Colleges, schools and childcare centers remain hotspots for COVID-19 infections as the number of outbreaks increases statewide.
The Colorado Department of Health and Environment confirmed at least 16 new outbreaks in education facilities this week, adding them to the 46 others that have occurred since the last week in August when most schools began.
As of Wednesday, there were at least 2,211 confirmed cases among those attending college, school or daycare.
The majority of these new cases occurred at University of Colorado Boulder, which, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, had at least 1,527 confirmed cases and 168 suspected cases as of Wednesday. In response to a spike in cases, CU shut down on-campus classes Sept. 23.
Though the CU outbreak is still active, the number of new cases is now in a sharp decline according to the university’s COVID dashboard.
Two new public health orders went into effect in Boulder County on Wednesday.
CU is one of three colleges that the state health department has flagged as having widespread, communitywide disease transmission. CDPHE now tracks all cases associated with those schools together, rather than separating them out into individual outbreaks associated with a particular area of campus.
Colorado State University, with 375 confirmed cases, and Regis University in Denver, with 56 confirmed cases and 21 suspected cases, are the other two colleges with community spread.
In colleges where individual outbreaks are still tracked, fraternities, sororities, residence halls and athletic events remain the primary source of COVID-19 infections. The University of Denver now has 12 separate outbreaks, more than any other school without community spread. Seven of those outbreaks occurred in greek housing.
Outbreaks at K-12 schools have also become more common. This week CDPHE reported outbreaks at six schools, three of which were in Douglas County.
Douglas County Public Schools originally set a goal to return to 100 percent in-person learning for mid-October, but recent outbreaks have forced the district to quarantine some students and staff and pushed schools to online learning.
CDPHE reported a total of 58 outbreaks this week, the highest single-week total since the pandemic began. An outbreak is defined as two or more COVID-19 cases within a short period of time at the same facility. While the outbreak report does indicate areas where COVID-19 is spreading, the report is also limited by contact tracing efforts and county reporting and often lags behind trends in cases.
After a spike in COVID-19 cases last week, cases in Colorado have begun declining, according to data from CDPHE.
Editor's Note: The headline on this story has been changed to reflect that the Regis University outbreak was considered community wide before CSU was added to that category in the state's list. The latest updates on the Regis outbreak can be found here