UW system planning COVID tests for all students, faculty and staff to return to in-person classes this fall

The biggest obstacle in the way is money

MADISON, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin school system is working on plans to test all students, staff and faculty for COVID in hopes of returning to in-person classes this fall.

Vice President of Administration Robert Cramer said the administration is looking into the possibilities of what they can do to return to some semblance of normalcy within schools.

“We don’t know, logistically, if it’s possible to test all students and all faculty and all employees. That’s part of what we want to understand,” he said.

Cramer said current testing may cost them about $100 per test. With around 170,000 students and 40,000 employees, it would cost more than $20 million for one round of testing. Cramer said the UW system doesn’t want to just do one round, but rather, an ongoing series of testing based on need.

“We’ve acknowledged that if that is the cost, we can’t afford to do that,” he said. “So what are some things we can do to get it down from there?”

The UW school system is already dealing with millions of dollars in financial loss. Even with furloughs, cancelled events and federal aid, they would still be looking at what could be hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.

“We are anticipating we would work with the state and other elected officials and figure out how to pay for those costs,” Cramer said.” I think there’s a high degree of interest in having people return to our institutions. Regardless of our scenario, we will be open this fall. Our preference is to be open with in-person as much as possible.”

Cramer said the administration is also looking at plans to possibly do contact tracing, provide PPE gear and implement plans to socially distance if they do return to in-person classes.

The administration will be reviewing at its budget in early June to get a better idea on what the fall semester could look like.