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UW-La Crosse looks to slow COVID spread after nearly 300 cases in less than a week

Published: Sep. 14, 2020 at 5:23 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -

College students returning to campus has resulted in an increase of COVID cases for many counties across the country.

One local university is now switching gears to online-only after starting classes just last Tuesday.

“I will confess it was eye-opening to see the high numbers right away--we didn’t anticipate that,” said Chancellor Joe Gow of UW-La Crosse.

UW-La Crosse is moving to online-only classes for the next two weeks after 275 positive COVID tests were returned just four days into the fall semester.

“There is a significant group of students who had this virus likely before they came to campus because the numbers were so high just right out of the gate on it,” Gow explained.

The school announced shelter-in-place restrictions for all students living in residence halls--those include minimizing travel outside of what’s essential like work and grabbing meals to go from dining halls.

Residence Life is honoring housing contract cancellations, Chancellor Gow says around 100 did so over the weekend.

“My suitemates, actually, all of them packed-up, left, went home immediately, but my roommates and I all decided that we were going to stay just because we aren’t quite ready to leave,” said Faith Schenke, a UWL sophomore on-campus resident.

UWL says it is now able to test symptomatic and frontline employees, as well as all students who live on-campus.

PCR testing is used for those showing symptoms and antigen for on-campus housing students who can be asymptomatic.

“The antigen testing is really what caused us to make this decision,” Gow added. “We started doing that with the students in residence halls and then we found some high numbers.”

As part of the new policy, face coverings are required whether you’re inside or outside on campus, with friends or alone.

Also, indoor study-spaces like the library and Student Union are officially closed.

For some students who live on-campus, they say they’re now looking for off-campus options.

“A lot of people are wanting to get out of their housing contracts and get off-campus, live in an apartment where you don’t have as many restrictions,” Schenke said.

For Schenke, it’s heartbreaking how quickly this happened and she says it can be frustrating to be grouped together with other students who were partying.

“A lot of us want to stay on-campus and a lot of us want to continue going to in-person classes and by going out and partying and potentially exposing yourself-- you’re just totally eliminating that ability,” Schenke said.

UWL hopes to resume classes in-person September 28.

As for partying, the school is cracking down on any events it finds on-campus and having its police department work with the La Crosse police to issue citations off-campus.

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