News On Campus

Quarantine Lifted on UWEC Dorm Wings

health department removes restrictions after investigation

Tom Giffey |

The Karlgaard Towers residence hall at UW-Eau Claire. (File photo)
The Karlgaard Towers residence hall at UW-Eau Claire. (File photo)

After interviewing students and adjusting some university dorm policies, the Eau Claire City-County Health Department has lifted the quarantine on six residence hall wings at UW-Eau Claire.

The quarantine – which impacted 184 students – had been imposed on Sunday, Sept. 6, after six students tested positive for the coronavirus. The university announced Friday the quarantine had been lifted following “a comprehensive review of residence life policies and practices put in place at the start of the year, as well as further investigation and interviewing of students who tested positive for COVID-19.”

UWEC said all six floors were quarantined because “all residents on those floors were considered close contacts based on their shared living space and typical shared activities which met the household definition the state provides for close contacts.” However, according to a UWEC media announcement, “Lieske Giese, director of the Eau Claire City-County Health Department, said the adjustments made by the university related to the dorm practices and careful interviews of the cases prompted her team to review the quarantine determination.”

“We acted out of an abundance of caution,” UWEC Chancellor James Schmidt said of the initial decision to quarantine the six dorm wings. “We made the right decision at the time, and now, after we have been able to review and assess the situation, and with support from the Eau Claire City-County Health Department, we are able to review the actual residence life policies and practices on these floors and focus on close contacts now rather than quarantining entire wings. We are confident our protocols will be responsive.”

“We acted out of an abundance of caution,” UWEC Chancellor James Schmidt said of the initial decision to quarantine the six dorm wings.

The university said new safety steps include “reducing the number of showers in shared bathrooms and the implementation of a sign-in procedure for use of all communal spaces. In addition, furniture in common spaces at Hilltop Center has been removed and additional contact tracers are being trained. … As an additional caution, the students who were included in the quarantine on those wings are all receiving antigen tests. Like all students in the dorms, regular antigen screening will continue as part of the UWEC strategy to slow the spread of disease.”

Earlier in the week, an outbreak at the UW-Madison campus led officials there to quarantine two entire dorms, which impacted more than 2,200 students, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Hundreds of students who tested positive for the virus are in “isolation housing,” and dozens of fraternity and sorority houses have also been quarantined, the newspaper reported Friday.

According to a COVID-19 dashboard on the UWEC website, there have been 154 positive COVID-19 cases among UWEC students as of Thursday, Sept. 10. The previous day, Giese had said UWEC students and staff had accounted for about half of the COVID-19 cases diagnosed in the county over the previous week. The increase of 199 cases over seven days was the largest jump in the county’s COVID-19 total since the beginning of the pandemic.

As of Friday, there had been 1,098 positive diagnoses in Eau Claire County, and six deaths had been attributed to the coronavirus.