UW campuses to receive $32M to test college students for COVID-19

NOW: UW campuses to receive $32M to test college students for COVID-19

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Hand sanitizer, one-way signs in and out of classrooms and COVID-19 testing will all be part of the college experiences for Wisconsin students heading back to school in just a few weeks.

Gov. Tony Evers' office announced on Thursday, Aug. 6, it is allocating more than $32 million to the University of Wisconsin System and the University of Wisconsin-Madison as they prepare to welcome students back to campus this fall.

“As campuses across the UW System prepare to have students return to campus, it is critically important that every campus has the resources it needs to help keep our students safe,” Evers said.

UW System officials said the funding was originally delivered from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act. It includes $8 million for UW-Madison and the rest will be divided up between the other 12 campuses: Nearly $18 million will be allocated for 350,000 tests and $6 million will pay for personal protective equipment associated with testing.

The other $24 million will be divided between all the campuses, excluding Madison. That money will allow for testing of up to 34,000 students who show symptoms of the virus. They will be given a PCR test, which will be sent off to a lab with results coming back in about 48 hours.

An additional 317,000 tests will be given to students living in residence halls, given every two weeks with results coming back in about 15 minutes, according to interim UW System President Tommy Thompson.

The funding will also help cover personal protective equipment and staff for administering tests.

The UW System Board of Regents has previously required that students, faculty, and staff will be required to wear face masks in classrooms, residence halls, and other buildings.

"We're doing everything we possibly can think of to make sure we can open up safely, and we feel that we've done that ... We think that we'll be able to give a good education and a great experience to our college students," said Thompson, a former Wisconsin governor.

UW-Milwaukee officials said they have been working with city officials to test students with symptoms of COVID-19 and students who have been in close contact with them. They said they are looking to expand their testing capacity, according to a news release.

The resources announced Thursday by Evers and UW System officials will allow all UW-Milwaukee students living in residence halls to be tested. Campus health leaders are currently working on a plan to do this, which will allow for earlier identification and isolation of students who test positive.

UW-Milwaukee junior Caroline Manna said she is glad that campus leaders have created a hybrid model of both in-person and online classes, but said she is worried that students will be coming back to campus from all over the state.

"I'm really concerned about the virus especially that cases have spiking in Wisconsin a lot more recently, so I'm really happy to hear that there are going to be new testing solutions," Manna said.

Sophomore Henry Mcleod said the hybrid model will allow him to limit his time on campus this semester.

"Most of my classes are online. A few are discussions, and you're required to wear masks and all that stuff. But I think with all the precautions they're putting in, I think everyone will be fine if they just follow the rules," he said.

UW-Madison, which previously announced its COVID-19 testing plan, will receive $8.3 million from Wisconsin’s CARES Act allocation for testing, equipment, staff, and personal protective equipment to support their efforts to test symptomatic individuals, those who have had close contact with symptomatic individuals, and students living in residence halls.

State support will help UW-Madison purchase 134,000 tests.

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