UW-Madison directs undergraduate students to limit interaction, restrict movement

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UW Madison

MADISON, Wis. (WFRV) – After nearly 40 members of fraternities and sororities tested positive for coronavirus at UW-Madison, the chancellor is calling on students to restrict their interactions on campus.

According to a letter sent to the UW-Madison community by Chancellor Rebecca Blank, all undergraduate students are to “restrict their movements over the next two weeks in order to reverse the recent rise in COVID-19 cases.”

“Effective at 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 7, through 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21, I’m calling on all undergraduate students to severly limit in-person interaction and restrict their movement to that which is required for essential activities only,” the letter reads.

Chancellor Blank continues, saying that a growning number of COVID-19 cases have been detected during recent testing. She says many of these cases are in students living off-campus and can be linked to situations where people did not wear face coverings or practice physical distancing.

“We see this reflected in the data, but it’s also apparent in social media posts and in conversations with students who have tested positive.”

Last week, 38 students tested positive for COVID-19, causing UW-Madison and Public Health Madison & Dane County to direct members of nine fraternities and sororities with off-campus live-in chapter houses to quarantine for at least 14 days in response to the confirmed cases among their members.

The letter goes on to say the total number of student cases has grown over each of the last five days. The rise in the positive percentage of total tests indicates this increase is not due solely to an increase in testing.

Chancellor Blank continues, saying:

“I’m directing all undergraduates to severely limit your in-person interactions for the next two weeks, only leaving your residence for the following essential activities:

  • Participating in academic activities including classes, studying or research; in-person classes will continue and study spaces will remain open; there is no evidence of virus transmission in these activities
  • Receiving a COVID-19 test or other medical care
  • Purchasing food
  • Going to your on- or off-campus job
  • Engaging in an individual outdoor activity, such as running or walking
  • Attending a religious observance

The university is taking the following actions to support this two-week effort (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • All in-person social events are cancelled.
  • All other student meetings, with the exception of in-person and hybrid classes, should be held online only
  • All registered student organization (RSO) events will be online only
  • All RecWell facilities will be closed during this time period
  • Union dining facilities will be carry-out only
  • No visitors will be allowed in the residence halls

The university is taking the following actions to support this two-week effort (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • All in-person social events are canceled.
  • All other student meetings, with the exception of in-person and hybrid classes, should be held online only
  • All registered student organization (RSO) events will be online only
  • All RecWell facilities will be closed during this time period
  • Union dining facilities will be carry-out only
  • No visitors will be allowed in the residence halls”

The chancellor goes on to ask all undergraduate students to avoid social gatherings.

“Note that these restrictions do not apply to graduate students, faculty or staff members.   The good news is that we see very little evidence of infection among these populations,” Chancellor Blank says. “In the few instances where we have seen cases, we do not have evidence that infection occurred through on-campus activities.”

University of Wisconsin System President Tommy Thompson issued a statement in response, saying:

“Chancellor Blank is taking prudent steps to mitigate outbreaks by limiting student gatherings. Like other universities throughout the nation, UW-Madison is taking aggressive actions to adapt to the circumstances informed by its testing strategies. We knew there would most likely be an increase in early cases and today’s decision, while inconvenient to students, is necessary. UW System will continue to work with all its campuses to address specific circumstances as they arise.”

Locally, St. Norbert College has reported 12 confirmed student cases of COVID-19. UW-Green Bay has not reported any confirmed cases.

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