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Robots deliver food — and relief — to UW students still on campus during COVID-19 pandemic

April 9, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Students wary of coming into contact with COVID-19 at the dining hall can instead dispatch a robot to deliver food to their dorm.

Robots deliver food — and relief — to UW students still on campus during COVID-19 pandemic

Starship robots wait to cross Park Street on UW-Madison's nearly deserted campus last week.

Most of UW-Madison's 45,000 students are gone.

Campus buildings are closed to all but the few employees deemed essential to university operations. But the robots remain, one of the few fixtures of campus culture still intact since the coronavirus brought much of UW-Madison to an abrupt halt.

"You think about all of the times they would be helpful but, no, I never imagined a pandemic as one of those situations," said UW-Madison director of dining and culinary services Peter Testory. The bots conjured comparisons to the Disney science fiction movie WALL•E last fall.

UW-Madison has been receiving roughly 70 daily delivery orders in recent weeks with about 550 students still living in residence halls, Testory said.

A Starship robot on UW-Madison's campus last fall delivers food to a student.

But UW-Madison has not not had the staff to run its own delivery service in recent years because of a student worker shortage in dining halls. With far fewer potential customers on campus because of the pandemic, Testory said workers are only "waking up" 10 to 14 of the fleet of 30 robots per day.

Playgrounds in Wisconsin, including the one next to Emerson Elementary on Madison's East Side, are among the public facilities closed during the COVID-19 crisis.

All of Madison's public libraries have closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health care workers at UW Health are using face shields and masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19, but whether the general public should wear masks has become more of a topic for debate.

A "rent strike" sign hangs from a balcony outside a home on Williamson Street in Madison, Wis. , Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

Independent Living, which runs the dinner program in Madison, and SSM Health at Home, which runs the lunch program, have been serving more people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hanah Jon Taylor plays the saxophone Saturday outside his jazz club, Cafe Coda, on Williamson Street that was ordered to close earlier this week along with bars and restaurants across the state due to the spread of COVID-19.

Anderson-Carter passes time with her sister, Lexus, left, before the Match Day at UW-Madison's School of Medicine and Public Health began.

UW-Madison medical school student India Anderson-Carter, right, learned Friday where she will spend her medical residency.

Covid State Street

A near empty State Street and Library Mall in Madison Thursday March 19, 2020.

A pedestrian on a near empty State Street in Madison Thursday March 19, 2020.

Shelby Retzlaff, assistant food service director for the Oregon School District, hands out lunch for today and breakfast for tomorrow for those interested as vehicles pull through the bus lane to pick up student computers at Rome Corners Intermediate School in Oregon, Wis. , Wednesday, March 18, 2020.

Visitors walk through UW's Memorial Union Terrace in Madison, Wis. , Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

UW-Madison graduate student Bryan Luu walks down Bascom Hill on campus in Madison, Wis. , Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

Visitors walk through UW's Memorial Union Terrace in Madison, Wis. , Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

Here, Sol Kelley-Jones of Madison, Wis. shares a moment with her son, Reyah, 2, during a trip to the UW-Arboretum in the city Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

Leopold Elementary School student Shalom Harimana, 12, right, and his brother, Danny, 7, receive pre-packaged bags of breakfast and lunch meals Monday from workers with the Madison School District.

Hawk Sullivan, owner of Hawk's Bar & Grill on State Street in Madison, said people who care about local restaurants and bars need to write their elected representatives and urge them to bail out small businesses that have been swamped by new limits on public gatherings.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway talks Sunday about "aggressive" action city and county officials are taking to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, including immediately closing all Dane County schools, banning gatherings of 50 or more people and reducing restaurant capacities by half.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway listens to Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison and Dane County, during a press conference Sunday announcing a new order to stop gatherings of 50 or more people in the city and in Dane County along with some restrictions on restaurants to reduce capacity.

COVID-19 coronavirus UW-Madison campus dorm move-out

UW-Madison freshman Megan Beaulie, right, chats in her dorm room in Waters Residence Hall with fellow freshman Cristina Dombrowski, who lives down the hall, as the two on March 12 prepare to move off campus because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

With schools shutting down for at least two-and-a-half weeks, the Madison School District plans to have 10 sites across the district where students can continue to receive free breakfast and lunch.

Madison interim Superintendent Jane Belmore takes questions Friday from reporters about the district's plans for when all Wisconsin schools are required to close by 5 p. m. Wednesday.

Tuesday will be the last day of classes for students in the Madison School District.

Dukmo Key, with UW-Madison Housing Services, cleans a door inside Elizabeth Waters Residence Hall on campus Thursday as students prepare to move out temporarily because of the COVID-19 outbreak caused by the new coronavirus.

Students at UW-Madison prepare to board a bus as they depart for spring break from the campus in Madison, Wis. Friday, March 13, 2020.



UW-Madison freshmen students Brielle Truong,, left, and Megan Beaulie, 19, converse about a campus-wide email Beaulie received regarding the university's ongoing coronavirus precautions in a hallway of the Elizabeth Waters Residence Hall on the campus in Madison, Wis. Thursday, March 12, 2020.


Under the emergency declaration he announced Thursday, Gov. Tony Evers has directed the state Department of Health Services to "use all the resources necessary to respond to and contain the outbreak" of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

UW Covid-19

UW-Madison leaders have outlined their efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, including asking students living in residence halls to return home for the next month.

UW Covid-19

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank speaks during a Wednesday news conference about the university's decision to suspend face-to-face instruction through April 10.

University Health Services executive director Jake Baggott, right, is spearheading UW-Madison's response to COVID-19.

Dr. Nasia Safdar, medical director of infection control at UW Health, left, joins Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi in talking about how local government, health and hospital officials are preparing for potential community spread of the new coronavirus.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, behind the podium, said at a news conference Wednesday that local officials are preparing for the likelihood of community spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Dane County, City of Madison, Hospital & Clinic Health Systems held a press conference brief the public on the counties response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Preparation.

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