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COVID-19 employee message: Important updates before start of semester

January 18, 2022

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This message covers:

  • Our approach to spring semester
  • Testing
  • Masking
  • Vaccination
  • Key resources

Dear faculty and staff,

A week from today, we’ll welcome undergraduate students to campus following winter break. This is now the fifth semester our campus has operated alongside COVID-19 and, as the virus has evolved, our approach to campus operations has evolved as well.

As we begin spring semester 2022, we are fortunate that the use of vaccines and boosters greatly reduces the risk of severe illness for many members of our community and we are grateful for the incredible participation of employees and students in getting vaccinated and boosted. At the same time, the omicron variant has resulted in many more, but less severe, infections across the country. We recognize the elevated risk COVID-19 continues to pose to certain populations, including people with compromised immune systems and older adults. The fact that young children are not yet able to be vaccinated also increases the risk of spread within their households.

COVID-19 will continue to be present, in ever-evolving forms, for the foreseeable future. Throughout the pandemic we have acted thoughtfully in working with state and local partners to support the health of our broader community. Because of the presence of highly effective vaccines, public health agencies in our county, state and nation are pivoting to providing individuals the tools they need to resume most daily activities. We will embrace that same approach – continuing proven strategies from our fall semester operations and providing new support and resources to employees and students to manage their personal risk.

We recognize the questions, concerns and challenges that come with in-person instruction and continuing normal operations on a campus of our size, given the rise in COVID-19 caseloads. This message, and the campus COVID-19 response website and FAQs, contain more detailed information about how we’re using testing, masking and vaccination, which are proven to reduce transmission and severe illness.

UW–Madison experts will answer questions about the spring semester and how the university plans to navigate the continuing COVID-19 situation in a town hall event this Friday, Jan. 21. Watch it live from noon to 1 p.m., or view a recording later. Questions can be submitted in advance. The presentation will be captioned and interpreted.


Campus is building upon its testing infrastructure from the fall by providing antigen test kits to employees to pick up on campus at no cost and use at home as needed. Distribution of these single-test kits to employees is planned to begin Jan. 25, based on adequate supplies. (Student antigen test pickup begins this week, because they are being asked to take a test before coming to campus for start of classes.)

Antigen testing allows for rapid results – usually within 30 minutes or less – and is a complementary tool to PCR testing, which continues to be offered. People who test positive with an antigen test can more quickly isolate or seek confirmatory PCR testing, if appropriate.

To help you determine what kind of test is right for you and what to do based on your results, we’ve updated the campus testing website with more information about both types of testing, how to obtain take-home antigen test kits, and what to do once you get your results.

As the semester continues, you may return to pick up another kit as needed. In addition to campus-provided antigen testing, which we have secured for the use of students and employees, we encourage you to use the growing number of off-campus antigen testing resources, including four free kits offered by and up to eight free kits per person per month covered by health insurance. If you want to store multiple test kits at home, please acquire these separately in order to make responsible use of campus supplies.


  • As a reminder, Chancellor Blank has extended the requirement that masks be worn indoors in UW–Madison buildings through March 1.
  • Masks continue to provide important protection, including against the omicron variant. Given the high transmissibility of the omicron variant, a well-fitting mask is more important than ever. In keeping with the most current CDC guidance, we encourage you to regularly check the fit of your masks and wear the most protective mask you can that fits you well. University policy does not require a specific type of mask, because fit and other factors that are important in mask selection vary from person to person.
  • To enhance access to well-fitting masks, the university has purchased a large quantity of high-efficiency and surgical grade masks to provide at no cost to employees and students. Check with your department/center about mask distribution.


Studies have shown that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. But after getting vaccinated against COVID-19, protection against the virus and the ability to prevent infection from new variants may decrease over time. Emerging data demonstrates that booster doses are effective in protecting against serious illness.

Everyone who is eligible for a booster dose is recommended to get one as soon as possible for the best protection against COVID-19.

  • UHS has expanded appointment capacity at the no-cost campus vaccination clinic from Jan. 24 through Feb. 4. Schedule your appointment today in MyUHS.
  • If you already received a booster shot off-campus, let UHS know by sharing your records through the MyUHS website or app.

Key resources

  • What to do if you test positive or are a close contact of someone who’s tested positive