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March 5 update: Campus team working closely with Eau Claire City-County Health Department

The following message was sent March 5 to all UW-Eau Claire and UW-Eau Claire – Barron County students, faculty and staff:

As the coronavirus named COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, we want to let you know that our campus team is working closely with city-county public health officials to ensure the safety of all our students — on campus as well as those traveling domestically and abroad — and the safety of our employees.

As you may know, there has been a great deal of media coverage about the virus, though the risk to our campus and community remains low. There have been no cases of COVID-19 in Eau Claire County, and Wisconsin has had only one confirmed case of COVID-19 in early February. That case is no longer active.

However, the spread of the virus overseas led to the cancellation of two UW-Eau Claire spring 2020 study abroad programs in South Korea and Italy, as well as four immersion programs in those two countries. Colleen Marchwick and her team in the Center for International Education as well as Jeff DeGrave and Kim Reed in the Intercultural Immersions Office have done a great job staying on top of a situation that changes every day and assisting impacted students.

In addition, the teams in Blugold Central; Academic Affairs; Dean of Students Office; Student Health Service; Advising, Retention and Career Center; Housing and Residence Life; and the Administrative Support and Knowledge Center have worked hard to help those students who are transitioning back to campus following the cancellation of their study abroad programs. From our faculty who are making accommodations to assist the students in staying on track with their studies, to Financial Aid and Housing who are finding thoughtful solutions for students, to Risk Management and Safety helping to coordinate our campus response, we are working diligently to minimize the impact of the virus on our campus community.

All Blugolds should follow the key guidance from Eau Claire City-County Health Department experts, which is “Prepare, don’t panic." Widely shared information on preventing exposure to COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses stresses taking these important steps: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if you do not have soap and water; avoid touching your face; avoid close contact with people who are sick; stay home when you are sick; cover your cough or sneeze; and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Campus updates

Following are the most recent updates regarding impacts of the COVID-19 coronavirus on the UW-Eau Claire campus community.

Self-quarantine for returning study abroad students

On March 2, all Wisconsin colleges and universities received an email from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services regarding students returning from areas that have a COVID-19-related Level 2 or Level 3 Travel Health Notice from the Centers for Disease Control. The email recommended that these students self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to campus or classes, and UW-Eau Claire has asked returning students to heed those recent recommendations. Please note that this is a change from previous public health guidance, which advised self-monitoring but not self-quarantine. Protocols for self-quarantine are found on the DHS COVID-19 webpage.

Upcoming travel by students, faculty and staff

With upcoming immersion trips and personal travel by students, faculty and staff during spring break in just over two weeks, all students, faculty and staff are encouraged to visit the CDC, U.S. State Department and Eau Claire City-County Health Department websites to learn about travel recommendations and take proper precautions. Any students, faculty and staff planning spring travel outside the U.S. should know that travel restrictions and quarantine criteria can change rapidly and may impact the ability to re-enter the U.S. in some cases.

Campus preparedness

UW-Eau Claire continues to review our level of preparedness in the unlikely event of an outbreak on campus. Campus departments have been encouraged to review their Continuity of Operations Plans and determine changes needed if the COVID-19 virus should appear o

n our campuses or in our communities.  We have implemented steps such as disinfecting commonly touched surfaces and providing additional hand sanitizer. To date, the university has committed approximately $25,000 toward additional disinfecting products to deploy in fighting any illnesses, including COVID-19, on campus. We continue to reassess our processes and procedures to ensure we can respond to any situation that may arise, including any required isolation or quarantine plans. 

As the spread of COVID-19 and its impacts grow in complexity, UW-Eau Claire also continues to monitor updates to travel warnings

and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of State daily to ensure the safety of all students.

Finally, to reiterate earlier messaging, unfortunate outcomes of the coronavirus outbreak have been the spread of misinformation and instances of xenophobic and racist behavior directed at people of Asian descent around the world. This type of racist behavior is not in keeping with our mission of equity, diversity and inclusion. The coronavirus is not tied to any specific group of people, and we should welcome and support all individuals on our campuses, as well as those we meet during our travels.

If you have questions or concerns regarding UW-Eau Claire’s response to the spread of COVID-19, please contact Tim Boehnen, director of Risk Management and Safety, at 715-836-4414 or boehnett@uwec.edu.