As the first day of the fall semester drew near, the Curry Health Center received a rapid testing COVID machine. Now, Curry is ready to take on sick students from on and off campus.

“What Curry is focusing on is students who are symptomatic, or if they had exposure to someone who has tested positive and has been contacted by the health department,” lab manager Kelly Osen said. “I think it's great that we can offer rapid tests where you can get a result in as little as 20 minutes.”

The center is able to test any student who comes in showing COVID-19 symptoms, but they are constricted on testing asymptomatic students. The center will be working with the Missoula City-County Health Department, who are charged with contact tracing and referring asymptomatic students to the center for testing.

When a student feels sick, Osen said the person’s symptoms must fall in line with the CDC guidelines, which include shortness of breath, a fever, the loss of taste and smell, headache and a runny nose. The full list can be accessed on the CDC website.

Students are asked to take the COVID-19 test if they have any of the listed symptoms. While students on campus can walk into the center for testing, there is also a drive-through site for students who live off campus and feel healthy enough to drive.

The health department is expected to contact trace active COVID-19 cases and reach out to people who have had close contact with others who have tested positive. If contacted, asymptomatic students can then be tested at Curry.

The center received the testing machine from the Helena-based Montana Public Health Laboratory. The machine can give a result in as little as 20 minutes, but does not have a perfect accuracy rate.

“For someone who is really sick, we're gonna test them on the rapid instrument here and if they do come back as a negative, an insurance provider can always request that it go to a reference lab for confirmation,” Osen said.

Students who test positive or are symptomatic are required by Curry and the health department to be quarantined. Curry Health Center COVID-19 response coordinator Dionne Peterson said the mandate includes those living on and off campus.

She added that quarantined students who live on campus or in university-sanctioned housing will work with UM Housing to get meals, or even move into an isolation space on campus, though that is not set in stone. For students living off campus, keeping isolated from others can be more complicated.

“It can get really thorny when you have roommates,” Peterson said. “People living together should try and limit shared items, but it's hard when you live together, especially in college.”

More information about COVID-19 at the University of Montana: