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As cases rise, how some college towns are trying to contain the spread of COVID-19

Colorado State University and the city of Fort Collins held a public meeting to discuss the disease Thursday night.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — We’re beginning to see a shift in where most COVID-19 outbreaks are coming from. Data now shows the highest number of active outbreaks are centered around schools and colleges. 

College towns like Boulder and Fort Collins are working to try and contain the number of new cases.

Right now, the number of COVID-19 cases at Colorado State University (CSU) is fairly low, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). But just like we’ve seen in Boulder, the number of new cases confirmed in college-aged students in Fort Collins is on the rise.

CSU leadership and the City of Fort Collins held a town hall Thursday evening to address the concerns. 

CSU President Joyce McConnell said the university has invested more than $2 million into testing and contact tracing since the pandemic began, conducting nearly 19,000 tests on campus.  

"There's nothing more important to us than protecting the health, and that's for everyone both on-campus and off-campus," said McConnell. "It's gatherings that are mostly where the sites of transmission are. We've actually seen no transmission in our classrooms."

In Boulder, the 5-day average of new cases has been on a steady decline after a new public health order was implemented a week ago banning 18 to 22-year-olds from gathering. Wednesday the county reported just over 40 new cases, down from a high of nearly 160 new cases in one day in late September.

RELATED: 39 active coronavirus outbreaks associated with Colorado schools, CU Boulder now has 1,503 student cases

RELATED: New health order requires all Boulder 18 to 22-year-olds to halt gatherings

Students at two residence halls at CSU were told to quarantine last week after high levels of the virus was found in wastewater. Since then at least 9 students tested positive for COVID in those dorms, while those who tested negative are now allowed to go to class again.

RELATED: CSU reports 9 COVID-19 cases after telling 2 dorms to quarantine

RELATED: Students at 2 CSU dorms told to quarantine due to high level of COVID-19 in wastewater

"The largest increase in cases is in the age group of college-aged students and slightly beyond, so 18 to 24," said McConnell. 

CSU says it plans to start a flu vaccination program on campus soon. Their hope is that can help stop both the flu and COVID-19 from becoming a problem this winter.

The online meeting took place at 6 p.m. 

Topics that were covered included: 

  • Current cases
  • Testing
  • Surveillance
  • How the agencies are working to slow the spread of the disease

The panelists were:

  • Kelly DiMartino – Deputy City Manager, City of Fort Collins
  • Tom Gonzales – Public Health Director, Larimer County
  • Joyce McConnell – President, Colorado State University

Members of the public could submit questions through Zoom during the public meeting, which was limited to 500 people. 

You can watch the full meeting here:

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