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UW-Madison asks students not to return to campus if they travel for Thanksgiving

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bascom hall
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Bascom Hall on the UW-Madison campus

MADISON (WKOW) -- UW-Madison is asking students not to return to campus until the spring semester if they travel for Thanksgiving.

The university is also asking students who need to stay in Madison until the end of the fall term to not travel for Thanksgiving recess.

In a message sent to all UW-Madison students Wednesday, the Executive Director of University Health Services, Jake Baggott, says the campus community's positivity rate has stayed below the county and state level for weeks, after experiencing a spike when students started the fall semester.

However, in the last two weeks, the 7-day average positivity rate on campus has more than doubled. Baggott says more than 100 students are in on-campus quarantine and isolation.

UW Spokesperson Meredith McGlone says the request to stay away after Thanksgiving travel updates last month's recommendation for travelling students to remain at permanent homes. "As we've gotten to the Thanksgiving break period, we've been reaching out with more and more specific information as to what to do, if in they are in one of several scenarios," McGlone says.

Freshman Liah Francart of River Forest, Illinois was unaware Thursday of the school's directive. She says her current, Thanksgiving weekend plans involve returning to her neighboring state, and then returning to her UW-Madison dorm.

"I feel like I'll be able to focus better here in my dorm and be able to use lots of study rooms, study with friends in classes," Francart says.

Student Aaron Speed of Los Angeles says he plans to stay away after his Thanksgiving travel, but not as far away as California. Speed intends to spend the remainder of the semester with his grandparents in Chicago. "I might need to adjust but it probably won't be too difficult," Speed says. "It's mostly online anyway the rest of the semester, it was planned."

Students such as Speed and Francart are on residential housing contracts that involve payment for rooms through December 18. But McGlone says those contracts will not be pro-rated for any travelling student who heeds the school's request and stays away for the semester's remaining three weeks after Thanksgiving break.

UW System President Tommy Thompson sent guidance to chancellors Wednesday regarding Thanksgiving protocols, directing them to require any student who leaves campus for the Thanksgiving holiday with the intent of returning, to be tested for COVID-19 once before they leave and twice more before they return. if they test positive, students would be required to isolate.

In his memo, Thompson says if these standards cannot be met, students should not be allowed to return to any classroom or congregated setting following Thanksgiving break.

UW-Madison had already planned to move to an all-virtual classroom model after Thanksgiving.

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Dani Maxwell

Dani Maxwell is the Assistant News Director for 27 WKOW.

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