By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The University of Wyoming is requiring all employees and students who will spend any time on campus this fall to be tested for the coronavirus this week, the university has announced.
Students, faculty and staff are required to be tested sometime between Wednesday and Sunday. The fall semester begins Aug. 23 with face-to-face classes at full capacity, along with face-to-face student engagement programs, in-person athletics experiences and the like.
Those who do not follow the testing directive will face disciplinary consequences, up to and including dismissal for employees, and a loss of university access for students due to temporary suspension. The testing requirement applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
The UW Board of Trustees directed that all employees and students be tested upon return to the university as part of a plan to proceed with a traditional, in-person fall semester while taking steps to manage COVID-19 amid an increase in cases locally and nationally.
“The testing upon return will give us a good idea of the prevalence of the virus in our community to start the semester, and allow those who are infected to take proper steps to reduce the spread,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “We understand that we are creating one more thing for everyone to do as the semester begins, but it is an important step to help us keep the campus as safe as possible. We appreciate the willingness of our community members to do their part.”
Those testing negative will be notified by email, usually within 24 hours. Those who test positive will also be notified via email and directed to take additional tests to confirm the outcome.
Students who must miss classes and employees who must miss work because of positive tests will receive authorized absences and other accommodations under UW’s quarantine and isolation protocols.
A much more limited testing program, also for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, will resume the week of Aug. 30. Under that program, a random sample of 3% of the UW community will receive emails directing them to be tested on a weekly basis.
Students living on campus who test positive will be required to report those results, and quarantine/isolation housing will be available for those students. Voluntary diagnostic testing will continue to be available to asymptomatic faculty, staff, students and the public as well.
Other parts of the fall semester plan approved by the trustees last week are strong encouragement and incentives for COVID vaccinations, a requirement for masks in most indoor public spaces through at least Sept. 20; and a mandatory education seminar on the virus.
Vaccination clinics are being planned during several events on campus starting next week, including at the testing location. UW continues to highly encourage but not mandate the COVID vaccine for faculty, staff and students, in concert with a directive from Gov. Mark Gordon.
UW requires all faculty, staff and students who are vaccinated to report it to allow the university to track overall vaccination numbers. Additionally, those who report vaccinations become eligible for weekly prize drawings.
As of Aug. 12, there are 12 active cases of the virus reported by UW’s COVID-19 Hub — six students living off campus and six employees. The total number of confirmed COVID cases among UW students and employees since the pandemic began is 2,280.