Dane County recorded the highest single-day number of COVID-19 cases Saturday, which public health officials directly linked to the return of University of Wisconsin students for the fall semester.

Public Health Madison & Dane County encouraged all residents to avoid gatherings after the county saw a record 147 positive COVID-19 cases Saturday, according to a press release.

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In the press release, Public Health Madison & Dane County Director Jane Heinrich said the addition of so many students to the community may have prompted the increase in cases.

“With the addition of so many students in our community, and more testing on the UW-Madison campus, we expected a rise in cases, but this isn’t a record we wanted to break, and it is important that we all take action so case counts this high don’t become a trend,” Heinrich said.

At least half of all recorded cases on Saturday came from UW students or staff. This estimate includes students who got tested at on-campus test sites, but not those tested on off-campus sites. The number of cases attributed to university students and staff is expected to increase as contact tracers conduct interviews.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said in the press release that the UW population is intrinsically a part of the larger community, meaning it will inevitably have an impact on the community as a whole.

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“Yesterday 82% of positive cases tested by UW were students who live off-campus,” Rhodes-Conway said. “The reality is that students are not confined to campus they travel off-campus to work, volunteer, run errands, visit nearby relatives and explore area attractions. We need everyone to take precautions to help keep our community safe.”

Heinrich said the rise in cases due to UW students and staff is a “concern.” Though, Heinrich also said the holiday weekend and other community spread issues need to be recognized as well.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said in the press release that people must resist the urge to return to routine, and all individuals in the community must help stop the spread.

“In Dane County, over 6,000 people have had COVID-19 and Wisconsin has had over 80,000 cases,” Parisi said. “This virus can cause long term, debilitating effects that are not well understood. Assuming you can get the virus and will ‘just get over it’ is a dangerous gamble. We have the power to stop this surge in cases it won’t go away by itself.”

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Contact tracers from Public Health Madison & Dane County and University Health Services will continue to monitor the community’s COVID-19 numbers, according to the press release.