COVID-19 Update: August 16, 2021

Monday, August 16, 2021

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff, 

We continue to monitor the evolving situation regarding the transmission of COVID-19 in our community, state, and region. We are eager for the return of our students to campus, and we want to remain vigilant on how we best protect our students, faculty, and staff. Our highest priority is the health and safety of our entire Carroll community.

As we have shared previously, we are proud of the partnership Carroll has had with Lewis & Clark Public Health and the cities of Helena and East Helena in providing wastewater monitoring throughout the pandemic. Since summer of 2020, our biology faculty of Drs. Otto-Hitt, Beck, and McHugh have been monitoring wastewater samples weekly from Helena and East Helena for the presence of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. 

Lewis and Clark County public health officials shared that the results of wastewater monitoring indicate that COVID-19 is on the rise in our community, with case numbers likely to increase in the coming weeks. For example, the Helena Independent Record noted on Sunday, August 15, that the Delta variant detected in Montana is making up 95% of variants sequenced at the state lab and is showing up in at least 48 counties. Montana’s average of nearly 54 cases a day from the week of July 5-9 has increased to 287 cases a day last week according to the Independent Record. Even more alarmingly, admissions to hospitals/ICUs across the state have risen significantly, and are again beginning to require transfers and monitoring of ventilator and ICU bed availability.

Taking into account this latest community data, we are making adjustments to our campus procedures as our protocols and decisions will continue to be guided by data, science, and recommendations from public health officials and other experts.

In light of transmission levels of COVID-19 reaching “high” community transmission (as seen here), we have made the decision to ask and highly encourage all of our students, faculty, and staff – vaccinated or not – to mask up in indoor public spaces beginning immediately, and we will require mask usage in all classrooms and in meetings with professors and/or college staff until county transmission levels drop below the orange/red (substantial/high) transmission levels for our community. The Delta variant is considered to be two- to three-times as contagious as the original version of SARS-CoV-2.  

In addition to face coverings, we continue to also emphasize utilizing the tools we have at our disposal to combat this virus including hygiene, distancing, testing, symptom monitoring, and vaccination. Safe, effective, and widely available vaccines continue to be the very best option available to protect ourselves and the community and move us all beyond this pandemic. We will be hosting vaccination clinics on our campus. The first on-campus vaccination clinic will be Monday, August 23, from 12-3 pm in front of the Campus Center.

An incentive to get vaccinated is that close contacts may likely not have to quarantine. The current CDC and Lewis & Clark Public Health guidelines for vaccinated individuals who are close contacts to a positive COVID case is for them to wear a mask and take a COVID test 3-5 days after exposure. Under these protocols, vaccinated close contacts do not need to quarantine as long as they do not have symptoms, wear a mask in public, and do not test positive. Lewis and Clark Public Health may order unvaccinated close contacts to quarantine even if they do not have any symptoms.

This virus is constantly moving the goalposts and we appreciate your patience and grace as we navigate these ongoing challenges. Additionally, we humbly ask that all members of our community assume goodwill if someone is not wearing a mask. A gentle reminder, and a courteous response, can allow for those with extenuating circumstances to avoid feeling ostracized.

Updates and additional information will continue to be posted to our Marching Forward website and any questions you may have can be directed to the account.

Our hope is that as a caring and conscientious community, we will all do our best to ensure the health and wellbeing of our friends, roommates, teammates, faculty, colleagues, and community. 

Show your halo, Saints! 

The Marching Forward Team