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UW works through phased campus return plan

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

On Sept. 15, the University of Wyoming (UW) resumed its phased fall campus return plan following a two-week pause to help stem an outbreak of COVID-19 among the community on campus.

Phase One of the university’s plan, originally scheduled from Aug. 24 through Sept. 4, allowed 1,500 students to return to campus with most classroom instruction delivered online. After an outbreak of COVID-19 in individuals at the university, Phase One was extended for nearly two weeks.

“The pause succeeded in allowing us to get a better handle on the testing data and in taking necessary actions to help limit transmission of the virus,” said UW President Ed Seidel in a university newsletter published Sept. 14.

The president noted while UW’s traditional student population may not be as negatively impacted by the virus as people of other ages, many members of the on-campus community include people at higher risk.

“It it UW’s responsibility to take into consideration all our community members in the requests of everyone to wear face protection, maintain distancing and follow safe practices at off-campus gatherings,” Seidel said. 

Phase Two

Now, UW will begin Phase Two of it’s fall campus return plan, where additional students are allowed to return to campus, in-person classes will begin, face-to-face critical employees are able to return and a weekly random- sampling testing program will begin. 

“We’re ready to resume the phased return plan, with additional measures in place to keep the campus as safe as possible,” Seidel noted. “For us to avoid another pause and proceed to the next phase on Sept. 28, everyone on campus or off, must adhere to those measures and avoid large off-campus gatherings where distancing and/or face protection are not employed.”

Up to 3,500 students will be allowed to return to campus in Phase Two of the plan. These include all individuals from Phase One, first-year students in residence halls, freshman taking face-to-face seminars, all law students, students in the Literacy Research Center and Clinic and first-year pharmacy students. 

Face-to-face instruction of first year seminars, originally scheduled to start on Sept. 7, will begin, in addition to some pharmacy and graduate courses. 

Bridge testing of employees and students on campus will continue and campus buildings will gradually reopen. 

Phase Three

According to UW Student Health Services, Phase Three of the plan will begin on Sept. 28.

During Phase Three, which will occur through Nov. 20, all students will be welcomed to campus and courses will be delivered as a mixture of in-person and online instruction. 

In-person student activities will be expanded, and many campus buildings will open, including Half Acre Recreation and Wellness Center, although it will likely be by appointment. The university will operate a surveillance-testing program, under which all students, faculty and staff who come to campus will take saliva tests at least once a week. 

Phase Four

During Phase Four, scheduled Nov. 23 through Dec. 11, all courses and final exams will be conducted online. Students will leave residence halls, except for those who have been granted an exception. Campus buildings will shift back to restricted access and the surveillance-testing program will continue for those remaining on campus. 

Indicators to guide decisions

While moving forward with its phased return plan, UW announced on Sept. 16 it has developed a set of indicators to help guide daily decisions related to COVID-19. These indicators, along with some potential tactics will be present to the UW Board of Trustees on Sept. 17 by Seidel. 

The indicators will track data on total on-campus student cases per day, UW’s capacity for isolation or quarantine and the total number of active cases. According to the university, potential responses will include another pause or alternative options such as quarantining a single residence hall or floor of a specific hall, shifting a specific class or event to an online venue for a period of time or reducing density in a designated area.

“Our updated set of indicators, thresholds and tactics was developed based on our experience with the virus at UW, the latest scientific data and guidance from universities across the country and with the health and safety of our faculty, staff and students as our top priority,” Seidel said. “It will allow us to move forward and nimbly address new developments on a daily basis.” 

COVID-19 on campus

According to the UW Student Health Services, there have been 27 new cases of COVID-19 reported among UW students and employees since Sept. 11. All but four of the cases were detected in the university’s bridge testing program through Vault Health. 

Twenty of the new cases are students and seven are employees. Three students living off campus who were exhibiting symptoms and one without were found to be infected in tests conducted by external providers. 

This brings the number of active cases among the UW community to 93 – 16 students living on campus, 64 students living off campus and 13 employees living off campus, according to UW Student Health Services. 

Nearly 175 people are in 14-day quarantine due to exposure to infected individuals – 27 on campus and 148 off campus. 

The total number of COVID-19 cases among UW students and employees since the pandemic began is 171. 

“We know the virus is here, but we have been able to manage it in a manner that has kept our campus relatively safe,” Seidel said. “As the situation has changed rapidly and our understanding of the disease is growing, we’re developing new indicators and tactics to stay on top of it all at UW. 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.” 

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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