The University of Wyoming has extended the pause of its phased fall return plan until Monday to gather additional data about the prevalence of COVID-19 infection among the UW community.
The extension is necessary for UW leaders to receive and analyze results from its on-campus testing program and external providers to understand the level of COVID-19 transmission over the Labor Day weekend.
“While we continue to detect new cases — which is worrisome — the pause has enabled us to effectively slow the spread of the virus,” UW President Ed Seidel says. “That provides some encouragement for our ability to resume our fall return plan, but only if what happened over Labor Day weekend does not result in a spike in cases.”
The pause was triggered by positive COVID-19 test results of seven students who were exhibiting symptoms of the infection Sept. 2. The COVID contingency plan previously approved by UW’s Board of Trustees directed that five or more positive tests of symptomatic individuals among UW students and employees in Laramie in a single day would prompt a pause of five business days.
Since Tuesday’s public update on COVID-19 cases among the UW community, the university identified one new case of a student with symptoms who tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday evening. That brings the number of active cases among the community to 70 — 14 students living on campus, 53 students living off campus and three employees living off campus.
Some 130 people — 23 on campus and 107 off campus — are in 14-day quarantine because they were in close contact with people who tested positive. The total number of COVID-19 cases among UW students and employees since the pandemic began is 141.
During the pause, details of which may be found here, the university is taking steps that include:
— Instructing students in UW campus housing and others in Laramie to shelter in place.
— Delivering all courses online.
— Directing all employees, with the exception of those designated by supervisors as critical pause personnel, to work remotely.
— Suspending all face-to-face activities, unless approval is given through an exception process.
UW students are instructed to have contact with only members of their “pods” during a pause. For a student in UW’s residence halls, a pod consists of all students on that student’s floor. For students living off campus or in UW apartments, a pod consists of those living together in the same dwelling.
UW Residence Life and Dining Services is making arrangements for food service and activities for residence hall students during the pause. Students in the residence halls who have jobs or other off-campus responsibilities are being allowed to leave for those duties. A little over 1,000 students are currently in the residence halls; about 400 more are waiting to come to campus until the end of the pause, at the encouragement of the university.
“So far, the on-campus experience appears to be relatively safe, and we appreciate the adherence of our students in the residence halls to the pause restrictions,” Seidel says. “Unfortunately, it appears that some of our students off campus are not doing the same, based upon community observations and the relatively high number of cases among those students. If that situation doesn’t change, it seriously jeopardizes the opportunity to implement our full phased return plan for the fall semester.”
No on-campus visits or hosting are allowed by students, employees or researchers during the pause. Most campus facilities are closed, with these exceptions: the Early Care and Education Center; the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory; the Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic in the Health Sciences Building; and the Psychology Clinic in the Biological Sciences Building.
Additionally, UW’s Student Health Service (307-766-2130) continues to operate, including testing of students. And the Wyoming Union remains open for the university’s random-sample testing program, as UW is continuing its surveillance testing of students and employees on campus during the pause. All members of the community are still expected to complete the COVID Pass daily.
UW laboratories and other research facilities continue to conduct research activities while reducing lab and facility personnel to limit the spread of COVID-19, as was done in the spring at the start of the pandemic.
Athletic facilities remain open for necessary activities, including the athletic training table and sports medicine.
More information about the pause is available at www.uwyo.edu/campus-return, which is being updated as information becomes available. During the pause, the university plans to provide daily email updates on the latest developments. Those with questions may also call (307) 766-COVD (2683) or email COVID19@uwyo.edu.