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University settings have demonstrated potential for COVID-19 outbreaks, as they can combine congregate living, substantial social activity, and a young population predisposed to mild illness. Using genomic and epidemiologic data, we describe a COVID-19 outbreak at the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison. During August - October 2020, 3,485 students tested positive, including 856/6,162 students living in residence halls. Case counts began rising during move-in week for on-campus students (August 25-31, 2020), then rose rapidly during September 1-11, 2020. UW-Madison initiated multiple prevention efforts, including quarantining two residence halls; a subsequent decline in cases was observed. Genomic surveillance of cases from Dane County, where UW-Madison is located, did not find evidence of transmission from a large cluster of cases in the two residence halls quarantined during the outbreak. Coordinated implementation of prevention measures can effectively reduce SARS-CoV-2 spread in university settings and may limit spillover to the community surrounding the university.

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