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Published September 25, 2020
The University of Wyoming will move to Phase 3 of its fall return plan Monday, with more on-campus classes and activities -- along with heightened efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.
During Phase 2, which began Sept. 15, face-to-face instruction has only been available for first-year seminars and some graduate courses, with all other courses delivered online. Starting Monday, there will be an expanded mix of on-campus and hybrid instruction; campus buildings will open to the fullest capacity possible; and some in-person activities will take place.
All will be done in accordance with UW’s COVID-19 policy, which requires wearing of face protection on campus, except when in private spaces; physical distancing; use of the COVID Pass tool; regular testing; and enhanced cleaning measures across campus.
“We are delighted to be in a position to begin providing a rich on-campus experience for many of our students. A great deal of effort has been made to get us to this point, and I express my deepest appreciation to everyone for making this possible,” President Ed Seidel says. “But, in many respects, our biggest challenge begins now. In order to successfully have eight full weeks of in-person instruction and activity on campus, all of us must recommit ourselves to the basic behaviors that science has shown will limit the transmission of the virus: wearing face protection; maintaining appropriate distance to the degree possible; using proper hygiene practices; complying with testing and self-screening requirements; and avoiding gatherings where the requirements are not followed.”
Testing, tracing and isolation/quarantine remain an important part of the phased return plan. For the first two and a half weeks of Phase 3, the university will continue to use its bridge testing program through Vault Health. Students in on-campus classes; a sample of faculty members engaged in in-person instruction; and many staff members working on campus will receive emails to schedule weekly appointments to provide saliva samples at the sample collection site, which is being moved from the Wyoming Union Gardens to the Wyoming Union Ballroom.
About 6,000 tests will be administered weekly until mid-October, when the university’s full surveillance testing program will begin. Under that program, students in Albany County, and employees who are on campus and not able to maintain physical distancing, will be required to be tested at least once per week. Other employees will be able to opt in to the surveillance testing. Those saliva tests will be processed at UW’s Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory, allowing for faster results.
“Our experience so far this semester has shown that robust testing, tracing and quarantine/isolation measures -- combined with appropriate personal conduct -- give us the best opportunity to avoid a major outbreak that would cause us to have to end our in-person experiences,” Seidel says. “This is one of the most advanced testing programs of any university in the country, and it will help us be safe. But it will only succeed if we all comply individually with the testing requirements -- in the same way we follow the guidelines and requirements regarding face protection, distancing and appropriate gatherings.”
Among the facilities that will open is Half Acre Recreation and Wellness Center, which will offer limited hours and modified services starting Monday for currently enrolled students and current employees who participate in the testing programs -- and use the COVID Pass tool. Use of the facility will be by appointment; for more information, go to the Campus Recreation website at www.uwyo.edu/rec.
UW’s Division of Student Affairs is developing other in-person, on-campus activities for students during Phase 3, and the full array of student services is available in person and online. About 90 more students are scheduled to move into UW’s residence halls for Phase 3, bringing the total to a little over 1,000.
Along with faculty members teaching in person, many employees who support student services and UW facilities will be on campus for Phase 3 -- although some faculty and staff members will continue working remotely, where appropriate.
As of noon Thursday, there were 130 active cases of COVID-19 among UW students and employees -- detected through bridge testing, testing by UW Student Health Service and external providers. They consist of 101 students living off campus, 14 students living on campus and 15 employees living off campus. About 35 of those cases were to move from “active” to “recovered” in the next day.
Some 153 people are in 14-day quarantine due to exposure to infected individuals -- 15 on campus and 148 off campus. The total number of COVID-19 cases among UW students and employees since the pandemic began is 271.
UW’s administration will continue to monitor data daily in accordance with the university’s updated COVID-19 indicators and tactics for the fall return plan. These allow for UW to respond quickly to outbreaks of the virus in certain programs and facilities at the university with targeted interventions to limit the spread of the virus.
The president notes that, while the traditional student-age population may not be as negatively impacted by the virus as people of other ages, many of the members of the communities that support the student on-campus experience include people at higher risk.
“It is UW’s responsibility to take into consideration all of our community members in the requests of everyone to wear face protection, maintain distancing and follow safe practices at on- and off-campus gatherings,” Seidel says. “For us to be successful, UW’s most important infrastructure -- our people -- has to be kept healthy. It will take everyone to achieve this at the highest level possible.”
During Phase 4, scheduled Nov. 23-Dec. 11, all courses and final exams will be conducted online. Students will leave the residence halls, except for those granted exceptions. Campus buildings will shift to restricted access, and the surveillance testing program will continue for those remaining on campus.
More information is available at www.uwyo.edu/campus-return, which is being updated as information becomes available. Those with questions also may call (307) 766-COVD (2683) or email COVID19@uwyo.edu.