Vice Chancellor for University of Wisconsin Student Affairs Lori Reesor sent a message to undergraduates Monday asking students who plan to leave campus for Thanksgiving not to return to Madison to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the community. 

The message advises students who need to complete their semester in Madison to not travel over the Thanksgiving holiday and asks those who do travel to stay at their permanent residence until the second semester. 

Reesor warned of the recent spike in Wisconsin cases and the threat of spreading the virus through travel while asking students to comply with these protocols. 

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This action is to help prevent spread and a potential outbreak of the virus that may occur when students travel home for Thanksgiving and then return to campus afterwards,” Reesor said.  “Currently, infection rates at UW–Madison and in Dane County remain lower than most of Wisconsin, where infection rates are among the highest in the United States.” 

Reesor repeated the plan announced in July that all classes and final exams — except certain training and research programs — will be virtual following Thanksgiving break. 

The release also outlines a testing and isolation plan for students who need to return from Thanksgiving break which includes recommendations for students to limit social interactions, closely monitor symptoms and get tested if necessary. Those living in residence halls will return to their normal testing schedule but might be asked to test before their normal testing date. 

For those staying on campus over the break, residence halls, libraries, RecWell facilities, study and dining spaces will be available but these services might be limited after Thanksgiving, according to the release

Medical experts have warned of a second wave of COVID-19 cases this winter as safer outdoor spaces close with the cold weather, leading many colleges to shorten their semesters and send students home around Thanksgiving. There has also been speculation about a possible “Twindemic” occurring if the winter flu and COVID-19 seasons are bad this year.

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The Wisconsin Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control said Thanksgiving travel is risky and cite waiting lines and shared surfaces as ways to spread the virus. UW canceled the 2021 spring break Sept 14 in an effort to prevent COVID-19 transmission from student travel. 

Spring semester classes will begin Jan 25 for UW students according to the school’s academic calendar