Colleges across Wisconsin spent months preparing for school in the pandemic, but weeks into the new year those plans are being tested.
"I want to acknowledge the number of positive tests that we're seeing on campus have been higher and have increased more rapidly than we had anticipated at this point in the semester. It's gone up faster than most of our peer schools. I understand people on and off campus worried and upset about these cases and I am as well," said Rebecca Blank, Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
As UW-Madison combats a spike in positive COVID-19 cases, the chancellor says there is no evidence of transmission in classroom settings. Her comments come days after the school moved all classes online and quarantined two residence halls for two weeks.
During a call with the Greater Milwaukee Committee, leaders from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Marquette University, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, and Milwaukee Area Technical College discussed their continuing work to contain the virus.
"Our police force is really trying to crack down on behavior in the neighborhoods and off-campus. Now hosting parties and things go directly through student conduct," said Mike Lovell, President at Marquette University.
"We had to do everything from sending Wi-Fi hotspots out to our students to helping our students require Internet access in their home area," said Jeff Morin, President at MIAD.
"Have senior class students talk to underclass students and talk about what smart behavior. What are you do on weekends? Things that we might feel on campus we can control the environment but what happens off-campus," said Mark Mone, Chancellor at UW-Milwaukee.
"We’re already thinking about spring and what we’re going to do and what our policies going to be around vaccines if we do have one. Is it going to be mandatory or not," said Vicki Martin, President at MATC.
Milwaukee area college students we talked with say they largely agree with how their schools are handling the pandemic, adding they expected to see some positive cases.
However, they are also ready to do their parts to get the virus under control.
"I was definitely nervous coming back but now seeing how Marquette has been handling it, it’s making me feel a lot better," said Brianna Winters, a senior at Marquette University.
"I’m totally ready to start looking at humans again and not through a screen," said Faith Green, a first-year student at MIAD.
As to how serious schools are taking this pandemic, Madison's chancellor says they are investigating nearly 400 students for potential conduct violations, adding 8 students could face suspension.