Table of Contents

Frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19 and Montana State University Billings are arranged in categories below. Click on a question to go directly to that answer.

Coronavirus Basics

1. What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of 50+ distinct viruses which are found worldwide and infect both mammals and birds. Four coronaviruses have been circulating among humans for years and are believed to cause 20-40% of common cold infections per year. Two other coronaviruses have caused much more serious human illness since 2002: SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.

In December 2019, a cluster of human respiratory illnesses in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, prompted a public health investigation which identified a new coronavirus, now called COVID-19.

Symptoms include a short respiratory illness with a cough and low-grade fever. In a minority of cases, the virus can lead to critical illness or death. Severe cases have primarily been noted in patients over 65 years of age who also have significant underlying chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiac disease or liver disease.

Learn more

2. How does it spread?

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person among people who are in close contact with one another, within about 6 feet, through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

3. How is it treated?

There is no vaccine nor any known antiviral treatment for COVID-19 so treatment is primarily supportive care. Mild cases may be treated at home, but severe illness requires hospitalization.


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Health, wellness and prevention

1. What steps can I take to prepare if there is widespread transmission of COVID-19?

The power to protect our campus community from coronavirus and flu lies with each and every one of us. Please practice the following hand-washing and respiratory hygiene habits to protect yourself and those around you:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean your hands by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%–95% alcohol immediately after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Stay home if you’re sick. We will work with you to make arrangements for missed exams and work.

Please see the CDC’s guide for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in communities.

2. How should I clean and disinfect communal spaces?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, tables, keyboards light switches). Use a disinfectant registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or a 10% bleach/water solution to clean surfaces.

Please avoid putting disinfectant gels or liquids on electronics and other equipment, including elevator buttons, unless the products are indicated as safe to use on those devices.

3. Should I wear a mask?

Public health officials recommend that people wear a cloth face coveringto cover their nose and mouth in the community setting to protect against COVID-19. 

Keep in mind also that in some parts of the world mask use is customary for a variety of health and social reasons. Do not assume that someone wearing a mask has been exposed to COVID-19 or any other illness.

4. I’m suffering from anxiety about COVID-19. How can I get help?

Many are experiencing anxiety as news and warnings about COVID-19 intensify. Remember that the risk of contracting COVID-19 in Montana and in the U.S. as a whole is currently low. If you would like to talk with someone, support is available to students through your campus’ mental health services.

Here are some tips to manage your fear and anxiety around COVID-19

5. I’m concerned about friends and family in an area with a COVID-19 outbreak. How can I manage my concern for them?

The COVID-19 outbreak has heightened stress for those who have family and friends in affected areas. If you would like to talk with someone, support is available to students through your campus’ mental health services.

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Reporting of positive COVID-19 cases

To protect patient privacy, the Montana University System cannot legally release the immediate location of individuals being screened for or confirmed to have COVID-19.

Confirmed and suspected cases will be reported by the Montana Department of Health & Human Services. Montana’s Department of Health and Human Services tracks possible, negative, and confirmed cases on their website.

In the event that a member of one of our Montana University System campus communities were confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19, the campus would follow the lead of the local county health department to initiate appropriate quarantine and public health management protocols.

Housing & Residence Life

1. Are the residence halls and dining services still open?

Yes, residence halls and dining services are still open. We are encouraging all on-campus students to seek an off-campus living arrangement if possible. Those students who do not have an acceptable living arrangement off campus are able to reside on campus.

Please visit the COVID-19 Central webpage for Dining Services updated information, including hours and locations. Please note both Housing & Dining Services are implementing strict social distancing policies and guidelines for students remaining on campus.

2. When are the residence halls expected to close?

The residence halls are expected to stay open for the duration of the spring semester. The halls will officially close at the end of the spring semester on Friday, May 1, 2020 at 12:00pm.

3. What happens to my personal belongings in my on-campus room? Can I travel back and collect my items?

MSU Billings is asking students not to return to campus to retrieve their personal belongings from on-campus residences, even if they live in Montana.

Housing & Residence Life will be communicating directly with students on how they can get their most essential items and when it is safe to return to campus to collect belongings. This is a strong recommendation based on evidence that the best way to slow the COVID-19 pandemic is to stop people from congregating in their communities and around the country.

MSU Billings is asking students to take this recommendation very seriously. People who have no symptoms can still carry the disease, and while you may feel perfectly fine, you might still be a carrier. Each of us has a responsibility to prevent others from getting sick.

To discuss your personal residence hall housing situation, please contact Housing & Residence Life at

4. Can residence hall student’s check-out and leave now?

Yes, students can check-out and leave campus. Check-out stations are in each residence hall lobby. If you would like to schedule an in-person check-out, please email us at

5. Are residents of Family Housing being asked to move out?

Family Housing residents do not have to move out of their homes. Family Housing is a much different living environment, allowing individuals and families to maintain social distance from neighbors and self-quarantine if needed.

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1. Will I get a refund of my room and board?

Refunds of room and board fees will be issued for the period from March 23 through the end of spring term. Check your email for further instruction on March 25, 2020. Please allow until April 15 for reimbursement payment.

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1. How long will MSU Billings keep all classes online due to COVID-19?

All classes will continue online through the end of summer 2020 semester.

Campuses will remain open and operational for students, including residence halls, dining, computer labs and most other campus services.

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1. Are all MSU Billings events cancelled?

MSU Billings has cancelled all public events and gatherings through July 1, 2020.

2. Is MSU Billings planning on holding graduation?

In alignment with a decision made collectively by the Montana University System and with clear guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MSU Billings will be postponing Spring 2020 commencement and convocations until December 19, 2020. More information will be forthcoming. 

Commencement Frequently Asked Questions