Campus COVID-19 update: Testing for all students before spring semester

Dear parents and families,

I hope your new year is off to a good start and that your students have been able to find moments of rest and enjoyment over winter break. We are looking forward to having them back on campus (maybe you are too!), and we want to make sure they have the information they need to prepare for their return. While we eagerly anticipate the start of a new semester, we know it also brings questions about health and safety during the pandemic.

As campus shared last week, we will resume in-person instruction as scheduled on January 25. We believe that the key precautions we are taking will give our campus community strong protection against COVID-19 while maintaining the benefits of in-person learning.

We also know this isn’t easy. There aren’t simple decisions or perfect answers. I want to assure you that as a leadership team, we are monitoring the public health situation, consulting with medical experts, and listening to our students.

Your students deserve the best possible college experience, and we know that includes in-person connections in and out of the classroom. We are doing all we can to ensure that those connections can happen. To that end, this message with updated COVID-19 information was sent to every student on January 13. We appreciate you emphasizing these points with your student:

  • Please encourage your student to receive their booster vaccine as soon as they are able. Vaccinations, including boosters, continue to provide the strongest possible protection against infection and serious illness.
  • University Health Services (UHS) will be expanding capacity for vaccine appointments at the no-cost campus vaccination clinic starting January 24. If your student received a booster shot off-campus, they can let UHS know by sharing their records through the MyUHS website or app.
  • Although the omicron variant of COVID-19 is so far causing less severe illness, especially for people who are vaccinated and boosted, it is highly contagious. For this reason, if your student is having symptoms or recently tested positive and is still in isolation, they should postpone returning to campus until they recover.
  • Due to the high number of COVID-19 cases nationwide, UW–Madison is asking all students (undergraduate, graduate/professional, and special) who have not had a positive PCR test in the last 90 days to get tested before coming to campus. We know our students understand the importance of testing and will do their part to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

For students who have NOT had a positive PCR test in the last 90 days:

  • We are recommending at-home antigen testing, which provides more rapid results and can be more readily available than PCR testing. This type of test is useful for quickly diagnosing current infections and containing the spread of disease. People who test positive with an at-home antigen test can more quickly isolate and, if recommended, seek a second confirmatory test.
  • The university emailed instructions to your student for testing before the start of the semester and once students arrive. Guidance is based on your student’s current location and whether they live in residence halls or off campus.
  • In short, we are asking students to complete two tests, one before they arrive to Dane County and one after they are here. Once they are here, both PCR and at-home antigen testing are available through the university, as noted in the student message.

While we have learned a lot during the past two years with COVID-19, each time there is a new variant there is still an element of uncharted territory for both UW–Madison and families. UW–Madison will continue to make decisions that we feel are in the best interest of our community. Throughout the pandemic, Badgers have shown strong commitment to protecting their own health and the health of friends, family, instructors and the broader community. We know that they’ll continue to do so, and that your support will be critical as we move forward together.

On, Wisconsin,

Lori Reesor, PhD
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs