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Campus COVID update: Looking ahead to spring semester

December 15, 2021

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This message covers:

  • Testing during winter break
  • Reminder: Mask policy extended
  • Spring semester testing
  • Update on employee vaccination mandate
  • How to stay informed

Dear students, staff and faculty,

As the fall semester draws to a close, we want to thank you for your contribution to our campus’s highly successful efforts to control COVID-19. By pulling together, getting vaccinated and boosted, masking up and staying home when sick, we have been able to return to a much more typical campus experience and enjoy connecting with one another.

Our progress this fall gives us strong momentum for the spring semester, even as we continue to monitor the omicron variant of COVID-19. Early reports suggest that it may be more easily spread than previous variants but may not cause more serious illness, especially in people who are vaccinated and people who have received booster shots. Providing convenient, no-cost access to vaccination on campus will continue to be an important part of the university’s response.

Today we’ll share some important reminders as well as additional information about how the university plans to operate in the spring. As always, we will continue to evaluate our plans and policies as new information and public health guidance emerges.

Testing during winter break

Campus testing sites will close at 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 23 and remain closed through Jan. 2. Information on COVID-19 testing sites around Madison can be found on the Public Health Madison & Dane County website.

If you need a COVID-19 test to satisfy travel requirements, plan ahead. Testing at UW–Madison is only available by appointment, and while most PCR test results are available within 24 hours, some may take longer. You may need to seek COVID-19 testing off-campus.

Unvaccinated students and employees who are required to test weekly will receive additional information about testing during winter break.

Beginning Jan. 3, campus testing will move to a single location, the University Club, 803 State St. (intersection of State Street Mall and East Campus Mall). Thanks to the high campus vaccination rate, we are able to serve everyone who is required to or wishes to test at one location. Testing will be available by appointment Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed noon to 1 p.m. for lunch, and Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Reminder: Mask policy extended

UW–Madison’s requirement that masks be worn in indoor spaces has been extended to Jan. 15, 2022. (Read the Chancellor’s Order.) This policy will be reviewed again in early January, taking into consideration current public health guidance and COVID-19 prevalence on campus and in the community.

The extension will help reduce health concerns during a time when many members of the campus community are traveling and when COVID-19 cases are rising again in our state and region.

Spring semester testing

  • Fully vaccinated people: Based on emerging medical evidence and expert advice, the university plans to incorporate at-home rapid antigen tests into our campus testing strategy for fully vaccinated students and employees, at no cost to them. Additional information about the use of at-home rapid antigen testing will be provided.Antigen tests use a self-administered nasal swab and provide results within about 15 minutes, allowing people with COVID-19 to quickly isolate themselves and contain the spread of disease. These tests are now widely available over the counter and are increasingly being used in public health response in the U.S. and around the world.

    Antigen tests are comparable in sensitivity to PCR tests when viral loads are high, which is when people are likely to be most contagious. They are best used when a person is symptomatic. With 95 percent of our campus community fully vaccinated, antigen testing will allow for rapid results and continued COVID-19 surveillance as a complementary tool to our existing strategies.

  • People not yet fully vaccinated: Students and employees who were required to test during the fall semester will continue to be required to undergo PCR testing weekly on campus by making an appointment at the University Club testing site.

Update on employee vaccination mandate
The university has paused implementation of the federal vaccination mandate due to an injunction issued by a federal court. We will continue to monitor legal activity related to the mandate and share more information as it becomes available. Affected employees are receiving additional information. For any employee who submitted for a medical/disability and/or religious accommodation by Dec. 13, you will be notified if an approval has already been determined. If the request is a possible denial or requires additional information, the review will be paused until further notice.

How to stay informed