Campus COVID-19 Update: Masking order, preparations for spring semester; upgraded masks available
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This message covers:
- Plans for spring semester
- Campus events and travel policies
- Key resources
Dear students, faculty and staff,
As the university prepares for spring semester, campus leaders are taking several actions to provide students the best possible educational experience, fulfill our research and service missions and look out for the health and safety of our community. We are closely monitoring the public health situation and consulting with medical experts as we work on plans to continue in-person instruction, events and other activities for the spring semester beginning Jan. 25.
COVID-19 cases are reaching record highs in our community and state, and we are aware that many students, faculty, and staff may have recently been exposed or tested positive, causing disruption to personal and professional lives. Emerging evidence suggests the omicron variant is more contagious but causes less severe illness, particularly for those who are vaccinated and have received booster shots. By taking precautions – wearing a well-fitting mask; staying home and getting tested if you feel sick or have been exposed; following isolation and quarantine guidelines – we can have strong protection against COVID-19 while maintaining the benefits of in-person learning. The majority of our Big Ten peers as well as most K-12 school districts are taking a similar approach.
Masking, testing and vaccination remain important and proven strategies our campus has used to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and prevent serious illness. Here’s how we’re focusing on each of these approaches.
- Chancellor Blank has extended the requirement that masks be worn indoors in UW–Madison buildings through March 1.
- The university has purchased a large quantity of high-efficiency and surgical grade masks to provide at no cost to employees and students who wish to use these types of masks. Instructors and students will receive more information about how to obtain these masks. For all other employees, departments and centers will receive information about how to order through ShopUW+.
- UHS continues to conduct contact tracing for students and employees but there are some delays given the increase in cases. Off-campus contact tracing is also experiencing delays. Everyone who tests positive on campus will receive an email to their wisc.edu account that includes instructions for isolation. Public Health Madison & Dane County advises informing your close contacts immediately if you test positive.
- Students and employees who are not fully vaccinated must continue to undergo weekly PCR testing on campus. Required student testing will resume at the start of the semester.
- Take-home antigen rapid test kits, which provide a result in 15 minutes, will be incorporated into our spring semester testing. Given the speed at which the omicron variant is spreading, antigen testing will allow students and employees who test positive to more quickly isolate themselves and reduce their chance of infecting others. We will share more information before the start of classes about how to obtain a kit and about testing guidance for students before and after they travel to Madison.
- Campus guidance on isolation (for people who test positive) and quarantine (for people in close contact with someone who has tested positive) has been updated to reflect the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- More than 95 percent of students and employees are fully vaccinated with an initial vaccine series and thousands have received booster shots on campus.
- Everyone who is eligible for a booster dose is recommended to get one as soon as possible. To assist, UHS will be expanding capacity for vaccine appointments at the no-cost campus vaccination clinic starting Jan. 24. Watch for more information.
- If you received a booster shot off-campus, let UHS know by sharing your records through the MyUHS website or app.
Campus events and travel
There are no additional restrictions on campus events and university-sponsored travel; however it is recommended that those who are planning in-person events remain mindful of the evolving public health situation and consider providing alternate means of participation when appropriate and feasible.
- What to do if you test positive or are a close contact of someone who’s tested positive
- Information for employees
- Student support: Contact the Dean of Students Office; request emergency financial support
- Visit the campus COVID-19 website; check out the FAQs; email email@example.com if you can’t find what you need