MADISON, Wis. (WFRV) – The University of Wisconsin Madison will transition to virtual learning for two weeks to help slow the spread of COVID-19 after a spike of cases on campus.

According to a letter shared with the UW Madison community Wednesday night, the positive test rate among students continues to rise. A sharp increase has been reported in specific residence halls, according to the letter.

Officials say that, after consulting with UW System Administration, Public Health Madison & Dane County, and Governor Tony Evers, the university will take multiple actions, including:

  • All in-person undergraduate, graduate and professional school group instruction will be paused from Sept. 10 – 25: These classes will be cancelled Thursday, Sept. 10 – Saturday, Sept. 12 and will resume remotely beginning Monday, Sept. 14 for at least two weeks. Clinical training will be permitted to continue. Classes and sections that are currently being offered remotely will continue as scheduled. Contact tracing has not revealed any evidence of transmission from in-person instruction.
  • Given the high number of positive test results in Sellery and Witte Residence Halls, all residents in these buildings have been directed to quarantine in place for the next two weeks effective at 10 p.m. Wednesday night. All residents of these halls who have not already been tested this week will be required to test on Thursday and Friday.
  • Students are NOT being asked to move out of the residence halls or leave town, according to the letter. Additional quarantine space available if necessary.

In addition, the following changes will be made to campus operations, effective Sept. 10 – 25:

  • All in-person study spaces, including those at University Libraries, the Wisconsin Union and academic buildings will be closed.
  • Dining services will shift to carry-out only for Housing residents and staff. The Wisconsin Union will provide curbside food pickup only.
  • University Recreation & Wellbeing facilities will be closed.
  • University Health Services will only be open for urgent care needs, by appointment only. Telehealth and telemedicine appointments are available.
  • University Libraries will revert to their summertime operations, supporting the research mission of the university.
  • In-person gatherings, including all social events and work gatherings of more than 10 people, are canceled. Employees may meet in groups of 10 or fewer for essential purposes. Whenever possible, work meetings should continue to be conducted remotely via phone or video streaming.

“I am thankful for the employees who continue to work on-site and keep our campus running. No changes will be made to Madison Metro bus schedules or campus parking operations at this time. Facility access and mail and package delivery will remain the same. Child care centers will remain open at this time,” says Chancellor Rebecca Blank.

These changes come after Dane County Executive sent a letter to UW Madison officials, asking the university to send undergraduate students home.

Earlier this week, Chancellor Blank directed all undergraduate students to “restrict their movements over the next two weeks in order to reverse the recent rise in COVID-19 cases.”

In early September, UW Madison and Public Health Madison & Dane County directed members of nine fraternities and sororities with off-campus live-in chapter houses to quarantine for at least 14 days in response to nearly 40 confirmed cases among their members.

“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. Before we started this semester, we knew that no plan would be risk-free in the current environment,” Chancellor Blank continues in the letter.

University of Wisconsin System President Tommy Thompson issued this statement in response:

“I support the additional mitigation steps announced by Chancellor Blank today. These steps are not unlike those employed by other universities around the country. Students will remain on campus, as recommended by health experts, and UW-Madison will take a two-week period to deliver all courses online, halting in-class delivery out of an abundance of caution. 

We will continue to remain in close contact with officials at UW-Madison along with local, state and national health experts. Students, faculty and staff must be vigilant to combat this virus. These tactics have proven effective at other universities. Our hospitals have not experienced significant surge or strain. Our substantial testing has generated positive tests. This is not a surprise. Chancellor Blank and the Smart Restart team continue to take immediate steps, informed by data, to contain the spread.

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

On the west side of the state, UW-Eau Claire says nearly 70 students have tested positive for COVID-19, causing six residence hall wings to be placed into full quarantine, affecting 184 students. While they are not ill or showing symptoms, these students must remain in their rooms for 14 days.

Since August 31, UW Milwaukee has reported 24 student cases of COVID-19 on its Milwaukee campus while UW Green Bay has reported three positive cases.

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