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You’ve probably heard me say this several times in recent weeks: being in a university classroom is one of the safest places you can be during the Covid-19 pandemic.

I can say this thanks to everyone’s, particularly students’, compliance with safety and hygiene basics. Our testing numbers are proving this to be true.

UWO’s seven-day positive test rate has fallen by more than 10% in the past 10 days. On Sept. 21 it was 17.2%; today we are at 6%.

Our daily positive test rate is 3.5%, and our data continues to indicate that coronavirus is not spreading in our classrooms.

This didn’t happen by chance.

The success we have had is due to a number of factors, but first and foremost it is due to your diligence and care for each other. You are wearing a mask inside our buildings, and, from what we see around our campuses, often outdoors as well. You are practicing physical distancing and washing your hands. You are avoiding large gatherings and crowded establishments.

We adopted these safety measures because they work. We have not wavered in our messaging and you have taken this seriously. Thank you. Together we are moving our numbers in the right direction.

There are other steps we have taken to tackle the virus. While many places have tested small samples of students, we sought to test as many students as possible. We went looking for the virus. This resulted in a surge of cases early on, and we expected that. Finding the problem areas gave us the ability to surround and contain them. We are now testing every residence hall student every week.

The degree of testing on our Oshkosh campus has drawn the attention of the Centers for Disease Control. We are one of the top antigen testing sites in the country, and the CDC is working with us to study our results and inform their guidance on the use of these tests.

We also are testing wastewater to assist with early detection of the virus in our Oshkosh campus residence halls. Special thanks to Dr. Greg Kleinheinz and Assistant Professor Marcel Dijkstra for their efforts with this work.

Those of you who have largely set aside your day job to directly manage our Covid-19 response have my sincere gratitude. This includes member of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), our Covid-19 testing center staff, contact tracers, disease investigators, custodial crews and so many others. And not to mention the countless adjustments made by faculty to teach their courses in multiple modalities. We are only successful to this point because of all your efforts.

We can’t predict how long coronavirus will impact our university community. Covid-19 came without clearly defined time limits. We do know our daily positive test rate has continued to fall since Sept. 18. That’s good news, and if this continues we anticipate next week lifting the dining and residence hall guest restrictions put in place last week.

This is far from over. We need you to continue to do your part so we can maintain a safe campus environment.

Your sacrifices to get us here have not gone unnoticed. We all long for the days when we can cheer on our athletes. We want to hear the music of our choirs and bands. We want our campuses to be filled with gatherings, events, the hearty in-person exchange of ideas. We want to be able to hug a friend or family member. It’s tough, make no mistake.

Keep doing what you’re doing. We are first and foremost a community; and as a community we will get through this.


This post was originally shared via email with UWO students, faculty and staff on October 1, 2020.