Spring Semester 2021 Overview

UW–Madison is updating its COVID-19 health and safety program for spring 2021. It will launch in January.

The new measures, which cover the scope and frequency of free on-campus testing and access to campus, represent a significant change from the fall semester. The university is investing in this enhanced approach knowing that vaccines are not expected to be widely available until at least the second quarter of 2021 and probably later for healthy young adults (that is, most students).

By expanding testing and linking campus access to this testing, we will put additional strong curbs on the spread of COVID-19. However, expanded testing, while powerful, can get us only so far.

We need everyone in our campus community to continue following other health protocols: Wear a face covering, maintain physical distance, avoid gatherings with people you don’t live with, and wash your hands often.

The two main components of this new program are expanded testing with quick results and a new app, Safer Badgers, which students, faculty and staff will use to participate in testing and to access campus facilities and services.

Specific details of this new program vary based on your university affiliation:

Look for more info to come: We will continue to share information as it becomes available through this website, email, and social media.

Safer Badgers App

A free mobile app called Safer Badgers will allow faculty, staff and students to find testing locations, schedule COVID-19 tests, obtain test results, and access additional health resources.

One screen of the Safer Badgers app, called the Badger Badge, will serve as a virtual access pass for entry into campus workplaces and buildings where in-person classes and other in-person activities are being held. The Badger Badge screen will not show any private health information. It will simply state whether building access is granted. You’ll need to show your Badger Badge upon request; trained employees will help monitor access to campus facilities and services.

The app also provides anonymous, secure notifications to anyone who has been in proximity to another participating app user who has tested positive for COVID-19. Proximity is initially set as having been within about 6 to 10 feet of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 for 2 hours or more.

Safer Badgers App FAQ

Testing Process and Results

UW–Madison is partnering with Shield T3, a subsidiary of the University of Illinois System, to provide accurate and quick saliva-based PCR testing for students, faculty, staff and employees. Students living in residence halls will continue the nasal swab PCR testing twice a week.

Shield T3 FAQ

Undergraduates Living in Residence Halls

Students will be returning from all over the country, including many areas likely to be experiencing high infection rates. To prevent a spike in cases at the start of semester it’s especially important that students returning to Madison take precautions before, during and after their return. We recommend that you test before you travel if possible, limit your out-of-home activities as much as possible for 10 days before you travel, and postpone your travel if you test positive or have symptoms of COVID-19.

All returning students should restrict their movement to essential activities until you complete two negative on-campus tests. This means:

  • Stay in your room as much as possible
  • Take part only in required academic and work activities
  • Stay away from bars, restaurants and gatherings with people other than your roommates/housemates

Because students arrive back in Madison at different times, campus operations and programming will be limited for the first week of the semester to allow time for everyone to comply with the testing program. After that, operations and programming will be expanded.

Undergraduates Living in Residence Halls FAQ

Undergraduates Living Off Campus

Students will be returning from all over the country, including many areas likely to be experiencing high infection rates. To prevent a spike in cases at the start of semester it’s especially important that students returning to Madison take precautions before, during and after their return. We recommend that you test before you travel if possible, limit your out-of-home activities as much as possible for 10 days before you travel, and postpone your travel if you test positive or have symptoms of COVID-19.

All returning students should restrict their movement to essential activities until you complete two negative on-campus tests. This means:

  • Stay in your residence as much as possible
  • Take part only in required academic and work activities
  • Stay away from bars, restaurants and gatherings with people other than your roommates/housemates

Because students arrive back in Madison at different times, campus operations and programming will be limited for the first week of the semester to allow time for everyone to comply with the testing program. After that, operations and programming will be expanded.

Undergraduates Living Off Campus FAQ

Graduate, Professional (including clinical) and Special Students

If you are working on campus or using campus facilities and services during the spring semester, you will be required to test regularly.

How often you test will be determined by your role on campus. However, at a minimum, you will need to have tested negative within the previous eight days (192 hours) prior to coming to campus.

We will have multiple testing sites on campus that you can use.

Graduate, Professional (including clinical) and Special Students FAQ

Faculty and Staff

Read multilingual versions of Chancellor Blank’s Dec. 11 message to employees
If you are working on campus or using campus facilities and services during the spring semester, you will be required to test regularly.

How often you test will be determined by your role on campus. However, at a minimum, you will need to have tested negative within the previous eight days (192 hours) prior to coming to campus.

We will have multiple testing sites on campus that you can use.

Faculty and Staff FAQ

Individuals Who Have Previously Tested Positive for COVID-19

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I’ve previously tested positive for COVID-19. Do I need to participate in on-campus testing?

You are exempt from engaging in testing for 90 days after a positive test. After the 90-day period ends, you must follow campus testing procedures.

If you were tested off campus before the spring semester, you must submit proof of a positive PCR test, including the lab result and the result interpretation, via the Safer Badgers app. To be verified, off-campus results should include your name, date of birth, collection date and test type. A letter from a physician or county public health may also be acceptable. The test should be a diagnostic, PCR-based test. 

Your Badger Badge will remain as “building access denied” (with a red X) until your result has been reviewed by UHS (off-campus results) or imported into the app (on-campus results).

Last updated 9:32 AM, February 15, 2021

Have a Question?

We will be updating this website as we have more information. We’ll also be sending emails to the campus community and posting on social. If you have a question that we didn’t cover, please let us know. We’ll work our hardest on getting you an answer.

Send an email to covidresponse@vc.wisc.edu