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UW System to test more than 350,000 students for COVID-19

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MADISON (WKOW) — The University of Wisconsin System be testing hundreds of thousands of students during the fall 2020 semester, thanks to $32 million from the office of Gov. Tony Evers.

The funding comes from the federal CARES Act and includes nearly $18 million for testing more than 350,000 students and $6 million for personal protective equipment associated with testing.

“Funding from the governor’s office and the federal government will help us provide the kind of testing we need at our universities when students return this fall,” said UW System President Tommy Thompson. “Students and families can be confident in this testing program.”

The UW System Board of Regents had recently announced that students, faculty, and staff will be required to wear facemasks in classrooms, residence halls, and other buildings.

The funding announced Thursday will allow for a tiered approach for testing.

Students who show COVID-19 symptoms, will have access to a high accuracy PCR test, similar to how testing is being done already across the state. Approximately 28,000 tests will be distributed to universities and about 6,000 will be held in reserve by the UW System for future allocation.

The UW system will use 317 thousand antigen tests for all students living in dorms, and they'll be tested every two weeks. That test will have a 15 minute turn around time

However staff will not be tested.

"They live in the community and they have their own doctors, so we expect them to go there to get tested," Thomspon said.

These test are for all UW schools aside from UW Madison

UW-Madison has already announced a testing plan, with $8 million allocated by the governor’s office.

Their testing began Thursday on campus and officials say they can do more than 6 thousand tests a day.

Under the plan, testing would be conducted by university student health services offices and local health partners. Those local partners continue to be identified.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said this week that universities can welcome students back on campus so long as sufficient safety protocols and testing are in place.

“We have been following the guidance offered by my friend Dr. Fauci and other experts and believe we are on track for on-campus instruction,” Thompson said. “Our mask-wearing requirement will help prevent the spread of the virus while our testing program will help identify cases and help contain them.”

Thompson said universities are also working closely with their local public health departments to monitor trends in their communities and to discuss contact tracing. He said the UW System continues to develop a case dashboard for public reporting of cases within the System.

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WKOW

Francisco Almenara

Reporter, WKOW

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