The University of Wisconsin-Madison is directing all undergraduate students to restrict their movements for the next two weeks in an attempt to reverse a recent rise in Covid-19 cases.
In a memo to students, faculty and staff on Monday, Chancellor Rebecca Blank called on students to severely limit in-person interactions and stay in their residences except for essential activities.
The order went into effect Monday at 5 p.m. and last until that time on September 21.
“We’ve reached the point where we need to quickly flatten the curve of infection, or we will lose the opportunity to have campus open to students this semester, which we know many students truly want,” Blank wrote.
Cases have been rising for the past week
The move is a response to an increase in Covid-19 cases, which Blank said stemmed from instances in which people did not wear masks or practice physical distancing.
“We see this reflected in the data, but it’s also apparent in social media posts and in conversations with students who have tested positive,” Blank wrote.
“Unfortunately, too many students have chosen to host or participate in social gatherings that seem to demonstrate a high disregard for the seriousness of this virus and the risk to our entire community.”
The latest directive follows an order last week that required nine off-campus sororities and fraternities to quarantine for 14 days.
Data from the university’s on-campus testing showed a 22.5% positive rate on Monday, compared to a seven-day average of 5.7%. That’s despite the small number of test results returned over the holiday weekend. Out of the 93 student test results reported on Monday, 21 were positive.
The overall number of students who have tested positive for the virus on campus has increased each day since September 1, data shows.
The numbers had been expected to increase to an extent as more students returned to campus and as testing capacity ramped up, Blank said. But the recent rise in cases couldn’t solely be attributed to more testing, she added.
For the next two weeks, students will only be allowed to leave their residence for activities deemed essential, which include studying and going to classes, receiving medical care, purchasing food, reporting to work, exercising outdoors and attending a religious observance.
The university is canceling all in-person social events and recommending that student meetings be conducted virtually, while dining facilities will be carry-out only.
Colleges and universities across the nation have been contending with how to limit the spread of Covid-19 on campuses, as clusters linked to social gatherings have emerged.
The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame are among schools that have had to shift to virtual classes, at least for a time, after cases cropped up days into the semester. Schools including New York University and Northeastern University have suspended students for violating safety protocols.