BOULDER, Colo. -- Boulder County health officials issued two new public health orders Wednesday to replace an earlier order restricting gatherings of college-age residents amid an outbreak of COVID-19.
The two new measures are designed to take a step down approach to easing of restrictions rather than removing them altogether, allowing for more opportunities for gathering as COVID-19 transmission decreases.
The original public health order was issued Sept. 24 and limited gatherings for people aged 18-22 years to two or less. That order, which is set to expire Thursday, came after a coronavirus outbreak at the University of Colorado Boulder had surpassed 1,100 cases.
The university moved to remote learning the same week as the original emergency order was issued and has stayed with online classes for the past two weeks. CU Boulder announced Wednesday that it will transition to in-person hybrid learning on Oct. 14.
The new gathering orders will rely on metrics to provide incentives for college-age residents to increase social distancing, wear face coverings, seek out testing, and cooperate with contact tracing if they test positive for COVID-19, according to a release from Boulder County Public Health.
“It outlines four levels for gatherings among 18-22-year-old individuals in the City of Boulder, ranging from no gatherings at all, to gatherings of six individuals for a private gathering or attendance at regulated events, to gathering sizes permitted per the state Dial level for Boulder County,” the release read.
Restrictions will be lifted for those in the affected age group if the four levels are met. The levels are based on testing goals, cases per 100,000 among individuals 18 to 22 years old in Boulder County, the positivity rate among the age range, number of CU students tested, and cooperation with contact tracing, officials said.
The second order is targeted to those living at 36 addresses, largely collegiate group homes, identified by the health department as repeatedly violating public health orders. Residents of those addresses will be required to continue under stay-at-home orders until Oct. 12 or until they complete and Boulder County Public Health has approved an isolation, quarantine, and testing plan, whichever is later.
Stay at Home orders for non-group collegiate group properties without violations are lifted as of Thursday at noon. Students with questions can contact the health department at 720-776-0822.
On Wednesday night, United Campus Workers Colorado union responded to the new public health orders. Their full statement is below:
CU Boulder created the largest COVID spike in the state by starting fall semester in-person and moving thousands of first-year students into campus residence halls. By switching to remote learning and cooperating with Boulder County’s Public Health Order, COVID cases on campus decreased. Today, Chancellor Phil DiStefano announced that CU Boulder will shift back to in-person/hybrid instruction.
CU Boulder’s administration claims that a return to campus will be safe. This is the same thing the administration told students, faculty, staff, and parents when they announced that fall semester would start in person. Despite having months to plan for the fall semester, campus reopened without adequate surveillance or diagnostic testing, PPE, isolation space, medical resources, or transparent plans for the inevitable spikes. Our students, faculty, staff, as well as the Boulder community, suffered for it.
Why should we believe that this reopening will be any different?
Our students are stressed. They don’t know how their classes will be taught week to week. They don’t know if they should go home or stay in Boulder. This cannot be good for their study habits or mental health. We owe it to our students to commit to a single teaching modality for the rest of this semester and do everything we can for them. There’s only one plan we can genuinely commit to: staying online through the end of the semester and allowing anyone who can perform their job duties remotely to do so.
We recognize that some in-person classes can be done well and safely and hope to see those return in Spring 2021. But CU Boulder needs to spend time now preparing for Spring. They can do this, while giving our students the educational consistency they need, by establishing now that the rest of the semester will be online. At the very least, individual instructional faculty need to have the authority themselves to make the decision to teach how they think is best. Anyone required to work on campus should receive hazard pay for endangering themselves during a pandemic.
United Campus Workers Colorado – the new wall-to-wall union for all CU campuses – are working to hold CU accountable. We’ve demanded that CU’s administration provide hazard pay for essential workers, make free diagnostic testing available to everyone in CU’s community, provide better data on the state of COVID on campus, and much more. Any faculty or non-classified staff – including furloughed and student employees, from all CU campuses – are welcome and invited to join UCWC. Help us fight for a better CU