Additional testing required during spring semester

UWM had a successful fall semester, with a relatively low rate of COVID-19 among students, faculty and staff. We are grateful to everyone who wore a mask, kept their distance and got tested. To help maintain a safe teaching and work environment on campus, we will be implementing additional testing for the Spring 2021 semester.

All students living in residence halls will be tested weekly. Students, faculty and staff who come to campus at least once per week will be tested every other week. These requirements apply to all three UWM campuses. See below for information on testing at your campus.

Milwaukee

Employees with COVID-19 symptoms should contact their personal health provider for a test. The Milwaukee campus testing facility is not intended for employees with symptoms.

Employees without symptoms can get rapid-results antigen tests in the UWM Student Union Ballroom from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. They must make an appointment and complete a screening form. Health officials recommended completing the screening form no more than 48 hours before each testing appointment.

Once tested, employees should remain in the waiting area, and within about 15 minutes they will be verbally told their results. Those who test positive should contact their health care provider for a confirmatory PCR test. Employees who have a positive PCR test result, or who have a positive antigen test result and choose not to get a confirmatory PCR test, must proceed as if positive and report their case.

Both antigen and PCR tests are done with nasal swabs. Antigen tests, which are relatively fast and inexpensive, look for proteins from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. PCR tests, which are more accurate but may take longer to process, look for genetic material from that virus.

Testing for the first two weeks of the Spring 2021 semester will be limited to faculty, staff and students who are required to get tested. Appointments for others who wish to get tested, but are not required to, will then be added as capacity allows.

Employees who meet the testing requirements must get tested within the first two weeks of the semester. Employees who fail to get tested will receive an email emphasizing their obligation to comply. Should they remain non-compliant, other measures will be taken, including a potential meeting with their dean/division head or designee.

Waukesha and Washington County

Rapid-results testing for employees and students only is available at the UWM at Waukesha Field House and UWM at Washington County gymnasium on a rotating schedule. Testing for community members, including employees’ families, ended on Jan. 21.

Employees must make an appointment at www.doineedacovid19test.com. Those with symptoms should get tested as soon as possible; if a campus appointment isn’t immediately available, the employee should go to a community testing site or see their personal health care provider.

Once registered, employees will go to the testing site, show their UWM ID, self-administer an antigen test under the supervision of medical professionals and wait about 15 minutes to retrieve their results by logging into the same website on their smartphone.

Confirmatory PCR tests will be provided to anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms but tests negative, and anyone who doesn’t have symptoms but tests positive.

Resuming testing after testing positive

Employees who receive a positive PCR test result for COVID-19 do not have to be tested again for 90 days because research shows reinfection is uncommon during that time and a positive test is more likely to represent pieces of the virus still in their system than a new infection. Anyone who tests positive again after 90 days must isolate for another 10-day period.

Employees who receive a positive antigen test result for COVID-19 but do not get a confirmatory PCR test must continue to be tested because antigen results are considered probable, not confirmed.

Vaccination

Gov. Tony Evers announced last week that UW System and the Wisconsin National Guard will be partnering on mobile vaccination clinics. We expect UWM to play a role in that and will share more information when it’s available.

Please keep in mind that the state of Wisconsin sets vaccination priorities based on occupation, age and medical history. That means some students and employees may be eligible for vaccination before others. And, it may be possible for people who have been vaccinated to carry the virus without getting sick and spread it to others. For these reasons, existing rules on social distancing, the wearing of masks and classroom capacity will stay in place until everyone has had an opportunity to be vaccinated. Employees who meet UWM’s testing requirements must continue to be tested even if they have received vaccination.

Student compliance with testing requirements

Faculty, instructors and other employees will not generally be told whether individual students have been tested, and they will not need to monitor whether students involved in their classes or activities have been tested. The university’s Emergency Operations Center has set up a process for notifying students who need to be tested and tracking their compliance.

The university is encouraging compliance by:

  • Having students sign updated pledges (employees also will need to sign new attestations)
  • Automated testing reminders
  • Progressive follow-up and discipline for students who fail to get tested. This would start with written warnings and could escalate to restrictions on enrollment and/or campus access.

No testing protocol, and no level of enforcement, can guarantee an environment free from the virus. Therefore, health and safety requirements, such as wearing masks and social distancing), should continue to be enforced in classrooms and at student activities.