March 15, 2020: OCHE Response to COVID-19 cases in two attendees of Dillon BOR meeting
The Montana University System began preparing for the possibility of COVID-19 reaching Montana in January, when news of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, began to raise concern. At that time, OCHE convened the MUS Intercampus Coronavirus Response Team consisting of medical experts, administrators, student affairs officers and communications staff to monitor the situation and assess preparedness across the system.
The MUS has since worked diligently to ensure that its emergency response plans are aligned with the unique challenges presented by COVID-19. And on Thursday, March 12, the MUS took the unprecedented action of transitioning its courses to remote delivery in every instance possible.
On Saturday, the virus struck close to home when Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian learned that he had tested presumptive positive for COVID-19. Health officials believe the Commissioner may have contracted the virus at the Montana University System Board of Regents meeting at the University of Montana Western in Dillon March 4-6. Another individual who was at the meeting also tested positive.
The Governor’s Office advised Sunday, March 15, that with the information we now have from local public health officials who contacted and interviewed the patients, it is clear that Commissioner Christian and the other individual were not symptomatic at the time of the meeting.
Both began to show symptoms days after the meeting. Under current Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, no one at the Board of Regents meeting would be considered a contact and no one would need to be quarantined. However, this is a very dynamic situation, and we are learning more and more about this virus every day.
Therefore, out of an abundance of caution, each of the Regents who attended the Dillon meeting will self-quarantine until March 20.
The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education also has advised all Montana University System personnel who attended the BOR meeting to self-quarantine for 14 days (until March 20). An additional group of 10 OCHE employees who interacted directly with the Commissioner after the meeting will self-quarantine, working from home. Self-quarantine dates for this group vary based on the individuals’ most recent date of contact with the Commissioner as follows:
6 will self-quarantine through the 24th
4 will self-quarantine through the 25th
In the event of any additional cases, these recommendations may be modified.
All OCHE staff will work from home Monday and Tuesday while our office is closed for cleaning.
The health and safety of our MUS students, faculty and staff continues to be our highest priority as we address this fast-changing and unprecedented situation. We will continue to share information with the public as it becomes available.
The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education