BOULDER, Colo. — Due to a significant rise in COVID-19 cases linked primarily to University of Colorado students on the Boulder campus (CU-Boulder), the school announced late Tuesday that it would be moving to a 14-day quarantine period for students who live in the City of Boulder, according to a letter from school.
"They have to modify their behaviors," Pat O'Roarke, CU's Chief Operating Officer, said. "What we have seen, I believe, is that they may not have understood the gravity of what we're trying to communicate."
That quarantine period does not apply to CU-Boulder faculty or staff.
CU-Boulder officials and local public health officials hosted a briefing at 10 a.m. Wednesday to discuss the need for the changes. The briefing comes after Boulder County Public Health in a joint release with CU officials said they strongly recommended that all local CU-Boulder undergraduate and graduate students immediately self-quarantine for two weeks in their campus-area home or residence hall.
“Our case count in the last two weeks has been much higher than anything we’ve seen previously, said Jeff Zayach, Boulder County Public Health executive director “In the past 10 days specifically, we’ve had six days with over 50 new reported cases, a large majority of which are students.”
CU-Boulder said it will be enforcing that measure, which expires at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 29. During that time, students are not allowed to gather for social purposes of any kind. That includes social gatherings among people who reside in buildings with 10 or more unrelated occupants.
“We are taking these steps to protect the health and safety of the community, as well as to protect the university’s ability to continue to provide an on-campus, in-person learning experience for our students,” CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano said.
Even though students are not allowed to gather for social purposes, DiStefano said he wanted to make sure the social, emotional and mental health needs of students are met.
"Virtual events and programs will be offered to support students to engage outside the classroom in the safest way possible," DiStefano said.
In response to the increase in cases, free testing will be available in Boulder from Sept. 16 to Sept. 30. Residents do not have to have symptoms to be tested.
The new test site is located in the Pleasant Street Parking Lot at 1205 Pleasant St. It will be will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for at least the next two weeks, Zayach said.
During the quarantine period, all in-person activities except those outlined below will be canceled.
Quarantine period guidelines
Quarantine is not the same as isolation. Quarantine is avoiding in-person interactions with others, monitoring yourself for symptoms and following health precautions like washing your hands, covering your coughs and sneezes, disinfecting shared spaces and not sharing household items.
Isolation occurs when a person has a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Local CU-Boulder students may leave their residences only to:
- Attend in-person classes, labs, research activities, and intercollegiate athletic trainings.
- Obtain food, medicine, medical care and emergency supplies that cannot be delivered. This includes seeking COVID-19-related testing.
- Work and take children to school/child care.
- Exercise by yourself. The Rec Center remains open by appointment.
When in public to carry out any of those permitted activities, students must maintain a physical distance of at least six feet from others and wear a face covering.
The campus will continue to support students with dining, monitoring, testing, medical care and mental health services.
Expectations and enforcement
Students are expected to follow all public health orders from state, county and city public health officials, as well as all directives from the university intended to prevent or mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including participation in testing and contact tracing.
The vast majority are doing the right thing, however, CU officials said 422 students have been referred for student code of conduct violations due to not following public health orders.
Students found in violation of COVID-19 protocols will face strict enforcement of the student code of conduct and the campus health and safety policy, which may include exclusion from campus, probation — which can impact future study abroad or attending graduate school — and suspension from the university pending adjudication.
In asking students to quarantine, CU said county health officials are prepared to take additional steps, including mandatory stay-at-home orders if the situation does not improve.
Dr. Sheryll Ziegler is a child and family therapist. She said it will be difficult to get college students to comply, but she said the best way is to try to convince them in small groups.
"Can I go to the floor of one dorm? Can I go to one sports team? Kind of approaching it in smaller pockets that way I think would be much more effective at least from a psychological perspective," Ziegler said.
She also said the most effective way is what Ziegler calls swapping statistics for stories.
"You know, the entire football team of this school just had to go home," she said. "You know, our next-door neighbor, she just got expelled. Those are the kinds of stories that resonate with people."
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