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Health officials estimate 85% of new cases in Dane Co. connected to UW Madison

Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 4:46 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - After Public Health Madison Dane Co. reported a record-high number of new cases in a single day, officials said they are working to determine how many are connected to UW Madison students or staff.

At a briefing Thursday, PHMDC Director Janel Heinrich said they anticipate as many as 85 percent of the new cases are affiliated with the university. She said because someone may be tested at a community test site, they will not know for cuertain if that person is a student or staff member at UW until they are interviewed by public health. She said the trend over the past week had been about 75 percent.

“We are in contact regularly with university health services who is coordinating the testing and contact tracing on campus,” she said.

Heinrich said there is no good answer as to whether students should go home or stay on campus.

“Lots of people living in congregate living facilities will increase and potentially hasten the spread of illness among this population, which may have an impact on our future in our community, but returning them home has the risk of reintroducing illness in their own home communities," she said.

On Wednesday, Dane Co. Executive Joe Parisi told university officials students should go home. Heinrich said it is a tough call to make.

“Lots of people living in congregate living facilities will increase and potentially hasten the spread of illness among this population which may have an impact on our future in our community, but returning them home has the risk of reintroducing illness in their own home communities," she said.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said safety must remain at the forefront.

“The impact on our community is obviously potentially large. Students are a very large population, segment, here in Madison as our UW faculty and staff. UW also has a huge economic impact," she said.

PHMDC detailed they have taken a number of actions as well as UW to mitigate community transmission of the virus, including issuing quarantine notices to sororities and fraternities off campus.

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