After a two week hiatus from in-person classes due to a spike in COVID-19 cases, UW-Madison today announced students would resume campus activity on Saturday, Sept. 26.
“No one wanted our semester to start this way, but it has underscored that strict adherence to public health protocols is essential to protecting campus health and operations. Our collective efforts have curbed the number of positive cases and reduced the positivity rate in campus testing over the past two weeks,” Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in a statement Wednesday.
The campus is working to reduce the number of students in dorms by encouraging voluntary departures, allowing more single rooms and prohibiting guests in residence halls, according to Blank. UW-Madison will also continue emergency suspensions for students who do not adhere to safety guidelines and asked Dane County to help.
“I’m hoping the county will partner with us in other solutions downtown and in neighborhoods, including continuing to enforce their public health orders in cars and other off-campus spaces linked to the spread of infection,” Blank said.
Over the past weekend, Dane County Exec. Joe Parisi renewed his call for UW-Madison to go virtual, citing a review of counties with the highest rates of infection that shows a close correlation between positive test data and the presence of a UW System school.
“The data tells the real story of what’s happening — COVID-19 is here, it’s spreading, and barring a major course correction this region and state are in store for countless tales of unnecessary human suffering,” Parisi said Sunday.
UW-Madison is currently investigating around 500 students and 11 student organizations for public health violations, as well as about 20 students are being investigated for emergency suspension, university officials reported at a media briefing Wednesday. Student services staff and the UW Police Department have worked to patrol off campus locations, though they have little authority to talk with students in those locations, administrators said at the briefing.
As of Wednesday about 500 students have cancelled their housing contracts, university officials said.
If UW-Madison sees another uptick in positive cases, the university will not hesitate to take additional actions to limit the spread of the virus, the Chancellor said.
This story was updated to include news from the university media briefing.