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Active COVID-19 cases at UW rise to 47 ahead of Labor Day weekend

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Published: Sep. 4, 2020 at 6:18 PM CDT
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LARAMIE, Wyo. (PRESS RELEASE) - The University of Wyoming reported a significant increase in cases of COVID-19 infection this week, with at least eight new cases today (Friday) and a total of 34 in the past four days.

That brings the number of active cases among the UW community to 47 -- 10 students living on campus and 37 students living off campus. There are no active cases involving UW employees.

New cases reported over the past two days included 12 students exhibiting symptoms of the disease and eight who were asymptomatic. Twelve more students are being monitored for symptoms and awaiting test results. The university paused its phased fall return plan after seven symptomatic students tested positive Wednesday.

“Some of these new cases don’t appear to be connected with the two off-campus gatherings that were responsible for most of the cases earlier this week,” says UW epidemiologist Brant Schumaker, who is directing the university’s testing program. “That raises concerns about possible community spread, which would make it more difficult for us to come out of the pause and resume our fall return plan.”

Six students diagnosed with the virus are isolated in on-campus housing; the others are isolating off campus. With the new cases, the number of people in 14-day quarantine because they had been in close contact with infected individuals rose from 72 Thursday to 98 today.

The total number of COVID-19 cases among UW students and employees since the pandemic began is 113.

In a message to the UW community today, President Ed Seidel expresses hope for a resumption of the phased return plan but says it likely will depend upon whether students and employees adhere to the restrictions of UW’s pause plan over Labor Day weekend.

“I’m writing to let you know how crucial this weekend is for us to return to our phased return plan -- and have a chance at achieving our goal of bringing everyone back to campus Sept. 28 for eight weeks of in-person experiences. Everything we have done has one goal, and that is to be able to safely provide an in-person campus experience for the UW community,” Seidel writes. “For us to have a chance to come out of our pause next week, we simply cannot do things this weekend that would increase the potential for a further outbreak among our students, employees and the Laramie community.”

Seidel also notes that some of the students infected with the virus are experiencing serious symptoms.

“For those younger than people of my generation, there’s a temptation to think COVID-19 isn’t a big deal. But our experience of the past week at UW shows otherwise,” he writes. “A number of our students who were infected after attending off-campus parties are now quite ill; in fact, one of them was transported to the emergency room last night.”

While the hospitalized student and those in isolation and quarantine are receiving support from the university, the Dean of Students Office is conducting an inquiry into last weekend’s gatherings -- where COVID safety measure reportedly were not followed -- with the intent of pursuing student conduct proceedings. Students hosting or attending such gatherings will be placed on interim suspension from the university and will have their campus access temporarily restricted. Students who are placed on interim suspension may not attend classes until their student conduct cases are resolved. Additionally, all students involved who attend these gatherings will be referred to the Dean of Students Office for conduct proceedings. Possible conduct outcomes include probation, suspension and dismissal from the university.

The COVID contingency plan previously approved by UW’s Board of Trustees directs 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. By the end of that period Sept. 9, Seidel will determine next steps, such as returning to the phased fall return plan or shifting to a fully virtual environment.

UW’s fall semester classes began Aug. 24 with online course delivery under the university’s phased return plan.

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.

Copyright 2020 Wyoming News Now. All rights reserved.

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