MADISON, Wisc., (SPECTRUM NEWS) -- As some universities have gone back to campus and quickly experienced coronavirus outbreaks, interim UW System President Tommy Thompson believes Wisconsin is better prepared.
After less than two weeks on campus, the University of North Carolina switched to all-virtual learning because of outbreaks linked to Greek life and big parties. Notre Dame did the same.
Former Governor Thompson, who was also the secretary of health and human services during the Bush administration, believes UW System schools are ready for incoming students.
“I think our regimen, our plan, is as good or better as any university I’ve seen,” Thompson says during a Milwaukee Press Club webinar Friday.
At UW-Madison, that regimen includes free testing for everyone on campus, mandatory testing every two weeks for students in the dorms, and studying a group of faculty and students to get an accurate picture of the spread on campus. They also have isolation procedures ready to go.
“We have a regimen for cleaning every classroom, we have hand wipes and hand sanitizer in every room. We’re using CDC standards to clean the residence halls,” Thompson says. “We’re gonna do everything we can to protect health.”
Each UW campus has a different mix of in-person and virtual classes.
“Students may come back that maybe have an immune system that’s compromised, they can take all their courses online,” Thompson says. “Some professors do not want to teach, and we will do that on an individual case Jeff, and allow them to make that determination with their university.”
As football parents and players at other Big Ten schools petition to play again, Thompson believes postponing the season was the right idea.
“Would I like to be playing football? Of course, I would! Who wouldn’t… Every one of you would,” he says. “But the truth of the matter is we gotta do it like we’re doing it in classes. We’re trying to make everything safe. And it’s tough to be safe when you’re tackling somebody.”
Thompson has one request for UW System students, and for college kids, it’s a big one.
“No big parties,” he says. “We’re talking to the sororities and the fraternities.” He also said he’s sending a letter local bars with the Tavern League and Restaurant Association, encouraging them to adopt safe practices.
“My message to students? This is up to you,” Thompson says. “You can go back and live in mom and dad’s basement, or you can stay in Madison or Milwaukee or Platteville, it’s up to you.”