Campus News

UW-Madison residence halls may house patients as Madison hospitals prepare for overflow

Image By: Jane Thompson

Director of University Housing Jeff Novak confirmed the possibility of using UW-Madison’s residence hall rooms to house overflow from local hospitals facing bed shortages Wednesday.

The university ordered students living in the dorms to move out last Wednesday following the announcement classes would be moved online. University Residence Halls will be partially closed, only open to a limited number of pre-approved residents who are unable to return to their permanent residences.

"No one is being forced to moved out," Novak said.

He added that Pubic Health Madison and Dane County has already reached out to University Housing to determine if the empty facilities could be potentially used if local hospitals run out of space. 

“We want to be able to help if that occurs,” Novak stated. “You all helping through this process, and getting out of our residence halls, could make the difference.”

An analysis by the Harvard Global Health Institute determined Madison hospitals will be operating at a near 100 percent capacity if just 20 percent of the city’s adults were to be hospitalized for COVID-19 over the next 18 months. 

Other universities, like NYU, have also made preparations to offer unused dorm space to hospitals if this situation occurs in their respective communities. 

While students have expressed concern regarding belongings left behind in their residences, University Housing has asked that they make arrangements in the next few weeks to come back and retrieve the remainder of their belongings. 

The 1,100 students that remain in the dorms may be consolidated to best separate them from incoming patients. Students with questions regarding moving in and moving out of campus residence halls can find more information on University Housing’s website or by directing questions to info@housing.wisc.edu.

“If we have the opportunity to consolidate those that remain, it limits then the number of staff we need to have here on campus, the number of dining halls we need to remain open and provides other space in case of emergency for greater needs,” Novak said. “Not only for our campus community but for the greater Madison and Wisconsin community.”


[Editor’s Note: 3/23/2020, 1:00 p.m.] New information from Director of University Housing, Jeff Novak, has since been added to the story regarding the partial closure of residence halls. Pre-approved residents who are unable to return to their permanent residences can remain in the dorms.

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