Archive of COVID-19 Communications
Feb. 17, 2022
Dear Campus Community:
Recent and rapid decreases in Yellowstone County COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions provide positive and promising signals to adjust our COVID-19 campus safety protocols. COVID-19 case reductions are occurring throughout the state, and the Montana Commissioner of Higher Education recently provided guidance to the institutions of the Montana University System to begin adjusting COVID-19 protocols as appropriate for the local conditions of each campus.
Given these encouraging developments and the availability of vaccines, our COVID-19 protocols will be adjusted accordingly. Beginning Tuesday, Feb. 22, face masks will be recommended, but not required, for students, faculty, and staff in university campus and City College instructional spaces. Keep in mind that we will continue to recommend face masks in all indoor campus spaces, and that all other COVID-19 precautions such as plexiglass barriers on campus, staying home when ill, good hand hygiene practices, etc., will remain in place. The only change MSUB is making is shifting from a mask requirement in all instructional spaces to a mask recommendation in all instructional spaces.
MSUB will continue to provide free COVID-19 vaccines and testing for students through Student Health Services. MSUB will also continue to provide N95 masks for students, faculty, and staff who wish to use them. N95 mask pick up locations are Student Health Services (both campuses) and in Dean Toenjes’ office on the first floor of the Yellowstone Science and Health Building. Disposable face masks and hand sanitizer will continue to be readily available throughout both campuses.
We encourage you to protect yourself by getting the COVID-19 vaccine and getting a COVID-19 test if you feel ill. It is also very important to stay home when you feel ill or are ill (whether it is COVID-19 or any other illness) for your health and safety and for others. Free COVID-19 home tests are available for students, faculty, and staff today in the Student Union Building atrium from 11-1 p.m. and in Student Health Services at City College. Limit two boxes per person.
Contact tracing at MSUB will continue throughout the spring semester. Our contact tracers are only as effective as the information they receive, so please continue to fill out the anonymous Voluntary COVID-19 Reporting Form if you test positive for COVID-19.
We ask that you respect each other’s health and safety comfort levels and look out for one another. If you have any concerns or questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also refer to the COVID-19 Central page for updated information and review this list of ways to protect yourself and others to ensure that we are doing our part to keep MSUB healthy and safe.
Thank you for helping us maintain a healthy and safe environment to work and learn in. Your continued efforts are very much appreciated.
Jan. 13, 2022
Dear Campus Community:
We look forward to the beginning of the spring 2022 semester next week. Like last year, our goal is to continue to keep classes in-person with an in-person commencement, and we appreciate everyone’s efforts to keep us on that path. The new year has started with cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 on the rise. We continue to receive guidance from RiverStone Health and have been watching this latest variant to understand potential impacts to our campus. This update provides the latest information we have regarding COVID-19.
NOTE : This is a lengthy COVID-19 update to start the new year, but please read through it entirely. There is new information regarding testing, isolation and quarantine, masks and what to expect as the Omicron variant begins to impact our campus and community.
Omicron Is Impacting Yellowstone County and MSU Billings
For most people, especially those who are vaccinated, Omicron presents with relatively mild symptoms. More data are needed to fully assess the severity of Omicron infections, but observations from some hospitals currently experiencing high admission for COVID-19 note that a smaller proportion of patients are in the ICU or require serious interventions compared to the Delta variant. We will continue to work with Riverstone Health or the latest COVID-19 guidance and for information on local hospitalizations and impacts to health care systems in our community.
Vaccines Are Highly Effective in Preventing Serious COVID-19 Outcomes
Vaccines and boosters are effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19, even as data suggest breakthrough infections are more common with the Omicron variant. COVID-19 vaccines are available for students through Student Health Services and are available to faculty and staff through their local health care providers and through our upcoming community vaccine clinics.
Our next Community Flu/COVID-19 vaccine clinic (1st/2nd/booster) is Thursday, January
SUB Glacier Room, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
City College Tech Bldg. 1st Floor Study Area, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
RiverStone Health, our local public health authority, continues to recommend wearing masks in public, indoor settings where there is evidence of substantial community spread, regardless of vaccination status. MSUB will begin the semester continuing to require masks in all instructional spaces whether it’s in the classroom, on a field trip, class-related transportation, etc. MSUB also continues to recommend wearing face masks in all campus indoor public settings.
N95 Mask Availability
For faculty and staff interested in receiving an N95 face mask, please stop by Student Health Services at University campus and City College Campus, or in Dean Toenjes’ office on the first floor of the Yellowstone Science and Health Building to pick one up. No need to call in advance.
Classroom Seating Charts
Faculty are strongly encouraged to use classroom seating charts and take attendance, as these assist greatly with contact tracing, and minimize disruptions to class attendance and activities. Faculty can use the method and format they adopted in the fall semester. Faculty seeking to adopt a seating chart method/template can contact their department or college office.
Updated Guidance for Isolation and Quarantine
RiverStone Health recently updated and shortened the recommended quarantine and isolation periods for COVID-19. See infographic below for the most updated guidance:
The infographic can also be found on the COVID-19 Central webpage.
With case numbers increasing, we do expect to see high demand for COVID-19 testing. Student Health Services will continue to offer testing to symptomatic students. Students should call SHS before coming to get tested at 657-2153. Faculty and staff can find COVID-19 testing in Yellowstone County (see below).
- RiverStone Health at 123 S. 27th St., will offer free at-home test kits for COVID-19 for pick up from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, and from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays. At-home test kits will be offered weekly on this schedule at RiverStone Health while supplies last. Refer to the RiverStone Health facebook page for more accurate updates on schedule and supplies.
- There are a number of testing sites in the community that perform antigen, PCR and Rapid Diagnostic Tests (IDNow). Locate a COVID-19 test site in Yellowstone County by selecting "I need a COVID-19 test."
- Generally, if you are symptomatic, a home antigen test also can provide an indication of an infection. There are some concerns about the sensitivity of antigen tests in detecting Omicron (especially early infection), so a follow-up molecular (PCR) test may be necessary to confirm an infection. If you test positive for COVID-19 with a home test, you should self-isolate and consult with a medical care provider to determine next steps.
Voluntary COVID-19 Reporting Form
If you test positive for COVID-19 (with any testing method), please complete the confidential Voluntary COVID-19 Reporting Form, which will help our contact tracers notify close contacts and recommend quarantine.
COVID-19 Town Hall on January 27 at 3 p.m.
We will host a virtual COVID-19 Town Hall on Thursday, January 27 at 3 p.m. Access the link to the town hall and view previous town halls.
As a reminder, you can always submit questions or concerns to email@example.com.
We Need Your Help
As a community, we hope by working together we can limit the spread of COVID-19. We ask for your help in these efforts with a few simple requests:
- If you intend to be vaccinated/boosted for COVID-19, please do so as soon as possible.
- Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth while indoors on campus. We do not recommend wearing bandanas, gaiters, or masks with exhalation valves as face coverings. The CDC has helpful guidance on correct and consistent mask use and the types of masks that work best to reduce transmission.
- If you are sick, please stay home. Seek a COVID-19 test if you are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms .
- Please practice good respiratory and hand hygiene (i.e., cover your cough/sneeze, wash hands, etc.) This is the season for a number of respiratory illnesses beyond COVID-19, including influenza, RSV, bronchitis and common colds. With all of them, the keys to reducing transmission are the same: wash your hands, watch your distance, and wear your mask.
Thank you for your help in working to reduce COVID-19 cases and transmission at MSUB. Following the above guidance will enable us to keep on learning, working, and enjoying MSUB together as we navigate the anticipated surge in cases in the coming weeks. All your hard work throughout the pandemic has not gone unnoticed, and your commitment to keeping MSUB a safe place is extremely appreciated.
MSUB’s COVID-19 Task Force
Dear Campus Community,
Asymptomatic COVID-19 testing will be available to students, faculty and staff on Wednesday, May 26 in partnership with the Billings Urban Indian Health and Wellness Center.
Wednesday, May 26
SUB Beartooth Room
Note that this is asymptomatic testing only. If you are feeling unwell, do not come to campus to get tested at this event, but seek testing opportunities in the community. Students who feel unwell should call Student Health Services to discuss their symptoms with a nurse at 406-657-2153.
Dear Campus Community,
Last Friday, Commissioner of Higher Education Clay Christian sent a memo to all MUS campuses formally sunsetting the Healthy MUS Planning Guidelines, effective immediately. This action is taken in partnership with the Montana Board of Regents and is based on federal, state, and local public health guidance and on the recommendation of the Healthy MUS Task Force. The Commissioner's memo also covers issues related to quarantine & isolation housing; international travel; event hosting and vaccines.
Mask requirement: There is no longer an MUS system-level mask mandate, which includes MSU Billings. RiverStone Health’s CEO and Health Officer John Felton, with whom we maintain a close relationship, concurs with these guidelines as there is no longer a mask mandate for Yellowstone County or Montana. The CDC has released updated health and safety guidelines and face mask guidelines for vaccinated individuals.
Effective immediately, there is no longer a requirement to wear a face mask on MSUB campuses or property if you have been fully vaccinated or have had a confirmed case of COVID-19. If you prefer to continue to wear a face covering, you are welcome to do so. Remember that all other health and safety protocols still remain in place such as rigorous hand washing and hand sanitizing and staying home when you are ill. Follow the CDC guidelines for when you are sick and take appropriate precautions.
The COVID Incident Command Team is meeting this Wednesday to discuss detailed guidance for the in-class experience for faculty and students for this fall semester. Please stay tuned for more information.
We strongly encourage everyone to get a COVID-19 vaccination. They are readily available and accessible. Visit RiverStone Health for more information. If the COVID-19 landscape changes and we start to see an increase in cases, we will need to be prepared to return to certain restrictions.
On behalf of the COVID-19 Incident Command Team and Chancellor Hicswa, we thank you for all you have done to keep our campus community healthy and safe this past year and a half. Again, please stay tuned for more information about this fall and we thank you for your patience.
If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The COVID-19 Incident Command Team & Chancellor Hicswa
Dear Yellowjacket Staff,
We cannot thank you enough for what you have done this past year to support our students and university as we have navigated through the pandemic. You have worked hard to support and adhere to our COVID-19 guidelines this semester and we appreciate your commitment to keeping MSUB the safest place in Yellowstone County.
As announced last month, all MSUB employees will return to the office full-time and in-person starting next week, Monday, May 10. This means that all remote, rotating, and flexible schedules established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will end. Employees with unique circumstances that could delay or inhibit them from returning to campus full-time on May 10, must work closely with their supervisor and Human Resources.
As you know, our COVID-19 Incident Command will be working throughout the summer on a health and safety plan for this fall semester to get us back to full capacity. We are preparing to return to full classroom and event capacity and are planning for a no face covering requirement on campus this fall, which aligns with Yellowstone County and Montana guidelines. However, things can change, and we must be prepared to pivot quickly. Many of these changes depend on our campus vaccination numbers. We encourage you to get a COVID-19 vaccination if you have not done so already to protect yourselves and our campus community. Please consider completing the anonymous Voluntary COVID-19 Vaccination Form, so we can do our best to track campus vaccination numbers. An on-campus vaccination clinic is planned for the start of fall semester. Stay tuned for more information.
As of right now, we will continue to follow our current COVID-19 protocols throughout this summer, and we appreciate your continued support in following them. We anticipate additional guidance from the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education and the state of Montana this summer and will keep you apprised of any new information and check the COVID-19 Central webpage for new updates.
We understand that some of you may feel uncomfortable with potentially less stringent COVID-19 restrictions this fall. Please take time this summer to adjust to the changes occurring in our community and to the changes we anticipate making this fall. We encourage you to reach out to the additional support resources included in your MUS employee benefits (see the full benefits list).
Again, thank you for your diligence in keeping our Yellowjacket family healthy and safe. We truly could not have done so well throughout the pandemic without your help. Feel free to email us at email@example.com with questions or feedback.
The COVID-19 Incident Command Team
Dear Campus Community,
The City College Johnson & Johnson vaccination clinic has been suspended by the state due to some concerns about the vaccine after six people in the U.S. developed a rare blood clotting disorder. Today the FDA and CDC issued a statement regarding the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and are recommending a pause in the use of it out of an abundance of caution.
The CDC will meet with their advisory committee on immunization practices on Wednesday to further review the cases and assess the potential significance. Right now, they appear extremely rare. As the investigation continues, the FDA will assess the potential significance.
RiverStone Health is working closely with the state and will have more information and guidance by tomorrow.
Please direct any questions or concerns you have to Dave Nordel at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Student Health Services at 657-2153. If you have any immediate medical needs, please seek care.
FREE MSUB Vaccination Clinic:
One stop, one shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine
Snacks provided and Stinger’s gift card giveaways!
For a limited time only, RiverStone Health is offering MSUB students, faculty, and staff the Johnson & Johnson one-dose COVID-19 vaccination on university and City College campus.
Reserve your one-dose vaccine now!
Monday, April 12
SUB Beartooth Room
Tuesday, April 13
Health Science Building Room 127
Book your time slot and location by clicking on the RSVP links above.
Thank you for getting your vaccination to strengthen our hive immunity! PROTECT THE HIVE!
For questions, email email@example.com
Dear Campus Community,
We have created a strong culture of health and safety in response to COVID-19 on our MSUB campuses. Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton has repeatedly said that MSUB is THE safest place in Yellowstone County due to the rigorous and effective health and safety protocols we have been able to maintain.
Vaccines are available to all Montanans
Now that vaccines are readily available to all Montanans ages 16 and older, we encourage you and your families to get vaccinated. By getting vaccinated, you play a vital role in establishing population protection in our MSUB community and in the larger community. Schedule your appointment online today or call 651-6415.
All employees to return to full-time, in-person office work
Because of your dedication to keeping MSUB healthy and safe, we will bring all university campus and City College employees back to the office full-time and in-person starting May 10, 2021.
This means that all remote, rotating, and flexible schedules established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will end. Employees with unique circumstances that may delay or inhibit them from returning to campus full-time on May 10, should work closely with their supervisor and Human Resources.
As everyone prepares to return to full-time and in-person work, please help us continue to PROTECT THE HIVE by:
- Getting your vaccine
- Continuing the following health and safety practices:
- Mask wearing
- Physical distancing
- Staying home when experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
- Keeping informed via the COVID-19 Central page, tuning into weekly Town Halls, and following MSUB’s social media channels (Facebook and Instagram).
- Using the provided cleaning caddies, PPE, and hand sanitizing stations that are available campus-wide for all students, employees, and visitors. If your department needs more disinfectant supplies, complete this order form.
Again, thank you for all your efforts to keep MSUB healthy and safe. You should all
be proud of what we have been able to accomplish collectively. If you have any COVID-related
questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to seeing everyone back in-person on May 10.
COVID-19 Incident Command
Dear Campus Community,
We have a few reminders to share below along with new COVID-19 vaccine information:
MSUB affiliated events, activities & faculty/staff candidate campus visits:
As a reminder, all MSUB-related and affiliated events, activities, including faculty/staff candidate visits to MSUB MUST have a complete COVID plan AND receive approval by our COVID Incident Command prior to making commitments. Submit this COVID plan form to request approval for your event or candidate visit.
COVID-19 vaccine update:
Everyone in Yellowstone County aged 16+ is now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The date was initially April 1 however Yellowstone County as of March 22, has now expanded the vaccine availability to all Yellowstone County residents. Go to myreadyclinic.org to schedule your appointment now!
We are encouraging all employees and students to get vaccinated through the Yellowstone County vaccination clinic at MetraPark. Sign up every Thursday for a vaccine appointment the following week.
Our COVID Incident Command team received multiple questions on whether MSUB will host a vaccine clinic on campus. Since Yellowstone County has a robust vaccination clinic that meets MSUB’s needs in place, Incident Command, with the support of Chancellor Hicswa, has decided to focus time and resources in areas such as education and vaccine promotion.
This topic was also addressed at last weeks’ COVID-19 Town Hall and you can listen to the recording.
Update your COVID-19 email signature:
Please make sure you only have the following message added to your email signature so we can ensure unity in our COVID-19 messaging and campus resource sharing:
At MSU Billings we are actively trying to protect our students, staff, and greater community. Find all up to date precautions and protocols for COVID-19.
We recognize and appreciate all the hard work you have all done this semester so we can keep our students on campus and classes in person. We are so close to the end of Spring semester and encourage you to keep up the great work. It does not go unnoticed.
Email email@example.com for questions, comments, or feedback.
COVID-19 Incident Command
Dear Campus Community,
Appointments for the free, Yellowstone County community COVID-19 vaccination clinic next week at Cedar Hall at MetraPark may now be made online.
Go to https://cw2-montana-production.herokuapp.com/ and click on the blue button that says: Find a clinic. Scrolling down, you should see information on each of the five clinics scheduled for next week at Cedar Hall. If you don’t see the clinics listed, type “Metra” into the location search.
The online form has space for insurance information. You don’t need to fill that part out because all vaccinations are free of charge and no insurance is required.
Beginning at 9 a.m. on Monday, February 15, appointments also will be available by calling 406.651.6596. Some appointments will be saved for phone callers.
Appointments are available to Yellowstone County residents who meet the criteria for the 1A or 1B priority groups established by the state of Montana. This includes healthcare workers, first responders, people age 70 or older, people age 16 to 69 with a serious health condition that puts them at high risk of severe COVID-19 illness, Native Americans and other people of color who may be at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness.
This Cedar Hall clinic is the combined effort of the Yellowstone County Unified Health Command partners. Yellowstone County has provided the Cedar Hall building on the southwest end of the MetraPark midway as the clinic site. RiverStone Health, St. Vincent Healthcare and Billings Clinic will provide staff.
Clinics will be held from:
• 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 16.
• 8-11:30 a.m. and 1-4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 17.
• 8-11:30 a.m. and 1-4:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 18.
Here’s what to expect at the clinics:
• Blue signs inside the MetraPark entrance at Fourth Avenue North will direct you to Cedar Hall on the midway.
• Parking is available near Cedar Hall. You need to stay in your vehicle until five minutes before your appointment time to avoid crowding in Cedar Hall.
• Masks are required in Cedar Hall.
• After receiving the vaccination, you will be instructed to stay for observation for 15 minutes, possibly 30 minutes if you have a history of certain allergic reactions.
• You will get an appointment for your second vaccine dose before leaving the building.
Community clinics at MetraPark will be held in future weeks.
For the weeks of February 15 and February 22, Billings Clinic will continue providing first doses of COVID-19 vaccine in community clinics on its campus. Starting the week of March 1, Billings Clinic will discontinue its first-dose community clinics.
Billings Clinic will be administering vaccine on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday (February 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20). For an appointment call 406.435.5744. Telephone scheduling for new vaccination appointments is available Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to noon or until appointments are filled. If you are a Billings Clinic patient, you can schedule an appointment through PatientConnect at www.billingsclinic.com/patientconnect. Although the vaccine itself is free of charge, Billings Clinic will bill an administration fee to insurance. Individuals without insurance won’t be billed.
People who received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at Billings Clinic, RiverStone Health or St. Vincent Healthcare will get their second dose from the same provider.
No walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations are being given. UHC healthcare providers do not have a waiting list for vaccination appointments and ask for patience as they work to get vaccine quickly and safely distributed.
Individuals who have submitted a St. Vincent Vaccine Notification Sign Up form will still be contacted when an appointment is available. You do not need to fill out another form. However, starting February 16, you will be scheduled at the MetraPark Cedar Hall location.
Please wait to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if you have received any other vaccinations 14 days prior. After being vaccinated for COVID-19, do not receive any other vaccines for 14 days. Individuals who have received convalescent plasma or monoclonal antibody treatment should defer COVID-19 vaccination for at least 90 days.
For more information about the COVID-19 vaccines, log on to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html
Dear Campus Community,
Thank you for continuing to help us mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on our campus. MSUB has been deemed one of the most COVID-safe places in Billings by RiverStone Health and we want to ensure we maintain this designation.
Please continue to follow the guidance from our Health & Safety Plan, and continue to wear face masks, physically distance, wash hands frequently, and stay home when sick, since these measures have allowed us to keep classes on campus and help keep cases low in our community.
A few reminders:
Please complete the Voluntary COVID-19 Self-Reporting Form if you are waiting for test results or have a positive test result.
If you need to order hand sanitizer, disinfectant, and other related supplies for your departments, complete this order form.
If you notice Cleaning Caddies need restocking, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tune into our virtual COVID-19 Town Hall’s every Thursday at 3 p.m. Access previous Town Hall recordings and Webex information.
Refer to the COVID-19 Central webpage for the latest information.
Visitor travel and event request forms will be uploaded to the COVID-19 webpage shortly under the “Travel” section.
We appreciate your diligence in following and practicing health and safety measures to protect our campus. If you have any questions regarding MSUB health and safety protocols, please email email@example.com.
Thank you for continuing to wear your mask to keep our Yellowjacket community healthy. Protect the hive!
Dear Campus Community,
In partnership with Billings Urban Indian Health & Wellness Center, we are offering FREE rapid COVID-19 testing to all MSUB students, faculty, and staff only.
Today, January 19
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
SUB Glacier Room
Wednesday, January 20
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
City College Tech Building
Both sites are open to all MSUB students, faculty, and staff only.
No registration needed.
Dear Campus Community,
With the spring semester just a few days away, we want to ensure you have the latest MSUB COVID-19 information when talking to students, their family members, prospective students, etc. A spring semester checklist was sent to students last week to help prepare them for the spring semester. Please share this checklist with students as needed.
ROTATING IN-OFFICE & WORK FROM HOME SCHEDULES
Last semester, rotating in-office and work from home schedules were established to help slow the spread of COVID-19 on campus. This will be continued throughout spring semester as your supervisors see fit. Each department has unique needs, and it is up to each supervisor to ensure a rotating schedule meets the needs of their department. Please work with your supervisor should you have any questions. Telework agreements should be completed for the rotating in-office and work from home schedule. Separately, those employees who are temporarily working from home full-time due to underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to COVID-19, should ensure that they have an updated telework agreement on file with their supervisor and Human Resources.
MSUB’s COVID-19 HEALTH & SAFETY PLAN (formerly called Back to Business Action Plan)
Last summer our Back to Business taskforce created the Back to Business Action Plan for fall 2020 semester following the MUS’s Healthy Fall Taskforce guidelines/blueprint. We did the same for our upcoming spring 2021 semester making some minor revisions which follow updated MUS guidelines. Our plan is now called the COVID-19 Health & Safety Plan to better reflect the contents of the plan.
Key items from the plan:
- Face covering requirement remains unchanged and we will continue to promote rigorous health hygiene practices.
- Those who have traveled internationally or domestically to high-risk areas are advised to undergo a seven-day self-quarantine and to get COVID-19 tested 3-5 days upon return (if possible), per the CDC. If it is not possible to get tested, a ten-day self-quarantine is advised.
- Students are encouraged to get a COVID-19 test prior to returning to campus after semester break.
- The term “physical distancing” is used throughout the plan. Though the most frequently used term to refer to the COVID-19 safety precaution of maintaining six feet of distance between individuals is “social distancing,” the plan uses the term “physical distancing” instead since MSUB encourages students, faculty, and staff to maintain social connections even while keeping physical distance.
- MSUB complies with RiverStone Health’s COVID-19 guidelines which are in alignment with the CDC.
- Faculty, staff, and students who have tested positive for COVID-19 are highly encouraged to complete the Voluntary COVID-19 Self-Reporting Form which will assist MSUB’s contract tracers to do their jobs in a timely and effective manner.
COVID-19 CLASSROOM CAPACITY
Over winter break, COVID-19 Health and Safety capacity caps were established for each classroom and lab space on both campuses. A square footage analysis of each room was conducted to ensure each occupant could maintain at least six feet or more of physical distance per CDC guidelines. Through this analysis, it was determined that a temporary, 50 percent occupancy reduction for each classroom and lab will allow for appropriate physical distancing necessary to reduce the risk of COVID-19.
When combined with physical distancing throughout the entire class period, the Health and Safety cap will eliminate the need for seating charts and taking attendance if faculty choose to. However, it is important to remember that IF physical distancing throughout the entire class period cannot be maintained, then faculty must create seating charts and take attendance.
NOTE: These Health and Safety caps are temporary and will not be reflected in Banner or the EMS system. They may impact course caps; however, course caps are set through a collaboration between the faculty member, their department chair, and their Dean and should be handled on an individual basis.
MONTANA VACCINE PHASES
Recently, Gov. Gianforte made some revisions to Montana’s COVID-19 vaccine plan. Review this infographic of the plan. Montana is currently in Phase 1A. If you have any questions regarding COVID-19 vaccinations, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: You must continue to wear a face mask or face covering after you have received your vaccine.
RESCINDING OF YELLOWSTONE COUNTY HEALTH OFFICER ORDERS
Effective January 7, 2021, Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton rescinded all local health officer orders and will defer to Gov. Gianforte’s health and safety directives.
Currently, statewide directives remain in place including:
- Restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries, and casinos to operate at 50 percent capacity and close no later than 10 p.m.
- Public gatherings and events limited to 25 individuals where social distancing is not possible or observed.
- Face coverings required in all counties regardless of case count.
We will keep you posted on any changes that Gov. Gianforte makes, but as of right now the above-mentioned directive is still in effect.
Should the state-wide mask mandate change, it may be necessary for MSUB to establish a higher threshold for some restrictions due to our unique environment. The health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff are priority and we plan to keep our current health and safety guidelines in place until it has been deemed safe to make changes.
COVID-19 VIRTUAL TOWN HALL
We will continue to hold weekly COVID-19 Town Halls on Thursdays at 3 p.m. throughout the semester. The first spring semester Town Hall is this Thursday at 3 p.m. Find past Town Hall recordings and the latest Town Hall WebEx link. You can also email email@example.com at any time with any COVID-19-related questions, concerns, or feedback.
As a reminder, the first three days of the spring semester is online only for in-person classes, Jan. 13-15. In-person classes will resume on Jan. 19, with Monday, Jan. 18 as a university holiday (no classes, offices closed) in observance of MLK Jr. Day.
Have a fantastic semester!
Dear Campus Community,
Governor Gianforte announced a few changes to Montana’s vaccine distribution plan yesterday, and we want to make sure you are clear on what this means for you and MSUB.
The Montana vaccination phase is currently in 1A and will not change until the state is satisfied with the completion of Phase 1A and directs the move to Phase 1B. Phase 1A includes front-line health care workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities. Phase 1A includes 60,000 people and is expected to be completed Feb. 26.
The next phase, 1B, includes people 70 years and older, those aged 16-69 with specific preexisting health conditions, front-line essential workers, those residing in congregate care and correctional facilities, and American Indians, including people of color who may be at elevated risk.
Phase 1C includes the general population—those who do not fall into 1A or 1B unless they have a preexisting health condition or meet any of the other qualifications. This means that if essential workers, including faculty, adjunct faculty, and university staff do not have preexisting health conditions or other factors that qualify them for earlier vaccination, they fall into 1C. The timeline for vaccinating MSUB faculty, staff, and students will vary depending on each individual—their age, preexisting medical condition, etc.
As of right now, Montana is only vaccinating individuals in Phase 1A. The state is working on additional details and more information will be available soon.
If you feel that you meet Phase 1B qualifications as described, wait until the state moves to Phase 1B and watch for more information on how to access your appointment to receive the vaccine.
We understand that this information may have caused some confusion. If you have questions, please email David Nordel, MSUB COVID-19 Incident Commander at David.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Campus Community,
As you are aware, students have an extended winter break that begins on Nov. 25 and ends when classes resume on Jan. 13, 2021.
During this break, it is expected that all MSUB offices will be open with adequate coverage during normal business hours of Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., with the exception of university holidays.
However, with students on break this could potentially provide some offices and departments with additional remote-working opportunities to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Department directors and managers should work with their staff to create and maintain the balance between adequate office coverage and workload expectations, while working to minimize potential exposure and spread of COVID-19. A reminder that you must have a current Telework Agreement on file with HR prior to the start of any remote working. The Telework Agreement must contain all signatures of approval and must be filled out completely before sent to HR.
A reminder about the self-care message that was expressed during a recent Town hall presentation. It is important now more than ever to take care of yourselves, meaning that if you’ve been putting off wellness appointments or time off, please take advantage of this extended break between semesters to do so. Please submit your time off requests to your supervisor with as much advanced notice as possible so your department can make plans for office coverage.
To eliminate confusion, in addition to men’s and women’s basketball, the following sports are also impacted:
Fall sports at MSUB, which include men's and women's soccer, volleyball, and men's and women's cross country, will not participate in a conference or championship schedule during the spring of 2021. Fall sports will proceed with their regularly-scheduled, countable athletically related activities (CARA) hours, which includes team practices and non-conference games against outside competition, during the spring of 2021. The NCAA previously announced the cancelation of all fall sport championships, removing the possibility for any postseason play for any fall sports.
As of Friday, MSUB's spring sports, which could begin competition schedules as early as February, remain on track to compete. Spring sports at MSUB include baseball, softball, men's and women's track and field, women's triathlon, and men's and women's golf.
MSUB athletics winter sports update press release
Dear Campus Community,
After a Great Northwest Athletic Conference CEO Board conference call on Friday, Montana State University Billings announced that it will not compete in a conference schedule in the sports of men’s and women’s basketball during the 2020-21 season due to ongoing concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
MSUB was in the majority with its decision, as six of the 10 member schools in the conference elected not to compete in a conference schedule for men’s and women’s basketball. Along with MSUB, the University of Alaska Anchorage, Central Washington University, Simon Fraser University, Western Oregon University, and Western Washington University decided against a conference schedule. The University of Alaska Fairbanks, Northwest Nazarene University, Saint Martin’s University, and Seattle Pacific University indicated they intend to compete in a modified conference schedule.
MSUB, along with the other five conference members who will not compete in a conference schedule, will have the ability to independently schedule games against other institutions, so long as the competitions adhere to local COVID-19 health and safety protocols, and NCAA COVID-19 protocols including testing requirements. Per GNAC mandate (Oct. 2, 2020), no outside competition is allowed for any conference member in any sport before the date of Jan. 7, 2021.
MSUB athletics winter sports update press release
If you have questions surrounding MSUB sports, Krista Montague, MSUB athletic director will be available during next Thursday's COVID-19 Town Hall to answer questions. Also, feel free to contact her or Evan O'Kelly, director of communications for athletics directly.
Dear Campus Community,
As you may have seen, the number of COVID-19 cases across the state continue to rise. We have experienced a record number of new COVID cases this week. Today, that trend continued with 715 new cases in Montana and 155 new cases reported in Yellowstone County. This rapid spread of the virus is overwhelming our local healthcare facilities and made to concern each one of us.
Our County Health Officer, John Felton, presented a way for everyone to do their part to slow the spread. He also shared potential health restrictions which will impact our local businesses, our jobs, and many people’s livelihoods, since many do not have the option to work from home. With the rapidly rising numbers, these health restrictions may be implemented as early as next week.
Don’t let COVID-19 fatigue creep into your life: We understand that it is easy to suffer from “COVID fatigue” and to become complacent about social distancing, wearing your face covering, or staying home when sick, but these “small” actions prove time and again to be the BIG winners in slowing the spread of COVID-19. We strongly urge you and ask you to please take this seriously. Think about your coworkers, your family and friends—and your own health.
Is it worth it? Think again about attending that party or other social gathering this weekend. There is no evidence to date to suggest new campus-related COVID-19 infections result from contacts in MSUB classrooms and learning spaces. This means that our campus cases are connected to off-campus gatherings where social distancing and wearing a face covering are not being adhered to. Please remember what you do outside of class and work is CRITICAL and affects our entire community.
Caught-doing good contest: We need your help to highlight students, faculty, and staff (and yourself), doing good on and off campus. Starting next week, please submit selfies or photos of your coworkers or fellow students, who exemplify positive COVID-19 health and safety behaviors and actions to email@example.com, to enter into a drawing to win Campus Store items. One student, faculty, and staff member will be selected to win each week during our Town Hall meetings.
Enjoy the weekend safely: As we head into this weekend and beyond, please practice responsible behaviors to protect yourself and the rest of our community. Be caught doing good all the time; on-campus and off-campus. Remember the three Ws – Wear your mask, Watch your distance, and Wash your hands. These are the best tools we have to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
COVID-19 will continue to challenge our campus, community, and state for some time. Together, we can take proactive steps to mitigate risk, reduce transmission, and cut the number of positive cases. Thank you for your continued hard work and diligence. We’ve GOT THIS, ‘Jackets!
Your MSUB COVID Response Team
Dear Campus Community,
Fall semester is upon us and Welcome Week has begun. It is wonderful to see students on campus today and one can already feel the excitement and energy that a new semester brings. Although we have faced a challenging year thus far, we hope to bring as much normalcy and stability to our students as possible and need to do everything we can to ensure a healthy and safe fall semester.
As you know, our Back to Business Action Plan serves as our guide for this fall semester and it is important that we as MSUB employees and representatives are familiar with its contents to help better serve and support our students and to be positive examples of the behaviors we wish to see on campus.
Employee and Student Safety Videos
In addition to our required written plan, we have created an employee and student training video component. With the assistance of Human Resources, we created an employee face covering requirement informational video to help clarify areas where there may be confusion. Please take six minutes out of your day to watch this video to familiarize yourself with MSUB’s face covering requirement. The video covers what is considered a face covering, how to properly wear a face covering, where a face covering is required and where it is not, and whom to contact at MSUB should you require a face covering accommodation/exemption.
We have also created a student COVID-19 safety video and will be encouraging students to watch it through our social media channels, D2L, website homepage, COVID-19 Central webpage, and email. Please help encourage students to watch this video and to adhere to the COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Voluntary COVID-19 Self-Reporting Form
We have also launched a Voluntary COVID-19 Self-Reporting form for employees, students, and visitors. This form is vital to the health and safety of our campus community. Should students, staff, faculty, or visitors test positive for COVID-19, we ask that you strongly consider notifying our MSUB COVID-19 Response Team through this form.
Your responses will assist us in taking swift and proper action to ensure additional disinfecting and safety protocols are implemented immediately. Since this is a voluntary form, we cannot require you to complete it; however, we hope that you choose to complete this form, if necessary, to help us protect our community. We will ensure confidentiality to the best of our ability; however, we cannot guarantee complete confidentiality due to activities that may need to occur to ensure the health and safety of our campus community.
It is important that if you feel ill or experience any of the common coronavirus symptoms, that you contact your supervisor and health care provider immediately. Stay home and follow your provider’s recommendations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for when you can be around others. Human Resources will work with you and your supervisor to ensure the best solution for you and your department needs. We also encourage everyone to personally check their temperature every day before coming to work.
Employee and Student COVID-19 FAQ's
To help ensure a clear understanding in additional areas such as face coverings in the classroom, face covering responsibility and accountability, and other related questions, we have created an employee COVID-19 FAQ section. Please also familiarize yourself with the student FAQ page if you work with or interact regularly with our students.
Back to School Guide
Additionally, see attached for an internal Back to School Guide. This guide includes information and tips on how to positively interact and support our students, especially during these first weeks of the semester when they are navigating payments, financial aid, parking, etc. Please keep this guide and refer to it as necessary.
Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to get students back on campus safely this fall. This has truly been a team effort. Let’s have a fantastic fall semester!
Dear Campus Community,
‘Jacket Safety Kits have been assembled! Thank you to those who volunteered their time to assemble these for our campus.
The kits will be delivered across campus on Friday, August 7 beginning at 9 a.m.
Quantities are limited to one kit per person. Please grab one kit only. They will be available in the building where you work. See attached list for specifics.
Delivery locations are as follows:
- Apsaruke Building- first floor lobby
- City College Health Sciences Building-second floor, by Janet Drinkwalter’s office
- City College Tech- Commons
- City College Tech- Admin Suite
- Cisel Hall- outside Music Department
- College of Education- 1st Floor
- Foundation- front lobby
- Facilities Services- FS building (324 N. Rim Rd)
- LA- 8th floor, faculty lounge, aka "The Eye"
- Library- 2nd floor foyer
- McDonald- room 300
- Native American Achievement Center
- PE Building- Main Gym Storage Room
- PE Building- behind Concession Stand
- University Police
- Dining Services- Rimrock Cafe
- SUB- Atrium
- McMullen- basement/ground floor
Students will receive kits from the following locations:
- From their RA staff in their rooms if they live in the residence halls
- Alterowitz Gym for Freshmen at their orientation
- From coaches if they are student-athletes (excluding freshmen and those living in the residence halls)
- Current students may pick-up their kits at the Welcome Back BBQ, Library, or Tech Commons at City College.
If you need more kits, please submit a work order to Facilities Services, using the FAMIS system.
As a reminder to students, faculty, and staff, if you received a kit from one location,
please do not grab another kit as we need to ensure we have enough for everyone!
Together, we can all do our part to keep campus safe and healthy.
Dear Campus Community,
One component of our Back to Business Fall 2020 Action Plan is to provide personal safety kits (‘Jacket Safety Kits) to all MSUB students, faculty, and staff.
We will be assembling 4,000 ‘Jacket Safety Kits on Friday, July 31 and Tuesday, August 4. Volunteers are greatly needed to enact this campus safety measure.
Assembly will occur in the Glacier Room, located inside the Student Union Building.
Assembly shifts will be 30 minutes long, starting from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. With your supervisor’s approval, you may work one hour of paid work time on ‘Jacket Safety Kit assembly. Should you choose to work an extra shift, you may do so on your own time (e.g. lunch) with your supervisor’s approval. The more members of the Yellowjacket family we have to help assemble these kits, the better!
Thank you for playing an important role in keeping our campus healthy and safe for the fall 2020 semester.
- 5/1/20 - Weekly Campus Update
- 4/24/20 - Weekly Campus Update
- 4/17/20 - Weekly Campus Update
- 4/10/20 - Weekly Campus Update
- 4/3/20 - Weekly Campus Update
- 4/3/20 - Spring 2020 Commencement Update
- 3/27/20 - Weekly Campus Update
- 3/26/20 - Shelter in Place Order: What this means for MSU Billings
- 3/20/20 - MSU Billings Student Room & Board Refund Update
- 3/20/20 - MSU Billings Weekly Update Summary
- 3/19/20 - MSU Billings Student Housing Update
- 3/19/20 - Message to Yellowjacket Family
- 3/18/20 - Commissioner’s Memo
- COVID-19 precautionary campus measures effective immediately 3/18: COVID-19 precautionary campus measures effective immediately
- 3/18/20 - Classes to remain online through end of spring 2020 semester
- 3/18/20 - COVID-19 Leave Policy
- 3/18/20 - City College closure
- 3/17/20 - MSU Billings social distancing & nonessential personnel
- 3/16/20 - MSU Billings Telework Update
- 3/16/20 - Effective at 12 PM today, March 16, all City College and university campus in-person classes will be cancelled for the remainder of the day. We are working diligently to get these classes moved online by tomorrow
- 3/15/20 - Because the situation around COVID-19 is rapidly evolving, we want to ensure you are all equipped with proper direction if you believe you may have the virus or have come in contact with someone who has tested positive
- 3/13/20 - In an attempt to limit the amount of emails, we have created a centralized location on our website for all communications related to MSUB's COVID-19 plans and preparations, called COVID-19 Central
- 3/13/20 - As of March 13, 2020, MSU Billings is restricting all university-related business travel for faculty, staff and students
- 3/13/20 - Our community partner, St. Vincent Healthcare will be utilizing two parking lots on the university campus on a temporary basis
- 3/12/20 - As of March 23, all university campuses will transition to online / remote
From the MUS Office of Commissioner of Higher Education to the MSU community
- 3/12/20 - MSU Billings Coronavirus Precautions and Plan
- 3/4/20 - The Montana University System continues to monitor the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in close coordination with the Montana Department of Health and Human Services
MONTANA UNIVERSITY SYSTEM
OFFICE OF COMMISSIONER OF HIGHER EDUCATION
560 N. Park, 4th Floor – PO Box 203201
Helena, Montana 59620-3201
(406) 449-9124 - FAX (406) 449-9171
To: Montana Board of Regents; Montana University System Chief Executive Officers; Montana
Community College Presidents; Governor Steve Bullock
From: Clayton T. Christian, Commissioner of Higher Education
Date: March 12, 2020
Subject: COVID-19 UPDATE
In partnership with the Board of Regents and as Commissioner of Higher Education for the Montana University System, the health and safety of our campus communities remains our top priority. With that in mind, and in light of the rapidly evolving challenge presented by the COVID-19 outbreak, I am directing all MUS campuses to implement the following decisions as soon as possible:
- As of March 23rd, all MUS campuses will, in every instance possible, transition all in-class instruction to online or other remote teaching modalities that do not require in-class presence. Individual departments, colleges, and universities should provide all material assistance and accommodation possible to faculty and students throughout this transition.
- MUS campuses will remain open and operational for students. This includes residence halls, dining services, computer labs, and most other campus services. Employees will continue to report to work unless instructed otherwise or work-from-home accommodations are developed in individual cases.
- To protect public health, MUS campuses will implement appropriate social distancing measures in line with CDC guidelines and recommendations. This should include restrictions on large lectures, theater performances, academic conferences, and other large gatherings.
- All MUS students and employees need to monitor their official email address for more communications and planning details between now and March 23rd.
These decisions are in effect until further notice. Our COVID-19 challenge remains fluid, however, and as our campus communities prepare for Spring Break, it is our responsibility to establish the current course of action while also preparing for new circumstances as they emerge. If and when we consider a return to face-to-face instruction we will provide as much advance notice as possible and clear instructions for an orderly return to normal operations. Throughout, my office will continue to consult with Governor Steve Bullock, the Montana University System Board of Regents, health authorities, and other statewide partners as we assess our current policies. I ask that every campus leader be ready to answer questions and provide relevant information in a timely manner to students, faculty, and staff.
I do not take these decisions lightly. I am committed to supporting the educational progress of our students and minimizing disruption to campus life whenever possible. I believe that the course of action outlined above is the best way to balance our commitment to protect the public health and safety of our students, employees, and communities.
Clayton T. Christian
Commissioner of Higher Education