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Evers: UW reopening was right call despite virus surge

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — University of Wisconsin-Madison officials made the right decision to reopen the campus even though there’s been a surge of COVID-19 cases among students and university employees, Gov. Tony Evers said Tuesday.

The state’s flagship university reopened Sept. 2 after officials sent students home in March to finish the spring semester online. As of Tuesday, 2,160 students and 31 university workers have tested positive for COVID-19. The university has been forced to suspend in-person classes in lieu of online instruction and quarantine multiple fraternity and sorority houses as well as two large dorms.

Campus leaders voted Monday to cancel spring break this coming March.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank has blamed the outbreak on students attending parties, refusing to social distance and refusing to wear masks. She’s been intensely criticized for opening the campus for the fall semester after other colleges across the country that opened earlier saw similar outbreaks. She has said students with off-campus leases would have returned to Madison anyway, and in-person instruction is the best method of education.

Evers, a Democrat, defended the decision during a video conference with reporters, saying the reopening came with a massive effort to test students and trace infected students’ contacts. Students should also take more responsibility for their behavior, he said. Everyone knew reopening K-12 schools and universities would be “bumpy,” the governor said.

“If we’re waiting for (the coronavirus) to be gone, we could be waiting until next year at this time,” Evers said.

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