UW-River Falls prepares to lift shelter-in-place 

October 1, 2020 – The University of Wisconsin-River Falls has announced it will be increasing its health and safety measures while taking a gradual approach to resuming face-to-face classes as it nears the end of its two-week shelter-in-place and temporary transition to all online learning. UWRF announced that guidance on Sept. 18 after seeing a spike in positive COVID-19 cases. 

“We’ve further refined our already robust plans for mitigating risks associated with the pandemic,” said Chancellor Connie Foster. “We are now taking additional steps to better ensure the health and safety of our community.” 

Implementation of mandatory testing for all residence hall students is just one of those steps. Students not getting tested for COVID-19 will not be allowed to remain in their residence hall or return there if they had temporarily moved off campus for the two-week period. Residence hall students will also be required to be tested every two weeks going forward. While testing is not mandatory for students not living in the halls, off-campus students continue to be strongly encouraged to get tested, and campus policy states that any student presenting symptoms of COVID-19 must make an appointment to get tested as soon as possible. 

“With mandatory testing in place, UWRF will be able to closely monitor positive COVID cases, quickly move students into isolation and quarantine and more aggressively contain the spread of the virus,” said Foster. 

To minimize added burden on Pierce County health officials, UW-River Falls has also more than doubled its capacity to manage cases of students who test positive, including adding new disease investigation and contact tracing staff trained by and working under the supervision of Pierce County Public Health. The university is also expanding and refining its inventory of available quarantine and isolation spaces for students.

“We know students want to get back to campus despite these challenging circumstances,” said Foster “but ensuring the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff – as well as the local community – remains our priority.”   

More than 70% of courses at UW-River Falls are currently being offered in an online format or with a fully online option. As of Oct. 5, instructors unable to fulfill their learning objectives remotely will be allowed to gradually return to in-person or face-to-face activities. The university is also confident that the mitigation measures taken in classrooms and instructional spaces are helping to stem the spread of COVID-19. No data has indicated that transmission of the virus is occurring in the classroom.

There has been, however, mounting evidence that transmission of COVID-19 is linked to socializing and gathering in large groups. The university has taken a firm stance on student conduct and made it clear that students not complying with safety directives could face disciplinary sanctions up to and including expulsion. Chancellor Foster and other UWRF campus leaders expressed great disappointment in learning of off-campus gatherings where public health protocols were not observed. 

“We realize this is not the ideal experience – having to refrain from some of the things college students look forward to, the parties, the gatherings with friends.” Foster said. “COVID is a real threat to the health of our campus and the community around us. Students can make a very big difference through small personal sacrifices.”

The university also continues to advise its students on the importance of being mindful of their role in stopping the spread of the virus both within and beyond the boundaries of campus. Students who work off campus have been encouraged to discuss their safety and risk factors with their employers, especially if they work with vulnerable populations, or in environments where face coverings are not required and physical distancing cannot be maintained.

To answer questions on the new safety measures, UW-River Falls hosted a virtual town hall for students and employees on Oct. 1. 

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