In his first live briefing of the summer, Chancellor James Schmidt provided more detailed information about what UW-Eau Claire is planning for the fall 2020 semester. This included announcing a mandatory face-mask requirement and the use of an application where students, faculty and staff must record their temperature and symptoms on a daily basis.
Work toward reconfiguring classrooms to comply with physical distancing guidelines is underway and, as this reduces the capacity of each teaching space, nonacademic spaces like Davies Center will be used for teaching. The chancellor also provided a positive enrollment update and answered questions submitted by faculty and staff.
Here are the key points from this week’s briefing:
- The semester will begin Sept. 2 and conclude Dec. 18 with in-person classes planned for the whole semester, an update from the announcement last week that indicated classes would be virtual-only after Thanksgiving. Classrooms are being reconfigured to meet physical distancing requirements and this will decrease the capacity of most teaching spaces by 50% or more, so large rooms in nonacademic facilities like Davies Center also will be used to expand academic capacity. Hand sanitizer will be available in all buildings and a regular, rigorous cleaning protocol will be in place.
- All students, faculty and staff will be required to wear face masks in common areas of university buildings. The university will provide two high-density, double-ply, washable masks for all students and employees at the start of the semester, and instructors also may request face shields.
- All students, faculty and staff also will be required to record their temperature and symptoms using a mobile application on a daily basis. The app, which also is accessible via a web portal, was originally developed by the Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome at Mayo Clinic, and has been made available to UW-Eau Claire to use for monitoring COVID-19 symptoms. The app will notify users when their symptoms warrant being tested for COVID-19, which students can do through Student Health Service and faculty and staff can do through their primary care providers. Individual rooms will be available in Putnam Hall for residence-hall students needing to isolate after testing positive, or for roommates quarantining after exposure to someone who tested positive.
- Admissions tours have been full since they resumed June 1, with safety measures in place. There have been increases in student enrollment since the start of June, and the university’s retention rate for second-year students is holding steady with the previous year’s figure of 84.4%. Virtual Orientation for incoming students began June 8, and while Orientation registration numbers are lower than at the same time last year, the virtual format will allow Orientation to continue later into the summer than usual.
- The number of employees on continuous furlough reached 250, an increase of 19 from the last briefing May 31, with the average furlough lasting three-and-a-half weeks. Continuous furloughs will primarily conclude in July, and intermittent furloughs for all faculty and staff will begin in August.
For additional information, UW-Eau Claire students and employees can visit the “Chancellor COVID-19 Briefings” page on the Chancellor’s Office Blugold Insider site, and public resources are available at uwec.ly/COVID-19. The remaining summer briefings will take place Thursdays at 5 p.m. on the following dates: June 25, July 9 and 23, and Aug. 6.