Two more University of Wisconsin System campuses reached a 70% student vaccination rate this week, unlocking a number of scholarships for students who received their shots.
UW-Oshkosh and UW-Whitewater joined UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse and UW-Milwaukee in meeting the 70% goal set by interim System President Tommy Thompson.
UW-Madison, which is not participating in the scholarship incentive program and has a student vaccination rate above 90%, announced on Friday an extension of the university’s indoor mask mandate that will last at least until late November.
Many other System campuses have mask mandates that last until Sept. 30, although System spokesperson Ethan Schuh said they are looking at potentially extending those orders in the coming week.
UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank extended the order to Nov. 26, the day after Thanksgiving, based on UW-Madison’s return to mostly in-person classes, current COVID-19 transmission levels within the larger community and the move to more indoor activity as the weather gets colder.
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UW-Madison officials warned that the return to school would lead to an increased number of COVID-19 cases. The university’s data dashboard bears that out, with more than 250 cases in the second week of classes but a declining caseload in recent days.
UW-Madison accounted for 22% of the county’s cases over the past two weeks, according to the city-county health agency. About 71% of the university’s cases came from vaccinated individuals and 29% from unvaccinated people within that time period.
That’s no reason to think the vaccines aren’t working, said Jeff Pothof, UW Health chief quality and safety officer. Even though breakthrough infections are somewhat uncommon, UW-Madison will see some infection among vaccinated individuals when more than 90% of the 65,000-person campus is vaccinated.
“When I look at those numbers, man, the unvaccinated are still getting infected at a pretty high rate even though only one in every 10 people on campus are unvaccinated,” he said. “So it may look on the surface counterintuitive, but this shows how effective the vaccines are.”
Put another way: 302 of the nearly 60,000 vaccinated individuals on campus were infected between Sept. 6 and Sept. 19 — a rate of about 0.5% — whereas 126 of the roughly 6,000 unvaccinated individuals at UW-Madison tested positive, a rate of about 2%.
At other UW campuses, university leaders are offering prizes and incentives to encourage students to get vaccinated. That’s on top of the System’s campaign raffling off $7,000 scholarships to 70 students who attend a campus that reaches a 70% student vaccination rate.
The System previously set Oct. 15 as the deadline by which students must get their shots to be eligible for the drawing slated for sometime later this fall. Officials have extended the deadline to Oct. 31.
Here’s how each campus stacked up, as reported to the System on Wednesday:
- UW-Madison: 93%
- UW-Milwaukee: 81%
- UW-La Crosse: 75%
- UW-Eau Claire: 74%
- UW-Whitewater: 69%
- UW-Oshkosh: 66%
- UW-Stout: 65%
- UW-River Falls: 61%
- UW-Green Bay: 58%
- UW-Superior: 51%
- UW-Platteville: 49%
- UW-Stevens Point: 49%
- UW-Parkside: 41%