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Chancellor Blank: What to expect this fall

June 24, 2021

The message below was sent to all UW–Madison employees on June 24.

Read this message in

The message covers:

  • Plans for fall campus operations
  • Guidance for vaccination, in-person work, masking, spaces/access, and testing
  • Resources

I’m writing today with an update for faculty and staff about how the university plans to operate during the fall semester.

We continue to see encouraging progress in the fight against COVID-19 both on campus and in the broader community. Cases in Dane County have dropped to their lowest level since May 2020, driven by exceptionally strong participation in vaccination. Of those eligible to be vaccinated in Dane County, 78.5% have received at least one dose.

We know that at least 74% of UW–Madison employees have received at least one dose of vaccine.  This is an under-estimate since we know that more were likely vaccinated by UW Health or another off-campus provider and have not yet shared their status. If you’re one of those individuals, please let us know – having the most accurate information possible about our community’s vaccination rate is important as we reunite on campus. This information is used for statistical and planning purposes only and we will protect the privacy of your information.

We do not have a good estimate of student vaccinations, since many students are being vaccinated over the summer and have not yet reported those results.  As of the end of the semester, our evidence suggests about 50% of the students were vaccinated.  We are increasingly confident we will have a very high share of vaccinated students on campus as well – we are aiming for at least 80% — and will be taking multiple steps to encourage vaccination among those who arrive unvaccinated.

All of the medical evidence shows that vaccinated individuals are unlikely to become infected with COVID-19 and if they do, for the vast majority the illness is mild.  With a surrounding community that is highly vaccinated and a local campus community that is highly vaccinated, we should expect few infections.  Those that do become infected have a low risk of transmission.  While we continue to monitor the situation closely, the growing medical evidence on the effectiveness of vaccination and the high share of vaccinated individuals in our community give us confidence that we can move ahead with plans to resume more typical campus operations.

Here’s what we expect the fall will look like:

  • Vaccination: We will continue to offer no-cost vaccination for employees, students and the public. Vaccination is strongly encouraged; however it is not required.As campus returns to typical operations, vaccinated individuals are protected, but unvaccinated individuals are not, so it is particularly important for those who have not gotten the vaccination to continue to wear face coverings.We recognize that some people have medical conditions that prevent them from receiving full protection from vaccination. If you have a specific medical concern, please contact your Divisional Disability Representative (DDR).The university will not disclose an individual’s vaccination status to others. It is up to individuals to decide whether to share their vaccination status with colleagues, supervisors, and employees. Although many of us have a natural inclination to want to know that others around us are vaccinated, it is important to remember that the single best action we can take to protect ourselves is to get vaccinated. Once a person is vaccinated, they have the highest level of protection. Even if they are sitting immediately next to someone who tests positive, this is no longer considered a close contact and quarantine is not required. The vaccine offers such high protection that the risk of transmission is very low.
  • In-person work: Units where employees have been working remotely will continue to transition to in-person work in August. Per the new campus remote work policy, remote work arrangements will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The Office of Human Resources has developed new resources that provide guidance on remote work, including FAQs and training modules. Please talk with your supervisor if you have questions or concerns.
  • Masking: Consistent with local and national public health guidance, face masks are no longer required, but are still recommended for unvaccinated individuals. Unvaccinated individuals should continue to protect themselves by wearing masks indoors and outdoors where physical distancing isn’t possible. Anyone, regardless of vaccination status, may choose to wear a mask. Choosing to wear a mask does not indicate vaccination status.
  • Spaces and access: Effective August 9, we will return to pre-pandemic guidelines for configuring campus spaces. Additional spacing to promote physical distancing will no longer be required; classrooms and other spaces will operate at full capacity. Also effective August 9, the Badger Badge will no longer be available as a tool to control access to spaces.
  • Testing: Employees will not be required to test regularly. Students in residence halls who are not vaccinated must test weekly; students who live off campus are not required to test. We will continue to offer no-cost, drop-in testing to employees and students.
  • As we retire the Safer Badgers app (including the Badger Badge), campus will transition to a new app in early August: MyUHS. Designed for students to interact with UHS regarding their healthcare, employees will also be able to use the app to schedule vaccination and COVID testing appointments as well as access test results.  It also has a web version (the MyUHS portal) that students and employees already use.

We recognize that these changes may raise questions and concerns and we are offering a number of resources to employees and managers to help navigate this transition:

  • Virtual events: In our first event, campus health experts discussed how to prepare for these changes and reunite safely. The next sessions will take place July 22 and August 12.
  • Courses, toolkits and more: The Office of Human Resources offers a variety of tools and resources to support supervisors and employees during this time. The Learning and Talent Development team has created a collection of free 60- to 90-minute courses that focus on topics such as navigating change, having tough conversations with colleagues and supervisors, managing and working with a hybrid team, practicing mind and body wellness, and more. Professional Development has created new resources and will be adding more as we get closer to fall.
  • What to expect this fall: This includes a new FAQ and links to policies and resources.
  • If you’re having trouble finding what you need, please email

I continue to be grateful to all of our staff and faculty for your extraordinary efforts over the past 18 months. I am looking forward to seeing you in the coming weeks.

Rebecca Blank