By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Nearly all of the classes being taught currently on University of Wisconsin campuses are in person, bouncing back from last year when nearly all went remote as COVID-19 spread across the state, interim UW System President Tommy Thompson said on Tuesday.
Thompson in February set a goal of having 75% of classes taught in person starting this fall, after the COVID-19 vaccine was widely available. Two weeks into the fall semester, 85% of classes across the system are in person, including 93% at the flagship Madison campus.
“If you walk around and talk to the students on campus, as I do, they’re very excited, very, very appreciative of being back and having their classes in person,” Thompson said.
Every four-year campus except UW-Superior had at least 75% of classes taught in person. Superior’s was at 65%, but that is because a large number of that campuses classes were online by design prior to the pandemic and remain so, the university said. Every class at Superior that had been teaching in person, but went remote last year, is now back in person.
UW-La Crosse had the highest percentage in person at 94%, followed by 93% at Madison and Platteville. The others ranged between 75% and 87%.
Of the 85% taught in person, 80% were fully in person while 5% were hybrid, according to the university.
“I know a lot of people up in the Capitol are very happy with that, but didn’t think we would reach it,” Thompson said referring to the Legislature which sets UW’s budget. “I knew we could. I wasn’t sure we would, but I knew we could. And we did.”
Thompson had made teaching classes in person a priority as he implemented masking and testing protocols across the system in an attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Students have been encouraged, but not required, to get the vaccination.
Data released last week by the university showed that 91% of students on the Madison campus were vaccinated, but rates varied widely across campuses. They dropped as low as 38% at UW-Parkside.
Cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Wisconsin due to the more contagious delta variant, straining hospitals and leading to renewed calls for people to get vaccinated. The seven-day average of new cases as of Monday was 2,967, the highest it’s been since mid-December. There were 1,099 people hospitalized due to COVID-19 as of Monday, the highest since early January.
An unvaccinated person in Wisconsin is four times more likely to test positive, nearly nine times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die from the virus than someone who has been vaccinated, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.