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COVID-19 weekly update #3 for faculty and staff

January 20, 2021

Read this message in

Start-of-semester checklist

This message covers

  • Checklist for first day of the semester (Monday, Jan. 25)
  • How to get help

Each week, UW–Madison is updating the campus community on expanded COVID-19 testing requirements for the spring semester.

Our strategy for this spring represents a big shift — we’re introducing a new app and a saliva-based testing method, and we’re requiring more people to be tested more frequently. The goal is to identify cases quickly to prevent the virus from spreading.

We recognize this shift brings with it challenges and, at times, frustrations. Every day, we are learning and improving the process. We greatly appreciate everyone’s patience and cooperation as we work to protect the health and safety of our campus community.

Please take a few moments to make sure you’re ready for the start of classes. If your answer to a question is yes, you can skip to the next question.

Have you downloaded the Safer Badgers app?

The app is your ticket to building access and much more.

  • You can download the iOS and Android versions of the app at A web version of the app is coming but will not be available by the start of the semester. You will be notified when this option is available.
  • If you need a device to use Safer Badgers, a campus loan program provides limited-use devices with the app at no cost. Learn more.
  • For help getting started in the app, watch this short video. You may also contact the COVID-19 Assistance Line at (608) 262-7777 (interpretation assistance is available; please identify your language when you call).
  • Accessibility informationis available here.

Have you scheduled or completed an on-campus saliva test?

If you are coming to campus for any reason on or after Jan. 25, you will need to have a negative test recorded through a campus testing site within the previous eight days.

  • All 12 new campus testing sites are now open. Check here for locations, hours, accessibility information and parking availability. These sites offer saliva-based testing and results within 24 hours.
  • Appointments are being offered seven days a week and can be scheduled up to seven days in advance. Evening and early morning hours are available.
  • University Health Services anticipates that they will administer up to 70,000 saliva-based tests weekly in the campus COVID-19 testing program. Significant staffing will be required to support the testing program throughout the spring semester. To help make this program a success, UW–Madison employees are being invited to dedicate some of their paid working hours as voluntary COVID-19 Health Technicians. Learn more.

Do you know how to “pool your drool?”

Turns out there’s a bit of a trick to this.

  • Learn how to submit a usable saliva sample by reading these tips. (Hint: pool your drool under your tongue.)
  • Remember: In the hour before your test, do not drink (including water), eat anything, brush or floss your teeth, use mouthwash, chew gum or smoke. You may want to rinse your mouth or gargle with water to remove any discoloration (such as from coffee) or small pieces of food. If you do this, make sure it is at least one hour before your test.

Are you familiar with the building access process?

One screen of the Safer Badgers app, called the Badger Badge, will serve as a virtual access pass for entry into campus workplaces and buildings where in-person classes and other in-person activities are being held.

  • The Badger Badge screen will not show any private health information. It will simply state whether building access is granted.
  • You’ll need to show your Badger Badge upon request; trained employees will help monitor access to campus facilities and services.
  • These trained employees will be present at building entrances beginning Monday, Jan. 25, and will ask to see your Badger Badge. However, during the first week of classes, you will not be required to have a green badge to enter. That requirement will begin Feb. 1 (Update: Enforcement now starts Feb. 8). The soft launch is intended to help people get used to having their devices with them and showing the badge. We are still asking people to be tested and be in compliance starting Monday. As always, you should follow all health and safety requirements, such as wearing a face covering and maintaining physical distance from others. Those who’ve tested positive in the last 10 days or have COVID-19 symptoms should not come to campus.

How to get help

Answers to dozens of commonly asked questions can be found on our FAQ website. You can filter the questions by audience and/or topic or use the search function.

  • An online forum for employees and graduate students to learn more about the requirements, the new Safer Badgers app, issues such as facilities access, and other employment-related concerns is scheduled for noon on Thursday, Jan. 21. You can join the forum here. You are invited to submit questions via email to Please include “Safer Badgers employee forum” in the subject line.
  • If you have a question not addressed by the FAQs, you can email or call the UW–Madison COVID-19 Assistance Line at (608) 262-7777. The line is currently staffed Mondays through Fridays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Please continue to check the COVID-19 Response website for updates. Thank you and have a great start to the 2021 spring semester!