September 1st, 2020
Dear Bobcat parent and family members,
Thank you to everyone who emailed me this past week with both questions about our work to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and with notes of appreciation for the efforts underway. One question many of you have asked about that I'd like to address directly is, "How many COVID-19 cases are there on campus?"
The Gallatin City-County Health Department leads the public health response in Gallatin County and reports positive case counts daily on its website. Those numbers include all MSU-affiliated cases. Beginning Friday, the department will issue a weekly community report that will break out numbers by K-12 school districts within the county as well as by MSU. You and your student can also find additional information and resources related to COVID-19 on the Healthy Gallatin website.
The Gallatin City-County Health Department has the most comprehensive data because students, faculty and staff can receive COVID-19 tests from any number of locations in the county. These include drive-through testing sites, clinics and options available just for students at University Health Partners and MSU's Symptomatic Student Testing Center that provides walk-up and drive-up service without a referral or appointment. Additionally, neither students, faculty, nor staff can be legally required to provide the university with their test results or to disclose personal health information.
I check the health department website twice a day for updates on COVID-19 cases in our county, and I encourage you to stay abreast of the data as well, so you understand the data we're tracking. If you check the website, you'll note that the seven-day average of new cases since mid-August has remained under ten cases reported daily, and active cases in the entire county stand at 37 as of this afternoon. The numbers are encouraging, but we're not going to let down our guard at MSU. When you're in touch with your student, you can help our efforts by reminding them to refrain from large social gatherings and to wear their masks as often as possible, even outdoors and especially when social distancing is not possible.
You might also remind your student that MSU has a mobile-friendly symptom self-checker specifically tailored to students.
Turning to a different health and safety related topic, I want to make sure you are aware of the university's emergency notification system, MSU Alert. Those of you who have already opted in to MSU Alert received a notification about an incident of concern over the weekend. While none of the students involved were physically injured, the alert was issued to warn other students of the troubling circumstances now being investigated.
If you've heard me talk about campus safety in the past, you know that I commonly refer to MSU's Annual Security and Fire Safety Report that explains campus emergency response procedures, defines crime categories under Montana law, describes ongoing prevention and awareness campaigns and delineates campus crime statistics for the last three calendar years. If you review this report and compare it to other Western regional land-grant universities, you'll see that MSU has relatively low crime rates. We work diligently to keep it that way and to increase safety awareness among students on and off campus. I will keep you posted when the 2020 annual report is released later this fall.
In a few short days it will be Labor Day weekend, and I suspect your student will have opportunities to socialize off-campus, while some will venture farther out into the Montana backcountry. Regardless of how your student chooses to spend their weekend, I want you to remind them of a few ways to ensure their safety.
As you can imagine, I worry every weekend about our students' safety. We need you to be part of our team to remind your student about some of the important steps they should take regularly to protect their safety. I also encourage you to download the Safe Cats app, available in the Google Play Store and Apple App store. You can also sign-up here to receive MSU Alert notifications.
Here's to your student's health and safety,
Matthew R. Caires