As Wisconsin cases continue to rise, UW campuses see big declines in cases

MADISON, Wis. — While the number of confirmed cases on county dashboards continue to go up, the number of new cases on University of Wisconsin campuses are going down.

On the UW-Madison campus, the 7-day combined average of cases is currently 17. Just four weeks ago it was 161. On Sept. 9, the university hit its peak with 404 new cases in a single day.

UW System President Tommy Thompson said the main cause for this big decrease is testing.

“We’re now testing five times more than the state of Wisconsin and our results are showing direct correlation, you know last week I was talking about 3%. We’re down below 2% positive right now,” said Thompson.

He said another difference that sets campuses apart from local municipalities is quarantine space. Once a student tests positive, they’re removed from the dorm and kept isolated for 14 days.

“It’s interesting to say that in some places where the break out is really high, some of the doctors and some of the hospital administrators say, ‘You know it’s really dangerous out here, but the safest place anywhere in our county is on the university campuses,'” said Thompson.

It’s not just UW-Madison seeing a drop in cases over the last month. Smaller schools like UW-Platteville are making progress too. Data shows UW-Platteville went from 18 new cases in a day 4 weeks ago to zero new cases on Friday.

“We are feeling very good about seeing the zeroes but we know that that can also change in an instant,” said Paul Erickson, UW-Platteville’s public information officer.

Erickson said although he thinks the number of cases are going down, he said the decrease is also due to the way students were tested.

“We tested our students in basically two phases. The first is when we knew we had some students that might be at risk of being exposed, we made sure that those students were in first, so our numbers were kind of high at the beginning,” said Erickson.

Erickson said a lot of the success is thanks to student’s attitudes.

“We all want to be here. We all want our students to make it into the November break,” said Erickson. “It’s on all of us.”

Thompson hopes students continue to wear masks, social distance and limit gatherings, even as Badger football starts back up again.

“The big party days on the university campus while this virus is still going on have sort of been put on the back burner. Hopefully it stays there, and if it does we’re going to continue to be successful,” said Thompson.