Record high COVID-19 cases in Dane Co.; UW has 1/2 of them

Some UW-Madison students say they aren’t worried about catching the virus, while others say they’re doing their best to stay cautious.
Published: Sep. 6, 2020 at 10:55 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - At least half of Saturday’s record-breaking positive COVID-19 cases were UW-Madison students or staff, Public Health of Madison & Dane County announced Sunday.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Dane County reached a new single-day high Saturday with 147 positive cases – a record Public Health of Madison and Dane County says they expected to see but did not hope to break.

“When people come to campus, they’re not only paying for an education, they’re paying for an experience,” Ben Schofat, UW-Madison student said.

It’s a new experience on UW-Madison’s campus: face coverings, online classes and social distancing.

“I don’t think it’s surprising at all. We were here this summer and saw a lot of people just living their lives,” Noah Slakter, UW-Madison senior said.

Upperclassmen said some students weren’t wearing masks or social distancing in the summer months.

“That personally really annoys me. I know people who are like ’I’m not going to get tested unless I have a symptom.’ Well most of the people here are asymptomatic,” Grace Kano, UW-Madison junior said.

Some students said they aren’t worried about catching the virus because of their age.

“I don’t think anyone under 30 years old, if they’re living on their own, is going to care at all because it’s their lives,” Schofat said.

“By taking care of yourself, you’re helping to take care of others too,” Parisi said. “It wasn’t difficult to predict. We were concerned it was going to happen. We hoped it wouldn’t, but in some ways some of our worst fears are beginning to be realized.”

Health officials are growing concerned students will spread the Coronavirus outside of campus.

Dane County Public Health does not have the authority to shut down the university because it’s a state institution, but officials said based on the current numbers a shut-down is possible.

“The way things are trending, that could become a real possibility in the distant future,” Parisi said.

“With the addition of so many students in our community, and more testing on the UW-Madison campus, we expected a rise in cases, but this isn’t a record we wanted to break, and it is important that we all take action so case counts this high don’t become a trend,” said Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County, in a release issued Sunday.

PHMDC says the data includes people who were tested on the UW campus but does not include all students who may have been tested at an off-campus testing site. As contact tracers complete interviews, the numbers are expected to increase.

“UW-Madison is part of the Madison community and has an impact on all of us,” said City of Madison Mayor Rhodes-Conway. “Yesterday 82 percent of positive cases tested by UW were students who live off-campus. The reality is that students are not confined to campus; they travel off-campus to work, volunteer, run errands, visit nearby relatives and explore area attractions. We need everyone to take precautions to help keep our community safe.”

Previously, the highest number of cases in a single day was 141 on June 30, PHMDC reports. Saturday’s record-setting numbers follow several days with over a hundred cases.

“Our success as a community in fighting COVID-19 depends on our collective actions. The number of cases associated with UW is a concern, but plenty of virus is spreading elsewhere in the community too. We ask that everyone follow public health orders and recommendations, and this is especially important as we head into a holiday weekend,” said Heinrich.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi issued a statement Sunday in response to the record one-day increase in positive cases.

“Given the many unknowns about the long-term impacts of COVID-19, we need to continue our work as a community to reduce risk - not only for ourselves, but also for the folks we come into contact with on a daily basis. This virus severely sickens some randomly, without discretion. As Labor Day weekend nears, we are reminded of the continued sacrifice everyone is making to keep our families and communities safe in the midst of this awful pandemic. We are especially grateful to all the health care, grocery, and other front-line workers who get up and go to work every day not knowing if they will come into contact with this virus.”

PHMDC says they will continue to work closely with UW-Madison and other community partners to monitor COVID-19 in the Madison community.

Copyright 2020 WMTV. All rights reserved.