Boulder County Public Health on Tuesday issued a strong recommendation to University of Colorado students living in Boulder to quarantine in their homes or residence halls for 14 days in response to a "significant increase in the number of Boulder County residents who have tested positive for COVID-19" in the past two weeks.
"The majority of these new cases has been among Boulder residents, particularly those aged 18 to 29, many of whom attend the University of Colorado Boulder," the county health department stated in a news release. "Most transmission seems to be coming from large off-campus gatherings, particularly among sororities, fraternities and other students living in the Hill neighborhood, along with failure to wear face coverings and practice physical distancing."
The call for quarantine is a move being made jointly by Boulder County Public Health, CU Boulder and the city of Boulder, according to the release.
"Individuals should not leave their residence unless it is for work, class, or getting food to take care of children or parents, or medical attention (including to get tested) that cannot be provided remotely," the health department stated in the release.
“We must stop this spike in cases. It affects the health, safety, and livelihood of all of our Boulder County residents,” Jeff Zayach, Boulder County Public Health executive director, stated in the release. “While this isn’t a perfect solution, it’s our hope that this will halt the current spread of the virus and allow us to better control transmission of this virus in the county.”
The university is supporting the measure and is communicating clear expectations to students that it be followed, according to the release.
“We are cooperating fully with Boulder County Public Health for the health and safety of everyone in our community,” CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano stated. “The next several days are critical for us to avoid more stringent restrictions on our campus operations. We need more students to do their part and follow public health guidelines at this important moment.”
Other actions from CU will include supporting students on campus with testing, resources to support the quarantine in place, including food, medical as well as mental health support, according to the release. Additionally, virtual events and programs will be offered to support students to engage outside of the classroom in the safest way possible.
Boulder County Public Health also has partnered with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to bring a free walk-up testing site to Boulder, beginning today, and a drive-thru site in the near future, according to the release.
“We want to make sure there are no barriers for students to know if they might be spreading this virus,” Zayach stated. “By having free and easy testing available, we can more quickly and effectively identify and separate those who are ill.”
All Boulder County residents interested in being tested are encouraged to visit the testing site. Appointments are not required for the free tests, and people do not need to be experiencing COVID symptoms to be tested. Residents should bring a form of identification in order to ensure test results are accurately recorded, according to the health department. Full details, including hours and location of the testing site, are available at www.boco.org/COVID19Testing.
“These are just two of the many steps we are taking in partnership with CU and the city to protect our entire community,” Zayach stated. “We will share more information about additional steps we’re planning as soon as the legal and logistical issues are worked out.”
Boulder County Public Health stated it will continue to monitor case rates and transmission and is prepared to take additional steps, beyond those outlined above, if rates do not stabilize.
As of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, 2,989 Boulder County residents had tested positive or were presumed positive for COVID, 204 people were hospitalized for COVID and 79 people had died from the virus, according to health department data.
CU Boulder is not alone in seeing a spike in COVID cases among its student population. Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state’s top epidemiologist, on Tuesday said Colorado is experiencing an upward trend in coronavirus cases among college-age students, mirroring similar case growth across the U.S., according to the Associated Press.
She said there has been a “substantial increase” in coronavirus cases among those 18-to-22, with the greatest increase among freshman and sophomore students, according to the AP, which reported the number of outbreaks among this age group is also increasing with six reported to the state over the last week based in colleges and universities. Based on the number of outbreaks under investigation, they expect that number to double by the end of the week, Herlihy told the AP.