UW Could Close For Semester If COVID Cases Don’t Subside, President Says

in News/Coronavirus/University of Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

University of Wyoming president Ed Seidel is warning students that if coronavirus cases continue to rise among university students and staff, in-person classes may end early for the semester.

“Simply stated, we all need to take action to keep a handle on the spread of COVID-19 among, primarily, our students,” Seidel said in an email to university students. “And if the case numbers continue rising at the current rate, we may have no choice but to bring an early end to on-campus instruction.”

The number of active coronavirus cases in Albany County is the highest in the state and a number of those cases are found among members of the university community.

According to the email from Seidel, the active cases among UW students and employees stood at 164 as of Friday, including 127 students living off-campus, 32 students living on-campus and five employees living off-campus. As of Sunday, Albany County had a total of 264 active cases.

Last week, the university’s wrestling team saw an outbreak of cases, as did the UW’s football team, where 11 freshman players tested positive for the illness.

Seidel noted that the active cases are surging high enough that the university’s quarantine housing is almost at capacity.

“While 31 were to be moved from ‘active’ to ‘recovered’ during the day, we have hit several of the thresholds in the set of indicators we’re using to monitor the virus, including increases in the seven-day rolling average of total cases, total cases per day over two consecutive days and the number of new symptomatic cases per day,” Seidel wrote.

Over the last couple weeks, the university has taken targeted steps to address infection clusters among certain student groups, which Seidel said seem to be working.

However, new infection clusters are popping up at apartment complexes both off campus and in campus housing.

“It’s clear there is significant community spread across the Laramie community,” the president said.

In another week or so, all university students will be required to submit to surveillance testing in a move aimed at preventing the spread of the illness. The tests used will use a technology that allows for a rapid reporting of results, Seidel said.

Students who live off-campus who haven’t submitted to a coronavirus test will not be allowed to attend in-person classes, use in-person student services or participate in activities unless and until they take a coronavirus test.

They can only return to campus beginning Oct. 12 and that’s only with a negative test result, Seidel said.

Under UW’s current testing program, all undergraduates on campus are supposed to be tested weekly, along with most faculty and staff members working on campus.

“This may seem to be a harsh action, but it really is not, when you consider what is at stake,” Seidel wrote. “Many of us were excited to learn about our plans to start UW’s football season Oct. 24…and to have an in-person experience, albeit different from most fall semesters, until Thanksgiving week.

“All of that is in jeopardy unless we change our trajectory, and change it quickly,” he added.

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