UW-Madison Goes Virtual, Quarantines Two Dorms

The decision comes amid high testing rates among university students. UW System Interim President Tommy Thompson says the other 12 UW campuses are continuing to operate as expected.

By Will Kenneally

September 9, 2020 • South Central Region

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UW-Madison students

UW-Madison students prepare for a two-week quarantine at one of two dorms in which students were ordered to stay in place Sept. 9, 2020.

UW-Madison will move its instruction online for the next two weeks amid a spike in COVID-19 on the campus.

The state’s flagship campus is cancelling classes for the rest of the week, and will resume virtual instruction starting Monday. This comes days after chancellor Rebecca Blank urged students to limit their in-person interactions.

Two dorms will also be forced into quarantine, and students living there will be required to get tested within the next two days.

“I share the disappointment and frustration of students and employees who had hoped we might enjoy these first few weeks of the academic year together,” Blank said in a statement.

Blank’s announcement made it clear that the campus would not be sending students home. This came the same day Dane County Exec. Joe Parisi asked the university to consider doing so as positive tests continued to climb.

“We are concerned the well-intentioned goal of having UW open and operating as close to normally as possible will result in opportunity for COVID-19 to spread in our community,” Parisi wrote in a statement.

Blank said to keep students away from campus, similar to how the university handled the pandemic this spring, would go against public health guidelines to prevent the spread to students’ home communities.

UW-Madison has recorded 1,044 positive tests among students to date, testing at a 20% positive rate the past two days.

The chancellor said that no positive tests could be attributed to in-person instruction, but that the decision to cancel in-person classes was made out of an abundance of caution. She said she consulted with UW System Administration, local public health officials and the governor in her decision.

“I support the additional mitigation steps announced by Chancellor Blank today. These steps are not unlike those employed by other universities around the country,” Interim UW System President Tommy Thompson said in a statement.

“It is important to note that each of our universities faces different circumstances and we continue to monitor their situations daily,” he added. “At this time, the other 12 universities are continuing to operate as expected.”

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