At the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, positive COVID-19 cases have held steady, typically at a low 0-10 positive tests per day, since the start of the semester. However, following Halloween weekend, the university has now seen six days of 20+ positive results, including a troubling 41 positive results on one single day as of Tuesday, Nov. 17.
Overall, there have been 497 positive tests since the start of the academic school year. As of Oct. 30, there were 28 active cases for the university, but as of Friday, Nov. 13 there were 138 known active cases from the previous 10 days.
“Known active cases from the previous 10 days” refers to the number of positive cases which are within a 10-day window since a positive viral test for COVID-19 was received, as advised by the CDC. This data comes from the university’s COVID-19 Dashboard, which can be found by going to the coronavirus update page, accessible through Pioneer Portal.
Resident Assistants (RAs) and Hall Governance groups in each residence hall have overseen the upholding of guidelines set by the university to limit people at gatherings and continue to maintain social distancing. Rountree Common Council (RTCC) has hosted many events in Rountree Commons where residents could participate in coloring contests, pick up pumpkins to paint and play bingo on Halloween night.
Rountree Commons Resident Director Adam Iserman said, “there was limited availability for in- person attendance , but RTCC was also able to have it via zoom. When utilizing the lobby for events, we limit the number of in person people to about 20. This allows for more than enough social distancing with our large lobby space in Rountree and follows the same guidelines for max occupancy in most classroom spaces that still hold in-person classes.”
He then added, “Our plan has really been focusing on providing those safe options and alternatives for residents. If residents are not following the guidelines and expectations by the university, it is entered into our conduct process, and dealt with on a case-by-case basis.”
“I feel that the university is moving in the right direction by having the opportunity for free testing,” said UW-Platteville civil engineering freshman Ryan Wech. “However, I feel that many students are refusing to get tested, even if they have symptoms, which ruins the entire point of having free testing. To minimize the number of cases on campus, the university should require weekly testing, so those affected do not spread the virus to others.”
This is not the first time someone has brought up the idea of mandatory testing. In fact, Chancellor Shields said testing would have to become mandatory if more students didn’t start getting tested voluntarily. Although he doesn’t want to make that call, he is prepared to if necessary.
On Nov. 6 Chancellor Shields said through a weekly video update that “It is critical that we get a handle on this virus. Almost six thousand people were infected in Wisconsin yesterday and it’s getting worse”.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said the state marked its newest single-day record of new COVID-19 cases at 7,777 on Friday, Nov. 13. On Monday, Nov. 16, there were 4,389 new confirmed cases.
On Nov. 6 Chancellor Shields then addressed students by saying, “I would remind our students that if you’re going to leave campus for break it’s important to get tested before you go and after as soon as you return. That’s critical for making sure we identify who may have been carrying the virus and who may not.”
The current spike in positive cases since the start of November has been worrying, and many students are concerned it may lead to the end of on-campus activities. In fact, as of Friday, Nov. 13, all athletic activities, including practices, have been suspended for the university until further notice.
Wech added, “Since there are so many students on campus, and relatively few daily tests, I am worried that there may be many more cases on campus than the tests are showing. With the rise in current cases, I’m worried that we all may have to stay home or not return to campus after Thanksgiving break.”
On Nov. 13 Chancellor Shields said through a weekly video update that “The University of Wisconsin System has come forward and said they would prefer for students to not go home for break if they plan to return. If they do go, every student needs to get tested before they leave and twice in the first three days upon their return.”
One key takeaway from the sudden spike in positive test results is that students need to be more attentive to their surroundings and the activities that they are participating in. The university has continued to stress the 3 W’s as part of the Pioneer Promise that all students were required to sign; wear your mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands.
Do these three things, and we can continue to move forward during these unprecedented times.