Both quarantine and isolation spaces have access to a bathroom, and food will be delivered by Culinary Services. Students will be expected to address their classroom assignments online and coordinate with their instructors. They can have no visitors during their quarantine or isolation.

Housing staff will check in regularly so that students remain connected to campus life and resources, and students will have access to housing staff at all times. Students are also offered support from mental health professionals at University Health Partners and can contact UHP medical services for advice should their symptoms worsen.

If it is deemed necessary by a provider or should there be an emergency, students would be taken to Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital for care.

Additional information about Q/I housing is available from MSU Residence Life.

Going home to quarantine or isolate may be an option. Students should call 406-282-4025 for more information.

Possibly. Students could be placed into quarantine while they await the results of testing, if they are a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, or if they develop further signs of illness during the virus’ incubation period.

University Health Partners is available for medical advice, intermittent or ongoing counseling, and student case management as needed.

The student will be provided with a 24-hour phone number to reach housing staff for immediate assistance (while practicing appropriate distancing) and also could call 911 during an emergency.

The Gallatin City-County Health Department will check in with students daily via an automated system called Sara Alert, and the student can request an in-person call back.

To reduce the risk of spreading the virus, no visitors will be allowed. If students wish to quarantine or isolate at home, we will allow family members to come pick up their student to take them home but cannot risk other visitations. We would ask that if the student exercises the option to return home, they communicate with the housing staff prior to leaving.

Each day, Residence Life staff and Culinary Services staff will deliver to the student’s room a package of meals that are easy to reheat, along with snacks and beverages. The meal package will be left outside of the door and the student notified when the meal is delivered.

Yes. Culinary Services will make every effort to ensure that students with dietary restrictions who are placed into quarantine or isolation housing will have food options. Students with special dietary needs are asked to fill out an online form to provide Culinary Services with the necessary information.

Residence Life and Culinary Services staff has a defined cleaning process that follows CDC guidance. It involves a deep clean, which includes but is not limited to disinfecting and sanitizing all surfaces, washing linens, etc.

Quarantine will be 10 days from your last known exposure, provided you remain without symptoms for those 10 days. According to the CDC, that is the length of time the virus can take to show symptoms in an infected person, and during that period, a person can spread the virus to others. That’s why quarantine is important.

Close contacts can be directed to quarantine, even if they are not showing symptoms. Please note that, if you are a close contact and receive a negative test result, you would still quarantine for the full 10 days. That is because it’s possible to have the virus but for it to be too early for the test to detect it. Meanwhile, you could be contagious.

On-campus resident students who entered quarantine only because they are awaiting a COVID-19 test result (and who are not close contacts of someone with the virus) will be quarantined only until they receive a negative test result, which typically takes 24-72 hours.

On-campus resident students need to contact their RA or their hall’s front desk BEFORE they go to get tested or as soon as they are directed to quarantine by a health professional. They will then be guided on the process for checking in to quarantine housing. Off-campus resident students should return to their homes and follow the direction of their health care provider and the Gallatin City-County Health Department.

According to the CDC, a person confirmed to have COVID-19 can generally end isolation if all the following criteria are met:

  • It has been at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared, or you have been asymptomatic 10 days since you tested positive.
  • In the last 24 hours of your quarantine (day 10), you have no fever during those 24 hours — without the use of fever-reducing medication.
  • Your COVID-19 symptoms are improving – they don’t need to have entirely disappeared, but they must be better than when you first became ill.

Other factors can be involved in the decision to end isolation. You should follow the direction of your health care provider.

You can check out of quarantine and isolation housing on the MSU campus when you have received authorization from the Gallatin City-County Health Department or University Health Partners. If you believe you have authorization to leave Q/I housing, please call 406-282-4025 before you leave your quarantine or isolation unit.

Not necessarily. It is possible that a student could be a close contact of another person with COVID-19 and be directed to quarantine but not show symptoms and, hence, not be tested.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to test someone for COVID-19 is made by health care providers. Students showing symptoms of the virus can seek testing at the Student Testing Center near Bobcat Stadium or at University Health Partners.

Usually not. If a student was directed to quarantine, it is entirely possible that they are not infected and that they will pass the entire 10-day quarantine without developing symptoms. In that case, once the Gallatin City-County Health Department and the student have notified Housing staff, that student would be able to check out.

In addition, if a student is isolated for a positive test, current CDC recommendations are to use the “10-day” rule and not repeat testing except for rare circumstances (persistent fever or symptoms, an immunocompromised individual, etc.). In those circumstances, the Gallatin City-County Health Department will work with UHP Medical Services to decide if an individual should be retested before ending isolation. 

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Vaccines

Whether MSU offers the Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines (and others as they become available) depends on the available supply and what University Health Partners keeps in stock. University Health Partners will specify which company’s vaccine will be offered when it communicates about availability.

Two of the three vaccines currently authorized for use — manufactured by Moderna or Pfizer — each require two shots to provide the most protection. Doses of the Moderna vaccine should be given 28 days apart. Doses of the Pfizer vaccine should be given 21 days apart. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is given in a single shot.

MSU is offering doses of the vaccine to its eligible students and employees free of cost at this time.

Common side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines are similar to flu vaccines you may have received in the past. They include pain and swelling at the injection site. People can also experience flu-like symptoms — fever, chills, fatigue and headache — for a few days after receiving a shot.

Should redness or tenderness at the injection site worsen after 24 hours, or if the side effects are worrying you and do not seem to be going away after a few days, consult a doctor.

Some individuals have experienced a severe allergic reaction to vaccinations. If you get a COVID-19 vaccine and think you are having a severe allergic reaction after leaving the vaccination site, seek immediate medical care by calling 911. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and rare severe allergic reactions.

Anyone who is allergic to the ingredients in the vaccines should not get vaccinated. Also, if you have any allergic reaction to the first dose, you should discuss with your medical provider before receiving a second dose. The following PDF fact sheets include lists of ingredients in each company’s vaccine.

Yes. The CDC recommends that people get vaccinated whether they had had COVID-19 or not. You may receive a vaccination as soon as you complete isolation for your COVID-19 infection.

Scientists aren't sure yet how long you're protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. This natural immunity after being sick varies from person to person.

It's rare for someone who has had COVID-19 to get reinfected, and it's uncommon for people to get the disease again with 90 days of recovering, but the science isn't certain yet.

The CDC notes, however, that if you were treated for COVID-19 symptoms with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Following guidelines set forth by the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, MSU is not requiring students to be vaccinated for COVID-19, and we are not asking for COVID-19 vaccination records. MSU is planning to resume normal operations this fall, and campus life should be the same for students regardless of their vaccination status. Precautions such as masks and social distancing will be voluntary.

That said, we do strongly recommend that all students and members of the campus community get the vaccine while it is free and widely available this summer. More people vaccinated means fewer chances for the virus to make a comeback.

Student vaccination requirements are decided by the Montana Board of Regents, which is the governing body of the state's university system. The board has not adopted a policy requring COVID-19 vaccinations, as it has for other immunizations. Students need to follow all immunization requirements set by the Regents. For questions concerning Board of Regents policies, contact the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education.

No. You will not test positive on a viral test, such as a nasal swab test, that looks for signs of infection. However, you may test positive on an antibody test. That’s because vaccines teach your body to make its own antibodies to fight viruses.

According to the CDC, people who are pregnant and part of a group recommended to get a vaccine may choose to do so. While the chances of severe health effects from COVID-19 are low, people who are pregnant do have an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Breastfeeding is an important consideration but is rarely a safety concern with vaccines, and there is no scientific data to suggest the COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe for those who are breastfeeding.

See more vaccine considerations for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

No. The vaccines do not contain infectious material.

Sometimes people get a fever or feel tired for a day or so after getting a vaccine. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity. It usually takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination.

In addition to vaccines being widely available through the Gallatin City-County Health Department, Bozeman Health and other providers, MSU faculty and staff at MSU can sign up for free vaccinations through University Health Partners.

Much information about the COVID-19 vaccines is published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its website. Links to those informational pages are below.

Additional information and the answers to many frequently asked questions about the available COVID-19 vaccines are listed on the Gallatin City-County Health Department vaccine information page.

Other questions dealing with your unique health situation should be directed to your health care provider. If you are a student, you can contact the Medical Services division of University Health Partners by calling 406-994-2311.

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Other Questions

Visits are available weekdays year-round, except on major holidays. In-person visits are capped at a maximum number of visitors per day due to COVID-19 protocols and space restrictions. Learn about all MSU visit opportunities.

The Marga Hosaeus Fitness Center is open. Details about the fitness center's schedule are at http://www.montana.edu/getfit/.

When considering approval of MUS-affiliated travel, campuses will rely upon travel guidance from federal public health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. International travel to CDC “Level 4” countries remains prohibited. Travel to CDC “Level 3” countries is strongly discouraged and may only be approved through petition and after approval by a campus travel review committee and cabinet level leadership. At a minimum, the travel review process needs to include requirements for enhanced pre-departure health and safety training, risk management planning, and contingency planning in case changing conditions require trip cancellation, or significant modification. Individuals returning to, or visiting, MUS campuses from international destinations should follow relevant CDC guidance related to COVID-19 testing after travel and self-monitoring for symptoms.

 

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