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State leaders: Young people have responsibility to stop COVID spread

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Hundreds of students are still in isolation or quarantine on the UW-Madison campus, as classes moved online this week following a surge in cases of COVID-19.

State health officials said Tuesday it's clear the biggest spread of the virus in Wisconsin is happening in our education communities, so young people need to work to control it.

The state Department of Health Services is reporting what health officials are calling a dramatic increase in cases in 18 to 24-year-olds in the past week, while COVID cases in all other age brackets have gone down.

Health officials say hot spots like dorms and other spaces shared by young people on or off campus is leading to the increase, as colleges start the fall semester.

Not many serious cases reported at UW

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases with DHS, says the good news is, of the roughly 1,500 cases at UW, fewer than one percent have had to go to the hospital. No one has died.

"I think it's been encouraging and it's a silver lining around this really dramatic increase in cases, is that it has occurred among the relatively healthy population and so far we've had very few hospitalizations, which is fortunate," Westergaard said at a news conference Tuesday.

Gov. Tony Evers said he supports the university's approach to get a handle on cases, though he said communication could have been better.

He said he's happy to see the university increasing testing and contact tracing right now, because it's necessary to move forward.

"We always said it was going to be bumpy in the K-12 world and the university. And it has been. But at the end of the day, we just have to make sure that students, especially in the university system, really take on the issue of individual responsibility. That's the bottom line."

So the message continues: making sure young people don't put older populations at risk, who may be susceptible to getting sicker.

Dealing with COVID & sports on campus

Meanwhile, we're waiting on a news from the Big 10 about the possibility of starting football season this fall.

The governor said he's confident UW Athletics is taking the health and well-being of athletes and students into consideration, but he said a significant level of testing and contact tracing is necessary to allow something like football to happen.

"Those are the things that have to be in place, and if they do allow it to happen, then we have to ensure that they have the resources necessary and the testing and other things in place to make it safe," Evers said.

The Big 10 chancellors talked Sunday about the status of football season and could make an announcement Tuesday night.

Jennifer Kliese

Weekend Anchor and Reporter, 27 News

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