EAU CLAIRE — Though new cases of COVID-19 in Eau Claire County remain high and are at levels last seen in December 2020, UW-Eau Claire is seeing far fewer cases among students and staff compared to last year.
The director of the university’s student health service says the 80% student vaccination rate is a significant factor.
Eighty-nine people at UW-Eau Claire have tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 23, according to the university’s COVID dashboard. That number includes both on-campus and off-campus students and faculty and staff, said Dr. Kim Frodl, medical director of UW-Eau Claire’s Student Health Service.
At the same time last year, 301 people at the university had tested positive since Sept. 1.
“I think vaccinations are probably a large part of that,” Frodl said, adding that the campus’ 80% student vaccination rate is “something we’ve worked very hard on and are proud of.”
The university has administered roughly the same number of COVID-19 tests during the September-October time period during both years, Frodl said — nearly 7,200 in 2020 and nearly 7,900 this year.
Of the university’s 89 positive tests so far this school year, 28 were on-campus students, 60 were off-campus students and one was a faculty or staff member, according to university figures.
Fewer UW-Eau Claire students are also in quarantine this fall. As of Thursday, one student is quarantined — meaning the student may have had contact with someone who tested positive — and one student is in isolation, meaning the student tested positive or is displaying symptoms and waiting for test results.
At the same time last year, 33 students were quarantined and 12 were in isolation, according to the university’s 2020 COVID dashboard.
Frodl believes vaccinations are behind the difference.
Just over 80% of UW-Eau Claire students — around 7,600 — are vaccinated, more than the university’s 70% goal, according to university data.
Frodl said over 90% of faculty and staff are also vaccinated.
“I think the one difference between last year and this year is the vaccine,” she said.
This fall the university continued some of its COVID-19 protocols that began in 2020. Students and employees will be required to wear masks inside university buildings through late November, regardless of vaccination status, except for residence hall rooms and private employee offices.
In the broader Eau Claire County area, COVID-19 transmission appears to be continuing at high levels. The county is averaging 56 new cases per day, according to the Eau Claire City-County Health Department. That weekly case level was last recorded in December 2020. Six county residents were hospitalized with COVID-19 last week, according to the Health Department.
UW-Stout doesn’t currently have a COVID-19 dashboard that publicly tracks case numbers, and it doesn’t have the number of students and staff members who have tested positive so far this semester, said dean of students Sandi Scott in an email.
The university began COVID-19 testing with a new company on Oct. 1 and does not yet have testing numbers for students since the transition, UW-Stout said.
Thirteen students tested positive in September at a previous testing site; five UW-Stout employees have tested positive since Sept. 1.
Scott said that the university’s test-positivity rate is “very low.”
UW-Stout only requires biweekly testing for unvaccinated students and employees, “and again those numbers are very low,” Scott said.
As of this week, almost 76% of UW-Stout students have reported being fully vaccinated, along with almost 90% of campus employees, according to university data.