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Spring semester COVID-19 weekly update for faculty and staff

January 8, 2021

Read this message in

Dear faculty and staff,

Greetings in this new year. I hope you have found time during the academic break to rest and recharge. As I’ve said before, I appreciate the resilience and flexibility you’ve shown in your work during a challenging fall semester.

This month, you’ll be receiving weekly emails like this to prepare you for new campus safety protocols this spring. These new measures will provide additional protections for the campus community as we await the wide distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

This message will update you on our plans for enhanced testing and the new Safer Badgers app. As always, you can find the latest information on the COVID-19 Response website – I encourage you to check it regularly.

Rebecca Blank

Chancellor, University of Wisconsin–Madison


Spring semester testing requirements

There is lots of worry about a resurgence in infections following the holidays and holiday travel. The new, more contagious version of COVID that has been recently identified seems to spread fastest among younger people. For all of these reasons, we want to be sure our community stays as healthy as possible. By expanding testing and linking campus access to this testing, we will put additional strong curbs on the spread of COVID-19.

• UW–Madison will begin offering saliva-based tests the week of Jan. 11 at selected sites. These fast, accurate tests ultimately will be available at 12 sites on campus seven days a week. Results are expected to be available within 24 hours, often sooner.

• Beginning Jan. 25, faculty and staff working on campus or using campus facilities will be required to test regularly. At a minimum, any time you are coming to campus for any reason, you will need to have tested negative within the previous eight days. (Certain employees will be asked to test more often, given their role on campus. If you are affected, you will be notified by your supervisor.)

• An appointment system will avoid lines and help the testing process go quickly. You can schedule appointments via the Safer Badgers app and website.

• The testing will be offered at no cost to UW–Madison employees and students.

Safer Badgers app

A free, easy-to-use mobile app called Safer Badgers will help you schedule tests, quickly obtain test results, and access additional health resources.

• The Apple version of the app is available at The Android version is awaiting approval by Google. We will send an email as soon as that is approved. If you are an Android user and you need to be tested early next week, please email A website version also will be available soon.

• One screen of the app, called the Badger Badge, will serve as your virtual access pass to campus, including workplaces and buildings where in-person classes and other in-person activities are being held. The Badger Badge will be green when you are in compliance with campus requirements – i.e., have a negative test from within eight days, are not required to be in quarantine/isolation, and have not reported COVID-19 symptoms.

• The Badge will not show any private health information – it will simply show your building access status. Starting Jan. 25, you’ll need to show your Badger Badge upon request to get into campus buildings. If it is not green, you will not be allowed to enter.

• A campus loan program will provide limited-use devices with the app to those who need them. Learn more.

Privacy protection

• The app does not track your current location or location history in any way, on or off campus.

• The app includes robust privacy and security protection, including multifactor authentication and encryption of all data within the app.

Exposure notification

Another function of the Safer Badgers app provides anonymous, secure notifications to anyone who has been in proximity to another participating app user who has tested positive for COVID-19.

• You can opt out of this feature — it’s your choice.

• All data are anonymous. As a receiver of a notification, you will not know who the notification came from. If you test positive for COVID-19, you will not know who is receiving a notification.

• This feature is separate from the WI Exposure Notification app offered by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. If you wish, we encourage you to use both to ensure the broadest coverage.

• Using exposure notification allows you to get the care you may need sooner and reduces the risk of exposing your family or others in your community.

What’s next

Look for your next update on Jan. 14. In the meantime, watch for updates and if you have questions, check out this FAQ.