COVID-19 testing at UWO and other important matters

Dear University community,

Today I will spend the bulk of this communication talking about how UW Oshkosh will address positive COVID-19 cases on our campuses and the testing procedures we have put in place.

As we read news reports about surges in cases at universities around the country that have already welcomed back students, it is clear the ability to manage testing and positive cases is key to successfully meeting the challenges that we are and will continue to face amid the pandemic. Universities that are managing their reopening well have constructed plans with rigorous testing and contact tracing protocols. And their communities are practicing safe behaviors.

We have a solid plan, but our plan will only work if we all do our part. That means wearing a mask, maintaining physical distancing, washing your hands. If we want to keep our campuses open, we must be diligent, we must be consistent, we must have compassion and care for ourselves and others. Large gatherings, house parties and other behavior typical around college campuses will create conditions that require us to quickly alter our plans.

UW Oshkosh and UW System have invested a great deal of time, energy and resources and set up partnerships with healthcare organizations and public health to manage testing and contact tracing. We have created COVID-19 tester and contact tracer positions on our Oshkosh campus. We have set up a testing site in Albee Hall and we will be conducting cohort testing to provide a steady stream of testing samples to monitor the virus on our campuses.

Students experiencing COVID-19 symptoms may contact Student Health Services on the Oshkosh campus, make an appointment with Prevea for a test on the Oshkosh campus and in the Fox Cities, and call 1-844-225-0147 via the Fond du Lac County Health Department to set up testing at Agnesian HealthCare in Fond du Lac. I encourage you to download the Prevea app now and set up an account so you can more easily make an appointment for a test. Search MyPrevea on Apple or Google Play. You will be able to access your results through the app.

Strategy 

Our strategy includes testing symptomatic students and employees, screening residence hall students and cohort monitoring. This is a nimble approach based on resources and our community’s need for tests.

Our Emergency Operations Committee is hosting tabletop exercises to carefully vet our plans and identify gaps. The first exercise on Tuesday addressed actions to be taken if a residence hall student presents symptoms and ultimately is diagnosed with COVID-19. Today’s scenario focused on a positive case in a staff member.

About 25 UWO staff members, along with representatives from public health, walked through our processes step-by-step. The exercises did what they are supposed to do: identify where we are strong and ready and where we need to clarify our responses.

A positive case 

What do we do if a student in one of our Oshkosh residence halls isn’t feeling well?

The student is immediately directed to contact Student Health Services and set up a COVID-19 test using the Prevea app for free testing at Albee Hall. Students who are showing symptoms will be asked to move to Webster Hall to isolate until they receive the results of their test. Prevea is currently turning around tests in 24 to 72 hours.

If the student’s test is positive, the student will remain in isolation in Webster Hall or sent home if that is an option. On-campus housing in Fond du Lac (Vue Campus) and Fox Cities (Fox Village) also have set up isolation areas in their privately-managed residence halls.

Residence hall students are being encouraged to have a bag packed this semester with the items they will need for a two-week stay away from their room. A healthcare worker will determine where the student was during the period prior to infection. Contact tracers will then reach out to those who may have been exposed to the virus from the student. The student’s roommate would be moved to the quarantine facility at Gruenhagen. The student who tested positive would remain in isolation for a minimum of 13 days and until the student is symptom-free for three days.

Faculty members who teach a class attended by a student with a positive test will be notified the student tested positive and has been removed from the class for the isolation period. Additionally, faculty members, other staff and students potentially exposed to the virus from the student will be contacted by a contact tracer and advised of further steps. Faculty, staff and students who are not contacted by a contact tracer should assume they are not considered at risk and should continue working or attending classes.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has put together a webpage with information to help you understand what defines close contact. In summary, close contact means you have been within six feet for 15 minutes or more within a 24-hour period with an infected person.

Contact tracing will be greatly assisted by seating charts each faculty member is being asked to create during the first meeting of their in-person class. While some faculty may like to move students around during the semester, it will be important this year to maintain regular seating. Contact tracers will use the charts to ensure they are notifying those who may have had close contact with the student.

Other students who had contact with the positive student would be encouraged to self-quarantine.

Other cases 

All students who receive a positive COVID-19 test are strongly encouraged to fill out the reporting form. The form also is available on the Titans Return website. Employees who receive a positive test are required to fill out the form. This form should not be used unless you have a confirmed positive test result for yourself.

The employee form will be sent to Human Resources where staff will alert the employee’s supervisor. The supervisor will contact facilities for disinfection processes. County health contact tracers will identify and reach out to anyone the employee had contact with who may be at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Looking ahead 

Thank you for attending the forums and for the many questions you have asked about our Titans Return plan. For the latest information, continue to visit the Titans Return website. You also may email covidinfo@uwosh.edu with your questions or fill out the form on the Titans Return website. We are working on a COVID-19 hotline that should be ready to go by the beginning of September.

Next week we will examine in depth the alert levels and criteria that will guide our actions and impacts of COVID-19 cases on our campuses and in our communities. We have established these criteria so we are prepared, although it is our goal that by working together we will be able to keep our campuses open and thriving.

UWO Police Chief Kurt Leibold 

Implementation Team Chair