UW leader pledges return to in-person learning this spring on college campuses

Published: Dec. 22, 2020 at 3:57 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - College students who want to be back on campus next semester at UW campuses across the state will be welcomed back with open arms, but safely and with more testing in the works.

“I think in the second semester, we are far more rigorously prepared from a testing perspective, from a tracing perspective and from a communications perspective,” said UW System Board of Regents President Andrew Petersen. “I couldn’t be happier with the performance that we’ve had throughout the course of the first semester, you know, we certainly had some adversity.”

Petersen the adversity they had to deal with early on, when students first arrived at U.W. campuses throughout the state in the fall, was remedied with a quick response and rapid testing.

“We did see a spike on several campuses: two on the UW Madison campus, one in La Crosse and one in River Falls, but we combated those quarantine events very quickly,” said Petersen. “As I sit here in December and look at we’ve done, we’ve administered over 500,000 tests in the state of Wisconsin to our students, to our faculty, to our staff and to community residents including in Green Bay.”

In fact, Petersen praised U.W.-Green Bay’s testing protocol.

“I’ve got to give a shout out to U.W.-Green Bay, it was our lowest campus from COVID-19 positive testing, and that’s just a testament to the adaptability of Chancellor Alexander, his faculty and staff, and people just being resilient,” said Petersen.

“We were not following for competition, but that’s good to know and I’m very proud of students, faculty and staff on campus to do that,” said UW-Green Bay Chancellor Michael Alexander. “None of this would be possible if it weren’t for the responsibility of our students, hard work of faculty and staff and the ability for us to coordinate with Prevea.”

With rigorous testing a priority and a semester under their belts, Petersen is confident there will be more in-person classes next semester and more people on campus.

“When students come back, they’ll be tested on reentry to make sure that they’re COVID negative, then folks in residence halls will be tested once weekly. Those that live off campus will be tested once every other week, and any, any member of the community that’s interested in getting tested can sign up online and attend one of our community testing destinations,” said Petersen.

The U.W. System uses rapid testing, where people get results in about 15 minutes.

“It’s our focus to get any student that wants to come back, to come back and that they should feel safe and welcome. That’s our intent and that’s our purpose,” said Petersen.

Petersen said the U.W. System is also looking to become a vaccination distribution hub in the future.

“We’ve got the physical assets in 13 regions of the state. We’ve got a proven track record of delivering on testing…so we’re very optimistic that as a durable vaccine comes onto the scene, in hopefully the first quarter of 2021, the UW system can play somewhat of a non-conventional role but a real community partner role to deliver vaccines,” said Petersen.

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