University of Wisconsin–Madison

What to Expect This Fall

A red and white banner featuring the phrase "On, Wisconsin!" is pictured as a pedestrian walks down Bascom Hill during autumn
We are confident we will have a very high share of vaccinated students on campus this fall, and are taking multiple steps to encourage vaccination among those who arrive unvaccinated. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW–Madison)

Students and their families have many questions about the upcoming semester, especially about health and safety issues. Here is some information about how the university plans to operate during the fall semester.

We continue to see encouraging progress in the fight against COVID-19 both on campus and in the broader community. Cases in Dane County have dropped to their lowest level since May 2020, driven by exceptionally strong participation in vaccination. Of those eligible to be vaccinated in Dane County, more than 79% have received at least one dose.

At least 74% of UW–Madison employees have received at least one dose of vaccine. This is an under-estimate since we know that more were likely vaccinated by UW Health or another off-campus provider and have not yet shared their status.

We do not have a good estimate of student vaccinations, since many students are being vaccinated during the summer and have not yet reported those results. As of the end of the spring semester, our evidence suggested about 50% of students were vaccinated. We are confident we will have an extremely high rate of vaccinated students on campus this fall — we are aiming for at least 80% — and will encourage vaccination among those who arrive unvaccinated.

If you are vaccinated for COVID-19, please let us know — having the most accurate information about our community’s vaccination rate is important as we reunite on campus. It also helps create as safe and welcoming an environment as possible for everyone in our community. Vaccine information is used for statistical and planning purposes only and we will protect the privacy of your information. 

All of the medical evidence shows that vaccinated individuals are protected from COVID-19 infection. In those who do have breakthrough cases, for the vast majority the illness is mild. With a surrounding community that is highly vaccinated and a local campus community that is highly vaccinated, we should expect few infections. Those that do become infected have a minimal risk of transmission. While we continue to monitor the science closely, the growing medical evidence on the effectiveness of vaccination and the high share of vaccinated individuals in our community give us confidence that we can move ahead with plans to resume more typical campus operations.

Here is what we expect the fall will look like:

Vaccination: We will continue to offer no-cost vaccination for students and employees. Vaccination is strongly encouraged; however, it is not required. As campus returns to typical operations, vaccinated individuals, but unvaccinated individuals are not, so it is particularly important for those who have not gotten the vaccination to continue to wear face coverings.

We know many of our international students have been vaccinated while home this summer and they should also upload their vaccine informationInternational students living off campus can review a testing/vaccination guide for the fall 2021 semester here.Vaccinated individuals are protected, but unvaccinated individuals are not, so it is particularly important for those who have not gotten the vaccination to continue to wear a well-fitted mask.

We know many of our international students have been vaccinated while home this summer and they should also upload their vaccine informationInternational students living off campus can review a testing/vaccination guide for the fall 2021 semester here. 

After you arrive in the United States, you should self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. It is recommended you get tested three to five days after travel. You may be tested at no cost at a UHS testing location. 

We recognize that some people have medical conditions that prevent them from receiving full protection from vaccination. Students that have specific concerns related to health conditions should contact their Access Consultant in the McBurney Disability Resource Center. Student employees should contact their Divisional Disability Representative (DDR).

The university will not disclose an individual’s vaccination status to others. It is up to individuals to decide whether to share their vaccination status with faculty, colleagues, supervisors, and employees. Although many of us have a natural inclination to want to know that others around us are vaccinated, it is important to remember that the single best action we can take to protect ourselves and others is to get vaccinated. Once a person is vaccinated, they have the highest level of protection. Even if they are sitting immediately next to someone who tests positive, this is no longer considered a close contact and quarantine is not required. The vaccine offers such high protection that the risk of transmission is very low.

Masking: Consistent with local and national public health guidance, face masks are no longer required, but are still recommended for unvaccinated individuals.

Unvaccinated individuals should continue to protect themselves by wearing masks indoors and outdoors where physical distancing is not possible. Anyone, regardless of vaccination status, may choose to wear a mask. Choosing to wear a mask does not indicate vaccination status.

Spaces and access: Effective August 9, we will return to pre-pandemic guidelines for configuring campus spaces. Additional spacing to promote physical distancing will no longer be required; classrooms and other spaces will operate at full capacity. Also, effective August 9, the Badger Badge will no longer be available as a tool to control access to spaces.

Testing: Students in residence halls who are not vaccinated must test weekly for COVID-19 and will soon receive information from University Housing. Students who live off campus and employees will not be required to test regularly. We will continue to offer no-cost, drop-in testing to employees and students.

As we retire the Safer Badgers app (including the Badger Badge), campus will transition to a new app in early August: MyUHS. The app is available now for free download in the Google Play or Apple store. Designed for students to interact with UHS (University Health Services) regarding their health care, employees will also be able to use the app to schedule vaccination and COVID-19 testing appointments as well as access test results. It also has a web version (the MyUHS portal) that students and employees already use.

If your program involves learning or research activities that occur in health care settings, check with your program director or advisor about any requirements specific to that setting.

We recognize that these changes may raise questions and concerns and we are offering a number of resources for students and employees to help navigate this transition:

Information for international students: We recognize that students traveling to Madison from outside the U.S. face several challenges this year. For the latest information and resources, please visit International Student Services 

In our first event, campus health experts discussed how to prepare for these changes and reunite safely. The next sessions will take place July 22 and August 12.

What to expect webpage: This includes a new FAQ and links to policies and resources.

If you are having trouble finding what you need, please email covidresponse@vc.wisc.edu