UW suspends face-to-face classes; Barrett seeks declaration
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — University of Wisconsin-Madison officials announced Wednesday that they will suspend face-to-face instruction and students shouldn’t return to their dorms after spring break as the number of COVID-19 cases in the state grew to six. Meanwhile, Milwaukee Gov. Tom Barrett asked Gov. Tony Evers to declare an emergency to free up resources to respond to the virus.
“This is a preparedness measure,” Barrett said. “We don’t know what’s going to come next, but we want to make sure we’re prepared.”
Evers set a news conference for Thursday at the state’s emergency response center.
For most people, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.
In Madison, the university’s move mirrored that taken by several others, including Ohio State and at least five other UW System schools.
UW-Madison’s spring break begins Saturday and runs through March 22. Face-to-face instruction will end on March 23, the date classes are scheduled to resume. Students will have to complete their coursework remotely until at least April 10, when university officials will reassess the situation.
University officials said students should not return to their dorms following break and should take essential belongings with them when they leave. The move is designed to keep people from congregating in shared bathrooms and dining facilities.
The dorms will remain available for students who can’t return to their permanent residences but they should expect a reduced services, officials said.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank said during a news conference that the university is working on potential financial reimbursement to offset displaced students’ housing payments.
All campus events of more than 50 people and all university-sponsored travel has been canceled through at least April 10, officials said.
The campus will remain open and all faculty and staff will continue their regular work schedules unless told otherwise by their supervisors. Many research labs use student workers, raising questions about whether they’ll remain open. Blank said most of the students in the labs are graduate students who live off-campus and won’t be affected by the dorm closures.
The state Department of Health Services announced late Wednesday afternoon that tests have confirmed three more cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, bringing the total number of infections so far to six.
One of the new cases involves a patient in Waukesha County who was exposed while traveling in the United States and internationally. That patient has been isolated at home.
The other new cases involve two patients in Fond du Lac County. Both were exposed while traveling, one domestically and one abroad. One of them has been hospitalized, the first COVID-19 hospitalization in Wisconsin since the outbreak began in China. The other patient is isolated at home.
The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter: https://twitter.com/trichmond1