Health officials keep watch on COVID, other illnesses

Posted December 12, 2022

The last two spikes in COVID-19 infections came at the end of the year in 2020 and 2021, so local health officials are concerned about the virus and other illnesses that may affect UW-River Falls students’ health going into the spring semester.

While UW-River Falls has stopped tracking COVID-19 cases due to no longer having a testing center on campus, Student Health and Counseling Services is still offering many resources. Director Debra Janis said that throughout the fall semester health officials were able to continue to provide free COVID-19 testing kits to all staff and students.

Additionally, a new way the office has been interacting with students is by attending the Weekly Hump Day Café to provide cold kits and COVID-19 test kits, and to answer any health questions, said Janis. The weekly event is put on by the UW-River Falls Student Government Association.

Experts at the events include Student Health Nurse Michelle Klechefski and Office Manager Sonja Johnson. In addition to this team, the campus has a COVID-19 team that meets regularly to discuss important issues and any new information, said Janis.

From students going home for a break during Thanksgiving and between the fall and spring semesters, also known as winter break, Janis is aware COVID-19 and Influenza A are circulating in the area and throughout the state.

“We believe this will continue for the next couple of months so students may get sick during the winter break and/or when they return,” said Janis. She added, “We are hoping students stay healthy.”

The student health team meets regularly with AZ Snyder, director of Pierce County Public Health, to stay on top of what is happening in the area, said Janis. Additionally, she stated the collaboration provides the campus with important information related to any health issues in the area.

Snyder said she is concerned as well with COVID-19 cases and Influenza A patterns.

“Wisconsin is experiencing influenza levels much higher than we’ve seen early in the flu season the previous four years,” said Snyder.

Snyder said that with effective vaccines available for COVID-19 and monkeypox — another possible concern for experts — she is hopeful most students have been already vaccinated. While COVID-19 is still a concern, monkeypox cases have shown a promising decline in most countries, including the U.S., said Snyder.

While the campus has continued to offer vaccine clinics throughout the fall semester, Snyder said the state-funded contractor who offered COVID-19 vaccines will no longer be available after December. However, Pierce County Public Health will continue conversations with the student health team on campus.

“We have assured them that we will be available to come to campus if there is ever demand or a new COVID-19 booster available,” said Snyder.

Vaccine clinics will continue to be offered in the Pierce County Public Health office in Ellsworth. More general information about COVID-19 is available on the UWRF Falcons Forward web page,