Students, faculty, and staff at the University of Wisconsin–Madison won’t be required to be vaccinated against the CCP virus before returning to the campus for the fall semester, the Big Ten school said.
In a June 24 email sent to all employees, UW–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said that an “exceptionally strong” participation in vaccination has driven the cases in Dane County, where the campus is located, down to the lowest level since May 2020. She estimated that at least 74 percent of the 24,186 employees had received at least their first dose of the vaccine, and about half of the 45,540 students were vaccinated.
“Vaccination is strongly encouraged; however it is not required,” Blank wrote. “The university will not disclose an individual’s vaccination status to others. It is up to individuals to decide whether to share their vaccination status with colleagues, supervisors, and employees.”
The university is also encouraging those who are unvaccinated to wear face coverings. While masks are no longer required, that’s consistent with local and national public health guidance.
“Anyone, regardless of vaccination status, may choose to wear a mask,” the message reads. “Choosing to wear a mask does not indicate vaccination status.”
In addition, the university will lift all the restrictions on building capacity and access in the fall, including the requirement to keep a physical distance in classrooms. Also retired is the “Badger Badge” smartphone app, which was implemented last spring as part of the campus health protocol. The app has been used by students and employees to schedule COVID-19 tests, and they could only enter campus buildings by showing their green “Badge” indicating a negative test result for that week.
The announcement comes as 6 out of the 14 universities in the Big Ten Conference have mandated vaccination for part of or the entire population. The University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign, Indiana University, the University of Maryland, Northwestern University, and Rutgers University require COVID-19 vaccinations for all students returning to campus this fall, while the University of Michigan only requires the shot for students living in residence halls.
In Wisconsin, the Republican-led state legislature has approved and is considering a series of measures that would prohibit government health officials, university administrators, and business owners from mandating vaccination against the CCP virus, which causes COVID-19. Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, has said he would veto at least one of them if they were sent to his desk.
“I think it’s a reasonable request of a business to make those requests,” Evers said earlier this month. “If you’re a health care institution, you may want to ask those questions. Certainly, Lawrence University is already out in front of this—asking, requiring students and therefore asking them to show proof.”