Dear MSU Community,

Today I want to share with you work your land-grant university is doing to help protect the lives of all Montanans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanks to the work of Montana State University researchers under the able leadership of Jason Carter, Vice President for Research, Economic Development and Graduate Education, the university will begin providing surveillance testing services for the state under the direction of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

Surveillance testing is done on groups of asymptomatic individuals to detect the virus early and help slow its spread. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services will determine who to use the surveillance testing capacity on, but it could include health care professionals and other essential workers statewide.

Beginning next week, MSU will provide tests on 500 individuals per day under the direction of DPHHS.

I joined Montana Governor Steve Bullock in Helena this afternoon to announce this important partnership, which is ever more timely as the commercial laboratory that has been providing services to the state is unable to keep up with demand as a result of an increase in cases nationally.

From the very inception of the land-grant university ideal by Congress and President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, service and outreach, especially in times of crisis, has been part of our mission. Indeed, land-grants like Montana State were first created to help the United States feed itself. Over more than 125 years, land-grant universities have been producing new knowledge, sharing it with our communities and providing important service to the people of our states and the nation.

Today, our researchers on campus carry on that tradition by pouring their creative energies into this surveillance testing project, as well as other important endeavors that benefit the communities we serve. I want to give them my personal thanks for their efforts and dedication and remind them, and all of us, that we walk in the footsteps of another MSU graduate who rose to help in times of crisis, Maurice Hilleman, the most prolific vaccinologist in history who is credited with saving more lives than another scientist in the 20th century. You can read more about Dr. Hilleman's remarkable life here.

With this surveillance testing program, MSU carries on the legacy of the land-grant mission and the legacy of graduates like Maurice Hilleman. Surveillance testing plays an important role in slowing the spread of the virus. If asymptomatic individuals can be identified early through surveillance testing, they can be isolated to prevent further spread. Additionally, a downstream benefit of early detection provided by surveillance testing is that it can reduce the number of tests needed for symptomatic individuals and their close contacts.

Finally, as important as the addition of this surveillance testing is to the state, we still all need to work together to slow the spread of the virus. On Monday, Montana State University implemented a requirement that all students, faculty, staff and visitors wear face coverings. You can see my full letter on the subject by clicking here. Face coverings are just one important tool that all of us need to utilize in addition to regularly washing our hands, keep a social distance both while on campus and after hours in our personal pursuits, and knowing the symptoms of COVID-19.

We cannot promise a risk-free fall semester. There will be risk. But by working together, and by taking personal responsibility, we can mitigate the spread of the virus and keep our campus open to in-person classes. I know you can rise to the challenge, Bobcats, just as our researchers have risen to the challenge of helping the great state of Montana. I'll see you in the fall.


Waded Cruzado
President, Montana State University