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COVID-19 testing expands to all UW-Eau Claire students

| Gary Johnson

Photo caption: All COVID-19 testing will take place in the new testing center in Zorn Arena throughout the 2020 spring semester. Previously, tests for on-campus students were administered at McPhee Physical Education Center (above) while off-campus students, faculty and staff were tested at Davies Center.

Free, rapid-result COVID-19 testing is expanding to include all University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students during the spring semester.

About 3,700 students living in residence halls have been tested regularly since the start of the school year. Beginning Jan. 23, off-campus students also will be required to take an antigen test that provides results in about 15 minutes.

Students living in university housing will be required to take an antigen test once a week during the spring semester while off-campus students will be tested every other week.

Students at UW-Eau Claire – Barron County also will have access to antigen testing on the university’s campus in Rice Lake.

"Testing all students will allow us to identify COVID positive individuals as soon as possible so that they can be appropriately isolated and prevent further spread to the campus community," says Dr. Kimberly Frodl, Student Health Service medical director at UW-Eau Claire.

Grace Crickette, UW-Eau Claire's vice chancellor for finance and administration who oversees the testing program, agreed that testing was one of the best ways to manage the spread of the virus.

"As our capabilities have increased with access to testing and staffing resources, we have been able to expand our program," Crickette says.

To optimize university resources, all testing is moving to a new testing center in Zorn Arena. Tests for on-campus students were administered at McPhee Physical Education Center during fall semester while off-campus students, faculty and staff were tested at Davies Center.

"Moving to one centralized location is going to help us maximize the use of health care staff, and also help students who need a PCR test get that done more quickly," says Quincy Chapman, UW-Eau Claire's director of Housing and Residence Life. "Students tend to need to visit lower campus on most days for class, and pass Zorn Arena for that purpose, so it shouldn’t create inconvenience."

Since antigen testing started at UW-Eau Claire in September 2020, about 29,000 tests have been administered to students, with 659 positive cases, a positivity rate of less than 3%.

"The infectious disease control processes that we put in place are working," Crickette says. "We have a caring community of students, faculty and staff who have gone above and beyond to keep themselves and others healthy and safe."

Chapman praised students for their adherence to the required testing protocols during fall semester.

"The most significant benefit was our ability to identify asymptomatic students who were COVID positive and help them get into isolation quickly," Chapman says.

During the spring semester, faculty and staff who work on campus will be tested every other week. Previously, employees were required to receive a test twice a week. The reduction in testing frequency is to ensure adequate tests are available for the entire semester.

A community testing site operated by UW-Eau Claire at Memorial High School will close after Jan. 20.