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UW-Madison mandates testing for 2 dorms on Monday as campus COVID-19 cases rise
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UW-Madison mandates testing for 2 dorms on Monday as campus COVID-19 cases rise

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Witte Residence Hall

UW-Madison students living in Witte Residence Hall lined up to receive bagged lunches outside the dorm on Sept. 10, the first full day of quarantine. Residents are required to get tested Monday.

UW-Madison required residents of two large dorms to get tested Monday as the number of COVID-19 cases on campus rises to a level unseen since September.

Nearly 300 students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 during the past week, according to the university’s data dashboard. The seven-day percent positive rate for students tested on campus, which hovered in the 1% range for most of October, has crept up to 2.7%.

The mandatory testing comes about 10 days after Halloween weekend, a period in which at least some students violated public health orders and threw large gatherings in off-campus residences.

Madison police found one apartment party with 91 people, according to a complaint filed by the City Attorney’s Office. At another, the tenants told police they were aware of the order limiting indoor gatherings to 10 people, but said they thought the gathering was allowed because of the roughly 23 people in attendance, all but 10 had previously tested positive for COVID-19.

UW-Madison requires all dorm residents to get tested weekly, but an email to residents of Witte and Sellery informed them of an “adjusted testing plan” requiring them to get tested on Monday in order to identify any other positive cases immediately. The email noted “a few new cases” in those dorms over the past few weeks.

The two dorms were quarantined in September when test results showed a positivity rate among students at nearly 10% in Witte and 17% in Sellery.

Mandatory testing also took place last week in Ogg and Witte, UW-Madison spokesperson Meredith McGlone said on Monday. Test results did not indicate a need for further action beyond isolating students who tested positive and quarantining their close contacts.

“We have this modified testing process to use when needed, so that when we see a rise in cases in a residence hall we can quickly identify any clusters and take focused action, hopefully avoiding building-wide quarantines,” she said. “We’ve been expressing concern for several weeks now, along with local and state leaders, about the continuing spike in COVID-19 cases in Dane County and throughout Wisconsin. It is unfortunately not surprising that we are also seeing an increase in positivity rates on campus, although our rates continue to be below the surrounding community.”

As Thanksgiving approaches, UW-Madison is urging students planning to travel home to limit out-of-home activity as much as possible and follow public health guidelines. Increased on-campus testing will be available before the holiday break begins.

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