UW to test more people, more often next spring

Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 4:33 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The University of Wisconsin plans a major increase in on-campus testing starting next semester. The university intends on doubling routine testing to twice a week and requiring more students and staff to be tested.

Under the new guidelines, every student who lives on campus, attends any classes, or utilizes campus spaces will need bi-weekly tests, as will all employees working on campus. Previously, the only ones required to take weekly tests were students in residence halls as well as housing and food service workers. Other students and staff members would only be tested when they requested one.

“I am pleased that we will be able to expand our testing in January,” says Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “This will help us identify any students or staff who are ill much more quickly.”

The stricter guidelines come after a rough start to the fall semester. The return to classes brought with it a wave of new cases that not only permeated Dane Co., but several other counties that host a UW System school. At one point in September, the Madison campus took a two-week “pause,” during which it only held online courses, to help get the spread of the virus under control.

When announcing the increased testing, the university lauded its efforts to contain the spread at that time. saying it demonstrated quick detection, isolation and quarantine, contact tracing, and following public health guidelines helped it keep transmission rates low. As part of its commitment to follow health dept. recommendations face masks will be required in all indoor and outdoor spaces.

When students return in January, the hybrid model of instruction currently in place will continue. Courses with 50 or more students will be virtual, while smaller ones that need to meet in-person will do so in larger rooms.

Their return will come after an extended winter break. Classes will resume on January 25, a week later than originally schedule, to make up for the cancellation of spring break. The semester will still end on time, however university officials are still trying to determine of commencement ceremonies will be in-person or virtual - as they were last spring.

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