As UW-Madison welcomes students back to campus, student COVID-19 cases begin to rise despite the school’s “Smart Restart” approach.
UW has implemented the “Smart Restart” plan to keep campus healthy and safe. Precautions include the residence and dinings halls rearranging their layout and density of people allowed in each space while Greek Life has been strongly suggested to ban parties and large gatherings.
The approach also centers around on-campus testing centers that will be available to the entire campus community in hopes that these unlimited and free of charge COVID tests will contain the spread and track the prevalence of the virus on campus. The school will also rely on “surveillance testing” to track the virus on campus including asymptomatic cases.
“The university is committed to reducing the risk of COVID-19 for its students, faculty and staff,” the Smart Restart plan reads. “UW–Madison’s strategy will rely on a rigorous approach to testing, cleaning, face-covering and symptom monitoring, all aimed at keeping the risk of disease as low as possible. Testing is key to identifying infection and keeping it from spreading.”
However, while on-campus testing is expected to be fully operational by the time classes begin on September 2, positive cases are already rising as students return to campus for the school year. 119 students have tested positive to date with a majority of those cases occurring after August 25th.
Caden McMann, a UW junior and member of the Greek Life community, tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 24th at University Health Services.
“When the symptoms started, I had a fever, body and joint aches and a lot of fatigue,” McMann said. “I think I likely contracted it from a friend who I saw at their apartment, who also would go on to test positive.”
McMann reflected on his thoughts pertaining to UW’s “Smart Restart” efforts.
“I don’t think there’s much the university can do to stop off-campus gatherings from happening,” McMann said. “While many students, myself included, will follow the 10 person limit rule on indoor gatherings, I can’t help but feel like there are less careful students on campus who will gather in groups of 10 plus in apartments and houses with no consequences.”
Zoe Klein, another junior and member of Greek Life, also tested positive for COVID-19 on August 24th.
“I have a few friends I was in contact with who tested positive for the virus. While we weren’t more than 10 people inside, we still were inside and wearing no masks which definitely contributed to that,” Klein said. “It’s hard because I wasn’t seeing many other people than this group of people so we felt comfortable being inside together, but I guess unless you all are only seeing each other it doesn’t really matter.”
Inside of the residence halls, students are experiencing the effects of COVID-19 as well.
Lauren, a freshman who prefers to remain anonymous, moved into Witte on August 25th. On August 31st, UHS contacted her, saying that she had been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
UHS sent Lauren to quarantine in the Lowell Center in an isolated room, where meals will be brought up to her and left at her door. She will be in quarantine for 11 days, despite her having in-person class and discussion groups.
Lauren said her experience with UHS and the “Smart Restart” has been frustrating so far.
“They could’ve handled it a lot better,” Lauren said. “They waited four days to contact me about my next steps but claimed they were taking this all very seriously. If they truly were taking it seriously, the university would have contacted me right away once he officially tested positive and they got names [of the people he came in contact with], which was the same day he got his results.”
While some students find fault with the Smart Restart plan, the school urges students to still comply with the plan’s ever-evolving rules and guidance.
“Plans are continuing to evolve as decisions are finalized and new information becomes available,” the Smart Restart plan states. “As more details are available, this will be communicated on a regular basis.”
At the time of publishing, the University could not be reached for comment.