Health officials concerned over local surge in COVID cases before college starts

Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 5:40 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - Last week, La Crosse County had 141 new COVID-19 cases with 39 alone on Saturday.

With numbers growing before local universities even start classes or move-in students, health officials are concerned.

The La Crosse County Health Department thought a surge of COVID cases may occur when UW-La Crosse students returned to campus.

However, one happened even earlier.

“I didn’t suspect it quite this soon,” said Jen Rombalski, La Crosse County Health Department director. “I do anticipate that we will see more cases before that begins to decline again.”

Rombalski says the number spiked even before Viterbo students started classes.

“We aren’t even fully testing everyone who have been moving in at the other campuses, so yeah it is concerning,” Rombalski added.

UWL is preparing to welcome more than 10,000 students back to campus.

The university saw how students returning to Winona State last week quickly led to nearly 100 cases.

“We need everyone and that means all the students, all the faculty, all the staff, administrators we all are going to have to wear our masks,” said Joe Gow, Chancellor of UWL. “We’re going to have to do social distancing, and perhaps most importantly and it’s going to be hard--we’re going to have to avoid getting together in groups.”

Gow says the school will be enforcing new policies.

“If we find somebody hosts a big event or party there’s going to be consequences there absolutely,” Gow added. “What those consequences will be, we’re still working that out.”

The university has online-only, hybrid and face-to-face classes to meet everyone’s comfort levels.

Additionally, no visitors will be allowed in residence halls.

Testing is available on-site for those with symptoms or those who’ve had close contact with a positive case.

“We report each morning to UW system officials in Madison and they’re keeping track of all the campuses and how much testing is being done, and what the tests are revealing, how much quarantine is being used,” Gow explained.

The school will collaborate with the UW system and county health department to determine if the school needs to switch to distanced learning at any point.

UWL students have been moving back into residence halls this week ahead of the first day of classes on Tuesday.

Copyright 2020 WEAU. All rights reserved.