UW COVID-19 cases trigger pause to fall semester return plan

Wyoming News September 3, 2020

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UW COVID-19 cases trigger pause to fall semester return plan

LARAMIE, Wyo. — Coronavirus infections from off-campus gatherings at the University of Wyoming have led the school to quarantine nearly 50 students, and initiate a five-day pause in its phased return plan, so officials can more fully assess the prevalence of COVID-19 infection among the UW community.

The pause was triggered by positive COVID-19 test results of five students who were exhibiting symptoms of the infection Wednesday. Three positive tests were reported Tuesday while four were reported on Monday. The Casper Star-Tribune reports the contingency plan states that if five or more students and employees test positive for the virus in a day, the university will pause its phased return to in-person instruction. The rapid tests were conducted at UW’s Student Health Service.

By the end of that period Sept. 9, UW President Ed Seidel will determine next steps, such as returning to the phased fall return plan or shifting to a fully virtual environment.

“This pause is necessary for us to gather information and gain a more complete picture of what’s happening with the virus at UW. We have planned and prepared for this possibility and are ready to evaluate and work toward resuming in-person operations,” Seidel says. “Our sincere hope is that it will be possible to resume our fall return plan after this pause, based upon the rigorous testing, tracing and quarantine protocols we have put in place to protect the health and safety of our students, employees and broader community.”

Under the pause plan, which may be found here, the university is taking steps that include:

— Instructing students in UW campus housing and others in Laramie to shelter in place.

— Delivering all courses online; no in-person classes will be conducted during the five-day period.

— Directing all employees, with the exception of those designated by supervisors as critical pause personnel, to work remotely.

— Suspending all face-to-face activities, unless approval is given through an exception process.

UW students are being instructed to have contact with only members of their “pods” during a pause. For a student in UW’s residence halls, a pod consists of all students on that student’s floor. For students living off campus or in UW apartments, a pod consists of those living together in the same dwelling.

UW Residence Life and Dining Services is making arrangements for food service and activities for residence hall students during the pause.

“From both public health and academic standpoints, we’re asking our students in the residence halls to hang in there during this pause,” Vice President for Student Affairs Kim Chestnut says. “This shelter-in-place approach is only temporary, and we should know within five business days whether we’re resuming our phased return plan — which is our hope — or going fully online as we did in the spring.”

Students in the residence halls who have jobs or other off-campus responsibilities are being allowed to leave for those duties.

UW first-time students who are moving into residence halls this weekend are being allowed to move in as scheduled, but they’re being instructed to follow the pod requirements when they arrive. In-person instruction of those students’ first-year seminars — which was scheduled to begin Monday, Sept. 7, as the start of Phase 2 of UW’s fall return plan — will now be delayed, and online instruction will continue during the pause.

No on-campus visits or hosting are allowed by students, employees or researchers during the pause. Most campus facilities are closed, with these exceptions: the Early Care and Education Center; the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory; the Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic in the Health Sciences Building; and the Psychology Clinic in the Biological Sciences Building.

Additionally, UW’s Student Health Service (307-766-2130) continues to operate, including testing of students. And the Wyoming Union remains open for the university’s random-sample testing program, as UW is continuing its surveillance testing of students and employees on campus during the pause. All members of the community are still expected to complete the COVID Pass daily.

UW laboratories and other research facilities continue to conduct research activities while reducing lab and facility personnel to limit the spread of COVID-19, as was done in the spring at the start of the pandemic.

Athletic facilities remain open for necessary activities, including the athletic training table, sports medicine and sports performance. Practices and workouts continue in a modified fashion.

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Photo: Allan Henderson | via Flickr.com (CC-BY-2.0)

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