It’s a brand new school year at the University of Montana after Monday night’s convocation ceremony following the first full day of classes.

Director of Strategic Communications Dave Kuntz spoke with KGVO News on Tuesday with an update on the first post-COVID 19 semester. He said enrollment numbers are still a few weeks off.

“We're still a couple of weeks away from having those official numbers, but we did have our first year students returning last week for their orientation,” said Kuntz. “I'm happy to report that our residence halls are full. We in fact even have had to transition some singles into doubles and some doubles and triples to accommodate the influx of student growth that we've seen.”

Kuntz emphasized that COVID-19 precautions are still at top of mind awareness throughout the campus.

“We're meeting with University leadership every single morning with the Missoula City County Health Department to walk through both the trajectory of the virus in Missoula county as well as here at the university, and we have mitigations in place that we know worked because they worked so well last year in keeping those UM affiliated cases low,” he said.

Kuntz enumerated the precautions being practiced on the UM campus as classes and other activities get underway.

“We'll continue to monitor the virus and just really clearly communicate to our students and employees, the mitigations that we know that work,” he said. “When you're indoors distance as much as possible and get the vaccine, which is what really separates this fall from last fall, in that we have an effective and accessible vaccine that students can get right here on campus. And we've been really encouraged so far by the vaccine intake that we've seen.”

Acknowledging the order from Governor Gianforte that prohibits mandatory vaccination, Kuntz said the university is doing all it can to promote getting the vaccine.

“We are not planning to mandate the vaccine,” he said. “Montana law is pretty clear that we don't have the authority to do that, but we are communicating to our students as much as possible about the benefits of the vaccine; the advantages that it gives you in terms of quarantining and being a close contact, and the protection it gives against the virus and prevents the spread of the virus within our residence halls in the campus community.”

At last report, the first home football game of the season on September 11 will not require masks for spectators, as it is an outdoor venue.

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