University of Montana reports 6 cases of COVID-19 since start of classes

Missoula health officers will update case numbers from UM once each week. (KPAX)

(KPAX) Six cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at the University of Montana since classes began three weeks ago, the Missoula City-County Health Department reported Wednesday.

Three of those cases are still considered active.

Health officers will now post the UM-specific cases each Wednesday on  the county’s website.

Incident commander Cindy Farr said it took some time to bring the UM numbers to the public. Officials first had to consult their legal team on the best way to offer transparency while still protecting the privacy of patients.

“But we do want to be able to have that transparency and the university would like to be able to have that transparency,” said Farr.

Each of UM’s three active cases has an average of 12 close contacts, which Farr said is both standard and encouraging.

“Just because school started, we didn’t see a huge spike in cases, you know, really cases remain pretty small and pretty manageable,” she said.

As it cools off outside, and our options for recreation dwindle, Farr suspects we’ll see more cases out of the University as students gather indoors.

If and when our cases climb, the Health Department is ready to respond with new resources. Just Wednesday, they began rapid testing at their county clinic on Flynn Lane.

“Everything can happen much more quickly,” said Farr, “ So if we were to get a rapid positive, then we know right then that they’re a positive person, we can give them their instructions for isolation, we can start generating that list of contacts, we can get a hold of those contacts and get those contacts into quarantine, and start that that process way faster.”

Farr said timing is crucial in handling the pandemic.

“It just means it’s going to help us control the spread even more quickly than what we’ve already been able to do.”