UW-Madison mandated testing for all residents of Witte and Sellery Halls on Monday, Nov. 9 amid rising positivity rates across campus.
According to the campus COVID-19 dashboard, over 300 students have tested positive for COVID-19 since Oct. 31. As of Monday Nov. 9, the 7-day positivity rate on-campus was 2.7 percent — more than triple the rate from a month ago — with 69 students in UW-Housing isolation and 49 in quarantine.
On Monday morning, residents in Witte and Sellery residence halls received emails instructing them to get tested due to a “few new cases” over the “last few weeks” in their dorms. Students living in residence halls are typically required to be tested once per week.
Nicole Potocki, a first-year student and Witte resident, has not personally heard of a rise in COVID-19 cases on her floor and has not noticed as many people going into quarantine or isolation, like she did earlier this fall.
From Sept. 9 to Sept. 23 both Sellery and Witte went under quarantine after COVID-19 positivity rates in those halls reached double digits. Potocki, herself, even tested positive around this time.
Meredith McGlone, the Director of News and Media Relations at UW-Madison, stressed how modifications in dorm residents’ testing schedules helps to identify potential clusters of cases, to prevent possible building-wide quarantines.
According to McGlone, a number of new cases have been detected in Witte and Sellery over the last few weeks and the university adjusted their testing plans to better identify potential cases, requiring all residents in the dorms to get tested on Monday, regardless of assigned test date. Last week, both Ogg and Witte had the same adjustment in testing schedule take place.
Potocki feels that UW’s plan to test all students when there is a rise in cases in specific halls is helpful, although occasionally burdensome for students.
Overall, though, Potocki said that the school's communication concerning rises in cases and dorm outbreaks has been relatively good. If anything, she said, having data about specific residence halls and the number of cases would be helpful, for her — as a student — to get a better picture of the situation at hand.
“Given the rising number of cases in Madison/Dane County, it’s unfortunately not surprising that we are seeing an increase in the number of cases on campus,” McGlone said.
With Thanksgiving fast approaching, the university has strongly encouraged that students who plan to travel home for the holiday finish the remainder of the semester in their communities and not return back to campus until the Spring 2021 semester.
Students that choose to stay in Madison for the remainder of the Fall semester are encouraged to not return to their home communities for the Thanksgiving holiday at all.
“The increase in cases on and off campus is concerning given that many students plan to travel soon for Thanksgiving break,” McGlone said. “Limit your activity outside your home as much as possible for the next two and a half weeks to protect both yourself and the loved ones you’ll be seeing when you travel.”
Although UW-Madison is planning for students to return during the Spring semester, some students, like Potocki, are worried about the future. It “would be really upsetting” if the residence halls were to require students to live in single rooms or even shut down entirely next semester, Potocki said.