Two years of COVID-19: What UWO has done in the last year


Katie Pulvermacher / The Advance-Titan — On March 21, masks will no longer be required on the Oshkosh campuses except in the Student Health Center and the Albee testing center. Students around campus are enthusiastic about this news.

Katie Pulvermacher, News Editor

Today marks two years since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. UW Oshkosh shut down its campuses, leading students to adjust to the new reality of online classes and isolation for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester.

Not surprisingly, people know a lot more about the virus today than two years ago. FDA-approved vaccines, ventilated masks and testing sites were implemented and helped to stop the spread on campus, even as the global death rate due to COVID reached 6 million on Monday.

Nevertheless, COVID-19 is still affecting everyone after two years. A lot can happen in two years – a change of careers, a life-changing vacation, quitting a bad habit, fixing a broken relationship or finding a passion in life. 

Lots of things also happened at UWO in these past two years. To recap the first year, read this article first. Here’s what has happened at UWO from March 2021 to the present. 

March 2021

At the start of the March, the Student Health Center began administering vaccines to educators and child care workers. Testing picked up at the Culver Family Welcome Center.

A second variant strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was identified by The Wisconsin Department of Health Services on March 4. A third strand was identified on March 25.

The positivity rate for COVID-19 cases remained below 1%, according to the UWO COVID-19 dashboard.

Students had to get weekly COVID-19 tests and were required to wear masks and social distance. 

April 2021

UWO athletics started allowing fans and spectators to attend events. All had to wear masks, remain socially distanced and could not interact with the athletes.

UW System campuses decided to exempt vaccinated students from weekly testing requirements, and would not mandate vaccinations for the fall 2021 semester. 

May 2021

Four in-person graduation ceremonies took place. The ceremonies were live-streamed, as attendance was limited to maintain safety protocols.

June 2021

Masking and physical distancing requirements were eased as of June 1 for those who were fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Vaccinated individuals could choose to wear face coverings, but were not required to wear them indoors or outdoors, and did not have to socially distance or test unless symptoms developed. 

Unvaccinated individuals had to wear masks indoors and outdoors when physical distancing, continue to test once per week if in campus housing or biweekly for off-campus students and staff.

 July 2021

UWO launched a campaign to encourage students to get vaccinated. Vax Up Titans provided 10 $1,000 scholarships to students vaccinated by Oct. 15. 

This followed the announcement by the UW System of its Vax Up! 70 for 70 campaign, which offered a limited number of $7,000 scholarships to COVID-19 vaccinated students at UW schools that reached a 70% vaccination rate by Oct. 31.

August 2021

Chancellor Andrew Leavitt and Police Chief Kurt Leibold emailed the University community on Aug. 6 saying UWO is not imposing a mask mandate on campus, but the decision could change as conditions change.

On Aug. 10, after consulting with healthcare partners, UWO put in place indoor mask requirements regardless of vaccination status.

September 2021

Students returned to campus with mask requirements, but with plenty more opportunities and events on campus. Residence halls welcomed back guests, Blackhawk Commons made a grand re-opening and allowed students to eat-in and labs returned back to full capacity.

At the start of the month, reported vaccination rates were 61% of students and 66% of employees.

UWO was able to celebrate its 150th sesquicentennial outside without masks.

On Sept. 24, UWO students achieved a 70% vaccination rate.

October 2021

The Student Rec and Wellness Center increased mask restrictions as students were not complying.

The campus positivity rate remained around 1%, after the 2% of September, per the Titans Return Dashboard.

On Oct. 25, masks were no longer required for students in residence halls on the Oshkosh campus. This was true except in areas marked with “mask required” signs, or when hall residents were in a meeting with staff members or in an employee staff office area.

November – December 2021

Masks were no longer required in UW Oshkosh campus recreational facilities and in Polk Library on the Oshkosh campus.

The 70 for 70 and Vax Up Titans scholarship winners were announced on Nov. 16.

Semester ended with in-person graduation ceremonies.

January – February 2022

The isolation period was reduced to five days if asymptomatic.

On Jan. 31, masks were required once again in campus recreation centers and at Polk Library for the spring semester. Residence Halls were the exception for masking.

March 2022

Indoor mask requirements were lifted in most locations across campus, under the announcement of interim UW System President Tommy Thompson.

Masks are currently lifted on all three campuses except in all classrooms and labs, COVID-19 testing and vaccination centers and the student health center on the Oshkosh campus.

UWO retains a 1.1% positivity rate as of March 10.

Leibold said he believes UWO’s management of COVID-19 health and safety over the past two years has been “exemplary.”

“We took measures every step of the way to protect health and safety, and then consistently evaluated and re-evaluated our approach to ensure we are reacting to current conditions,” Leibold said. “Our Emergency Operations Committee is an excellent team of individuals from around the University who meet weekly to discuss the latest information related to COVID-19 so we can adjust our safety protocols and communicate information to our University community.”

On March 21, masks will no longer be required on the Oshkosh campuses except in the Student Health Center and the Albee testing center.

“Thank you for your flexibility and adaptability over the past two years,” Leibold said in a mass email on March 9. “I am pleased that as we near spring break 2022, we are able to safely lift mask requirements and continue to move forward, using everything we have learned in the past couple of years to protect our campus community.”