UW-Madison goes completely virtual as COVID-19 cases surge — 9/10/20

A roundup of top news and information about Wisconsin’s response to the coronavirus

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The University of Wisconsin-Madison is pivoting to completely online classes for at least two weeks in an effort to slow a campus COVID-19 outbreak that soared past 1,000 cases just days after students returned for the fall semester. 

“The announcement on Wednesday came as little surprise to the campus community, many of whom expected the university to pivot to all-online in the face of uncontrolled virus spread and criticized administrators for their ‘Smart Restart’ reopening plan throughout the summer,” Kelly Meyerhofer reports for the Wisconsin State Journal. “The order came on the fifth day of classes, on the heels of a long holiday weekend and after each of the last two days saw a positivity rate of 20% or greater among students. The city-county public health department said there are at least 46 separate outbreaks currently tied to UW-Madison.” 

Chancellor Rebecca Blank on Wednesday announced a host of additional measures to slow the virus, including directing students in Sellery and Witte Residence Halls to immediately quarantine in place for two weeks. 

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“We believe that it was an absolutely legal public health emergency…Things were substantively different, that’s what our argument will be in court, and we’ll see whether  the court agrees with us or not. It is very important, and we’ll fight every step of the way.”

— Gov. Tony Evers during a Milwaukee Press Club/WisPolitics.com event, addressing the Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty’s move to sue over his July emergency order, rather than challenging the mask mandate that followed the order. 

Data to note

Here are the latest pandemic-related findings from the Marquette Law School poll of likely Wisconsin voters released Wednesday:

  • Gov. Tony Evers’ overall job approval ratings have fallen to pre-pandemic levels, with 51% approving and 43% disapproving of his job performance in September. Evers received higher marks earlier in the pandemic. In August, 57% approved while 37% disapproved. That was after the ratings peaked in late March, when 65% approved and 29% disapproved. 
  • An estimated 57% of likely voters in September approved of Evers’ handling of the pandemic, while 38% disapproved. That was also down from previous months. 
  • President Donald Trump in September notched a 41% approval rating of his pandemic performance, with 56% of likely voters disapproving — a slight improvement from August but still below earlier months. 
  • Some 21% of likely voters in September said they were “very worried” about the coronavirus, while 39% were “somewhat worried,” 19% were “not very worried” and 19% were “not very worried at all.” 
  • Meanwhile, just 43% of those polled in September said they were “comfortable” reopening schools, while 51% were “uncomfortable.” That comfort level has dropped in recent months. In June, 54% said they were comfortable while 38% were uncomfortable. Comfort levels for those with school-aged children also dropped in September. 
  • Some Wisconsinites say they are not ready to be vaccinated against coronavirus once pharmaceutical companies make an option available. In the September poll, 35% said they would definitely get vaccinated, while 29% probably would. Meanwhile, 15% said they would probably not take the vaccine and 18% would definitely not do so. “Older people are more likely to get the vaccine than those 30 to 59, though those under 30 are also a bit more likely to say they will definitely get vaccinated,” the pollsters reported. Democrats and independent voters were more likely than Republicans to be receptive to a vaccine. 

The poll interviewed 802 registered Wisconsin voters by landline or cell phone from Aug. 30 to Sept. 3. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points for the full sample. There were 688 likely voters within the poll, with a margin of error of plus or minutes 4.3 percentage points.

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