UW-Madison will offer free COVID-19 tests to members of the local community, not just UW students and staff, starting on Thursday, Nov. 12, at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium.
The tests, given to all13 UW-System universities, were provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services to help combat a recent rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the state, with 5,984 cases on average confirmed over the last 7 days as of Wednesday, Nov. 11.
This new surge of tests includes rapid antigen testing from Abbott BinaxNOW, which provides accurate results as quickly as 15 minutes after collection.
Starting on Nov. 12, 50 community tests will be available each day, but health officials plan to expand efforts to 500 daily tests. To receive a test, members of the public do not have to report COVID-19 symptoms or contact with a positive individual, and tests are not limited to Dane County residents.
UW-Madison received 80,000 of the 250,000 tests allocated to the UW-System by the USDHHS, which will be available by appointment through at least Dec. 23.
"We have the opportunity to offer expanded testing to the general Madison community in our facilities," Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in a release. "Testing is only one part of the solution to slow the spread of this virus; we also need to follow all the health protocols of masking and social distancing. But expanded testing is an important way to identify those who are ill and limit spread."
Statewide outbreaks are not limited to areas outside of the UW-Madison campus, as numbers from the university’s COVID-19 dashboard show a 2.9 percent positive rate on campus over the past 7 days as of Wednesday Nov. 11. The data also reports that 51 students and faculty members tested positive on Wednesday, while 86 students are in on-campus isolation and 53 in UW Housing quarantine.
In an email sent to students on Nov. 11, Jake Baggott, the Executive Director of University Health Services and Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, urged students to take measures including mask-wearing, frequent hand-washing and avoiding gatherings amidst a sudden increase in positive cases on campus.
“As we prepare for the end of the semester, we’re seeing a very concerning increase in cases – not just across the state and in the city of Madison, but on campus,” Baggott said. “In two weeks, our 7-day average positivity rate has more than doubled. More than 100 students are in on-campus quarantine and isolation.”
Within the past week, students living in Witte, Sellery and Ogg residence halls were also mandated to get tested outside of their weekly testing requirements to identify clusters as campus cases are on a slow but steady rise.
Two weeks out from the Thanksgiving recess, students were cautioned to take extra action to limit interactions and gatherings as many prepare to travel home for the holiday.
“We need you to step up now, just as you’ve done before,” Baggott said to students in his email. “We know many of you plan to return home soon. You don’t want COVID to spoil those plans or infect your family members.”