UW-Madison takes first step towards enforcing COVID-19 testing protocols

The university started sending warning emails to students who may have not been tested often enough.
Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 8:55 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - UW-Madison is doubling down on COVID-19 testing requirements for undergraduate students and taking its first step towards enforcement.

Undergraduates are required to get tested once every three days. In February, some started receiving warning emails about noncompliance.

“It really felt like they were threatening some sort of academic probation,” said Brooke Themar, a UW-Madison senior who received the email.

The email warned Themar that UW-Madison records indicated that she “may not be in compliance with UW-Madison COVID-19 testing requirements”.

“I was a little surprised to get it, since my Badger Badge was only yellow for a few hours,” Themar explained.

A yellow Badger Badge, tracked through the Safer Badgers app all students are supposed to download, means a student must test negative to enter on campus buildings.

The university said they use information from the app and from campus testing sites to keep track of how often students get tested. Each student has a unique QR code they scan each time they get a test.

Some UW-Madison students started getting this email last week, a move one student told me was a surprise. I spoke to the university about what this means for students.

Posted by Sanika Bhargaw NBC15 on Monday, February 22, 2021

UW-Madison spokesperson Meredith McGlone said the emails are just a first step, a warning. Repeated failures to comply could lead to more serious consequences.

“That can include disciplinary measures that might impact their ability to study abroad, for example,” McGlone explained, adding that the consequences could be as serious as suspension.

Students like Themar said it can be difficult to find time to get tested. Many testing sites close by the time she gets out of class.

“I work three jobs...I’m in five classes,” Themar said, adding, “All of those things combined just leaves me with very little time in my day to potentially wait an hour in a line for a COVID test.”

Aaron Patterson, another UW-Madison senior said he also found it hard to fit testing into his schedule. Patterson later switched from the saliva test to the nasal swab test for medical reasons.

“You don’t have to wait in line, the nasal swab test is much quicker,” he said.

The university started sending warning emails to students who may have not been tested often...
The university started sending warning emails to students who may have not been tested often enough.(WMTV)

McGlone said the university has tried to make COVID-19 testing as accessible as possible for students.

“We have 14 testing sites, there are sites open seven days a week, they have early morning hours, they have evening hours,” McGlone said. She added her advice to students is, “Plan ahead, use the app and use those testing wait time locations.”

Through the Safer Badgers app, students can see approximate wait times at different campus testing sites, though Themar said those can change quickly.

“Recently I’ve been going like the second I wake up,” she said.

Themar added the number of testing sites has been helpful. She just hopes the university can be patient.

“We’re just busy and finding the time to work it into our schedules, we’re trying, it’s just challenging,” she said.

McGlone explained most students have been compliant, and the university hopes the first warning is all students will need.

“We’ve asked a lot of them this semester, they stepped up and we really appreciate all the students who are doing the right thing,” she said.

According to UW-Madison’s COVID-19 dashboard, the university has seen an uptick in cases in the last week. Since February 14, the 7-day average has nearly doubled to about 64 cases a day.

McGlone said the trend is concerning, but the goal of frequent testing is to catch cases early and avoid wider spread.

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