MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Three western Wisconsin regional UW campuses will move to distance learning after Thanksgiving due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in the surrounding areas.

The chancellors of UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout, and UW-River Falls, made the decision Thursday.

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In northwestern Wisconsin, Mayo Clinic announced Wednesday that 100% of its hospital beds are full. On Tuesday, Gov. Tony Evers advised people to stay home in an executive order.

“We all had high hopes of returning to campus after the fall break to continue our in-person classes,” said UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Jim Schmidt. “But with these two pieces of important information within a 24-hour period, it was a literal game-changer.”

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Though the schools will transition to distance learning, the campuses will stay open. Students will be able to live in their dorms and use the dining services, have access to WiFi and the library. Employees are also allowed to access their offices and research labs.

Those who are planning to return to campus after Thanksgiving break, however, must be tested twice in the week they return to campus and routine testing will continue to be mandatory for students living in the dorms.

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The chancellors emphasize that their decision to switch learning models was not a reflection on a rise in cases among the students or employees, and does not impact their plans for the spring semester.

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