Following the University of Wisconsin’s emergency quarantine of two residence halls Wednesday, quarantined students and house fellows responded to the events and detailed their concerns after the first day of the order.
UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank placed a mandatory quarantine for residence halls Sellery and Witte on Wednesday night due to high COVID-19 positive test result rates and stated that the university will shift to remote instruction for two weeks.
According to the UW Smart Restart dashboard, 218 students are in on-campus isolation and 119 students are in Housing quarantine. This is not including students quarantining in Witte and Sellery or in fraternity and sorority chapter houses.
Emily, a freshman living in Sellery Residence Hall, said she has been following all UW and CDC guidelines to stay safe — testing negative for COVID-19 on three separate occasions during her time on campus. Following Blank’s announcement, Emily said she made the “tough” decision to go home.
“Initially, I was very shocked at the news that Sellery and Witte were going to be quarantined, and thought it was very sudden,” Emily said. “I heard the news after my calc discussion on Wednesday night, then I went to Walgreens to get a few things and everybody was panic buying food and other things.”
Though Emily said she understands UW is being proactive in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 in dorms by imposing a quarantine, she could not help but be “upset and shocked” at the news.
While nervous about infecting her family, Emily chose to return home for two weeks and is currently self-isolating until she gets tested at a nearby clinic.
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“I think one of the things I was most confused about was the fact that it is only Sellery and Witte [that] have to quarantine in place,” Emily said. “I know Sellery and Witte both have a large amount of positive cases, but I have friends in other dorms, and there have been COVID cases on their floors as well, but yet they don’t have to lockdown and can still at least go outside.”
According to a University of Wisconsin press briefing, Witte and Sellery have about 10 and 17 percent positive test result rates, respectively, since late last week. University Health Services will test all Sellery and Witte residents today and tomorrow
UW said in a statement on the Smart Restart dashboard some residence halls have experienced zero COVID-19 cases to date, while others have experienced smaller positive test rates than they have seen in Witte and Sellery.
One Witte house fellow said it has been stressful dealing with residents gathering in large groups in rooms and common living spaces. They said gatherings not involving alcohol have become more common, and University Housing is removing residents who continue to violate health guidelines.
“They’re being really stubborn and, like, not really complying with social distancing … they just don’t think there’s any consequences,” they said. “A lot of these kids don’t understand because if you get COVID, you infect a lot of people.”
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Maddy Doeden, another freshman living in Sellery, said she went to Fresh Madison Market last night to stock up on groceries and supplies after the email announcement, but the line went out the door and spilled into the sidewalk.
Doeden said she expected the residence halls to get quarantined eventually, and standing outside of Fresh Madison Market Madison, bonding with all the freshmen around her and talking about the recent events was “crazy.” Doeden said she will return home and stay with her family for two weeks.
The Witte house fellow said their co-workers can return to their homes, but they risk losing their jobs if the two-week quarantine does not work and residence halls have to shut down.
“It really just seems like house fellows were presented with the ‘either you can stay here and endanger your health and have a job or you can go home and not have a job,'” they said. “It really feels like that, and I said that during my staff meeting yesterday.”