The University of Wisconsin-Madison will be closing several of its testing sites this spring, including Union South, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and the Holt Center. With only the University Club still offering COVID-19 testing, UW will be pivoting to offer at-home rapid tests.
Chancellor Blank announced UW-Madison’s COVID-19 containment policy for the spring 2022 semester and winter break in an email to the student body sent Wednesday, highlighting the campus’ high vaccination rates and low COVID cases.
“Our progress this fall gives us strong momentum for the spring semester, even as we continue to monitor the omicron variant of COVID-19,” the update read. “Providing convenient, no-cost access to vaccination on campus will continue to be an important part of the university’s response.”
The rapid antigen tests will be able to be performed at home through the use of a nasal swab and will provide accurate results in as soon as 15 minutes, according to the chancellor. The at-home tests will not act as a substitute for unvaccinated students to use instead of PCR testing, and unvaccinated students and staff will still be expected to submit to PCR testing on a weekly basis to have access to campus.
Currently, over 95% of the students attending UW-Madison have been vaccinated for COVID-19.
The announcement also reminded students that the on-campus mask mandate will continue until Jan. 15 — at which time the necessity of the policy will be re-evaluated — and unvaccinated students will continue to be expected to test weekly for signs of the virus.
In the email, Blank explained that the choice to continue the mask mandate into winter break is designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 to other communities as students travel to return home for the break.
“The extension will help reduce health concerns during a time when many members of the campus community are traveling and when COVID-19 cases are rising again in our state and region,” she said.
Testing facilities managed by the UW are scheduled to close beginning at 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 23 before resuming services on Jan. 3. Beginning on the third, all testing services will be conducted at the University Club located by 803 State St. and will require an appointment.
“Thanks to the high campus vaccination rate, we are able to serve everyone who is required to or wishes to test at one location,” Blank said regarding the consolidation. She noted that testing will be available by appointment Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed noon to 1 p.m. for lunch and on Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Information regarding off-campus testing facilities can be found on the Public Health Madison & Dane County website.
Blank also announced the university will place a pause on enforcing employee compliance with the vaccine mandate pending an injunction issued by a federal court.