UW Oshkosh has not yet reached the 70% vaccination rate of its students needed as an institution to qualify for eight $7,000 system scholarships, but Chancellor Andrew Leavitt said they “are getting closer” to that percentage.
Leavitt hosted two virtual town halls for students, parents, faculty, staff and community members, including one Tuesday that again allowed people to ask questions. Many of the questions at the two town halls surrounded COVID-19.
On Thursday, UWO Police Chief Kurt Leibold who heads the coronavirus team said 61% of students are vaccinated and have reported their status, as well as 66% of employees.
“We are doing a good job, but we have more work to do,” Leibold wrote in a mass email. “If you haven’t been vaccinated for COVID-19, please get vaccinated today. If you are vaccinated and haven’t reported that information to us, please do so today on this form. And faculty, please encourage your students to get vaccinated.”
Students and employees can get free vaccinations on the Oshkosh campus at Albee 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. You can walk-in or sign up on the MyPrevea app, he said.
Disease investigation team
UWO again has its own disease investigation team, said Leibold. The team will help assess students in isolation and quarantine them if they are positive for COVID-19.
Isolation and quarantine is again in the Gruenhagen Conference Center with 423 beds available. The testing and vaccination center is in Albee Hall, which is open five days a week. If you are not vaccinated, you will be required to test weekly in Albee; however, you can also get your vaccination in Albee.
This summer, thousands of children were on campus for camps, clinics and summer school classes, and around 5,000 EAA guests stayed on campus. The positivity rate from June 6 through the start of school was 0.4%.
“We’re anticipating that we’re going to see a surge of positive tests when our students come back,” Leibold said. “But just like last year, we know how to do it and how to handle things.
Students who are vaccinated should fill out the vaccination report card on the Titans Return website in order to not have to test weekly.
If students are vaccinated and do not fill this out, it is assumed that they are unvaccinated and will be required to take a weekly test.
Students are not required to upload their vaccination card into the site to prove that they have been vaccinated, but there is a way to verify students are vaccinated if there is any uncertainty. If students are lucky enough to win a scholarship, they will have to provide their card.
“What I’m doing with my college-aged students at home, is I’m having them take a picture of it and carry that with them,” Leibold said. “If your students are anything like mine and they brought the paper copy to school, it would be gone probably in a week and lost forever.”
Student Health Director Karen Sanchez said our main concern on campus is those who are unvaccinated.
“If you are unvaccinated, you are more likely to get infected, become ill from the virus, and transmit the virus,” Sanchez said. “Right now the CDC is still monitoring whether fully vaccinated persons with asymptomatic breakthrough infections can transmit the virus.”
“Last year we did have to limit guests to just students as a gatekeeping effort in fighting COVID,” Director of Student Housing Rob Babcock said. “This year we have reverted back to our traditional guest policy.”
Students are allowed to have guests as they always have prior to COVID-19, but they must follow all rules, wear masks and sign in with a state ID of some sort.
Dining on campus
“We’re going back to more of the fresh foods, cook to order foods, and there will still be some of those grab and go items,” Executive Director for Campus Life Jean Kwaterski said. “We realize students just want to grab something and head onto class.”
All dining locations including Reeve Union, Blackhawk Commons, Scotty’s Market in Scott Hall, the Clow Cafe, and Einstein Bros Bagels in Sage Hall are open. Later this fall, a new dining location will be opening in the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.
Any time a student needs to miss class, whether it is for COVID-19, other illnesses or a family emergency, students will be accommodated, Provost John Koker said.
“There’s no reason to believe that if a student needs to miss a couple weeks of class, that we won’t accommodate them,” Koker said. “My phrase for faculty is always ‘they’re not excused from the work, but they’re excused from class.’”
If a student needs to miss class, they should talk with their instructor and let them know when they will be gone.
Staff will accommodate to help students make up missed work on a different time frame if they have to miss class.
UWO is back to full capacity in labs. They are actually one of the safest places on campus due to mask wearing, eye protection and lab coats.
“Whether it’s a scientific lab, a lab in our strength and conditioning or exercise major, a lab in music where students will be singing or acting class, those very interactive close-contact spaces are fully masked, hopefully soon fully vaccinated,” Koker said. “[Labs] are a big part of our education here.”
Start of the 2021-22 school year
Leavitt said he was impressed with how smoothly the move-in process went. Even with a smaller group of people aiding and directing the vehicles for unpacking, the residential and custodial staff made a great effort to pull everything together.
On opening day, UW System Interim President Tommy Thompson came to campus to address faculty and staff, interact with students and encourage vaccinations.
He also stopped by the Taste of UW Oshkosh event where students were eager to meet and receive him. Thompson left the university impressed, Leavitt said.
The UW System is looking for a new president. A listening session will be held at UWO on Sept. 27. Leavitt encouraged everyone to attend and share thoughts.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include the vaccination rate for students and employees as of Sept. 15.