Monkeypox & Covid-19 risk mitigation plans ahead of UW fall semester

MADISON, Wis. — Back-to-school preparations are fully underway at UW-Madison. This year, that includes preparing for and thinking about two viruses, instead of one.

The most obvious one, Covid-19, is the known enemy, which UW has a strong plan in place for. But monkeypox is still a big question mark.

When it comes to Covid, UW-Madison’s campus should look and feel pretty similar to just a few months ago.

“We have a full campaign to promote awareness about both of these issues and remind people about what practices will support their health and wellbeing,” said Jake Baggott, the associate vice chancellor and executive director for University Health Services.

Relying on what worked this past spring, the school is encouraging but not requiring students to take a Covid test before moving into dorms and before the first day of class. Once the semester is underway in early September, students can get at-home tests and high-efficiency masks for free each week.

“I think a really important thing that we’ve learned over these last couple of years is if you’re not well, stay home and take care of yourself until you’re feeling well and are able to return to campus,” Baggott said. “Masks are never a bad idea, but they’re certainly not required.”

If a student tests positive for Covid and would prefer to isolate away from their dorm, a limited number of quarantine spaces are also available.

For monkeypox, the school feels the risk of contracting it on campus remains low. However, students who think they’ve been exposed should meet with University Health Services.

“We have a whole protocol in place to help people be evaluated and determine whether or not they might be eligible for vaccination in that case, or to support them if they have any questions if that happens,” Baggott said. “We’re well-prepared to respond to those needs should that come up for somebody as a concern.”

University Health continues to monitor risks from both Covid-19 and monkeypox. To stay up to date, all students and staff are encouraged to check the UHS website each week.