MADISON — Against the pressure of rising COVID-19 cases on campus, the UW-Madison has made the decision Wednesday night to shift all classes online for at least two weeks as well as quarantine two dormitories.
UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank explained in a letter that previous measures to stymie the tide of cases have failed to work, such as limiting undergraduates to essential activities and isolating members of sorority and fraternity houses.
According to university data, the positive test rate has stayed at 20 percent or greater for the past two days. Since Aug. 6, 1,044 UW-Madison students and 26 employees have tested positive for the virus.
The university has thus made the extraordinary decision to halt all in-person teaching for at least two weeks and isolate Sellery and Witte Residence Halls. All in-person classes will now be taught virtually.
Blank says she made the decision with the UW System Administration, Public Health Madison & Dane County and Gov. Tony Evers.
The following measures are now in effect at UW-Madison:
•All in-person undergraduate, graduate and professional school group instruction will be paused from Sept. 10 - 25. These classes will be canceled 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. Our contact tracing has not revealed any evidence of transmission from in-person instruction; however, this decision comes out of an abundance of caution for our students and employees. The Office of the Provost will provide assistance, if needed, to faculty and instructional staff making this quick transition to remote learning.
•Undergraduate research experiences that can be accomplished remotely must be conducted that way starting September 10 and continuing until September 25. The suspension of undergraduate students participating in face-to-face human subject research interactions, on and off campus, remains in effect until September 25. Graduate and post-doctoral research activities will be permitted to continue.
•Given the high number of positive test results in Sellery and Witte Residence Halls, the university has directed all residents in these buildings to quarantine in place for the next two weeks effective at 9 p.m. this evening. All residents of these halls who have not already been tested this week will be required to test on Thursday and Friday. University Health Services (UHS) will conduct these tests on-site.
•Students are not being asked to move out of the residence halls or leave town. The university says it has significant quarantine space available if necessary.
•Appointments continue to be available for on-campus testing; the university is also working to further expand testing capacity.
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.
Blank said in the statement: "These measures follow the precedent set by several other universities that have paused in-person instruction for two weeks in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We will continue to consult with UW System and our Board of Regents as we evaluate the situation and share more information about the rest of the semester. We remain committed to communicating our evolving plans as quickly and transparently as possible."
UW System President Tommy Thompson also issued the following statement:
“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."
Parisi sent UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank and UW System President Tommy Thompson a letter on Wednesday saying at least 74% of Dane County's cases since Sept. 1 have been traced to UW-Madison and the school should immediately force undergraduates living on campus to go home and quarantine there for two weeks before resuming classes online.
He also demanded the university increase testing capacity and triple the number of contact tracers.