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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

City Council to weigh resolution urging UW to shift back online

While UW-Madison has seen a recent decrease in active cases of COVID-19 on campus, District 8 Ald. and UW sophomore Max Prestigiacomo is urging the Madison City Council to call for another suspension of in-person classes at the university.

Prestigiacomo voiced his concern that campus operations may harm the Madison community at large with a resolution initiated during an Oct. 6 City Council meeting. 

“I hope this resolution adds to the enormous momentum in this community,” says Prestigiacomo. “Rarely are resolutions passed related to University operations.”

The resolution, titled “Calling on UW-Madison Administrators to make changes to the ‘Smart Restart’ Plan,” will be officially presented to the City Council on Oct. 20. In part, Prestigiacomo’s resolution serves to reiterate and expand on the message of a similar resolution by the Dane County Board in early October. 

The latter resolution aimed to institute remote course instruction at UW-Madison until the campus was responsible for zero cases over the course of a two week period. Courses specifically implemented for international students preserving visa status are exceptions to the general rule.

Prestigiacomo’s resolution calls for similar restrictions and exceptions for international students but asks that the University prevent in-person learning until no new cases of COVID-19 are reported by Public Health Madison & Dane County for 14 consecutive days. 

While virus hospitalizations in Dane County continue to rise, the UW-Madison campus has seen a significant decline in positive cases among students, faculty and staff since the initial resolution was suggested. 

Approximately one month ago, the UW-Madison community saw a one-week combined average of 161 known positive cases on campus. As of Oct. 12, that average has decreased to 17 known cases. 

Tommy Thompson — President of the UW System — indicates his belief that frequent testing plays an essential role in the minimization of COVID on campus.

“We’re now testing five times more than the state of Wisconsin and our results are showing direct correlation, you know last week I was talking about 3%,” said Thompson in support of testing practices. “We’re down below 2% positive right now.” 

These statistics are not inclusive of the entire campus population. Students living outside of university housing are not required to receive COVID-19 tests on a regularly scheduled basis, but only about 8,000 undergraduate students and 2,000 graduate students live in University Housing.

“The big party days on the university campus while this virus is still going on have sort of been put on the back burner,” Thompson emphasized. “Hopefully it stays there, and if it does we’re going to continue to be successful.”

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The decrease in positive cases, increase in testing and supposed minimization of “the big party days” fail to serve as evidence that the UW-Madison campus should remain open, according to Prestigiacomo.

Prestagiacomo’s resolution lists the following as actions to comply with to make campus a safer and more hospitable environment amid the pandemic: more contact tracing and testing administered by University Health Services, better safeguards surrounding students who leave campus, the implementation of surveys and listening sessions for the campus populace and a re-evaluation of the decision to start playing Big Ten Football again. 

The resolution also asks that the university expands its anti-racist efforts by raising and recognizing individuals who identify with the BIPOC community. Racial inequality has served as a significant motive against the Smart Restart plan.  

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