Boulder County Issues Two New Public Health Orders To Control CU Boulder Coronavirus Cases

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Outside the University of Colorado Boulder’s Norlin Library, a normally busy area of campus, was quiet Tuesday, Sept 22, 2020. The campus shifted to a two-week all-online class schedule driven by climbing coronavirus infection rates.

Boulder County has issued a new order that continues to forbid many University of Colorado Boulder students ages 18-22 from meeting in groups larger than two, but CU and Boulder officials say they may soon relax the rules if coronavirus cases continue to drop.

The rules follow similar ones made after a COVID-19 outbreak in the city that would otherwise expire Oct. 8.

Until benchmarks outlined by Boulder County are met, however, the students may only gather in groups of two.

The benchmarks are based on testing and positive testing goals, case counts, the positivity rate among 18-22 year-olds, student compliance with the orders and contact tracing. If those conditions are met, students will be allowed to gather in gradually larger groups until they reach the level that the rest of the state is under.

In late September, health officials marked the University of Colorado Boulder as the largest COVID-19 outbreak in the state since the pandemic began. To contain the spread, county public health officials and university administration put in place a public health order that limited gatherings and placed 36 off-campus group houses under a strict stay-at-home order.

A separate order addresses off-campus student group housing — defined as any house managed by a third-party with five or more higher education students living together. Residents in those houses are required to submit a containment plan to the county and to comply with the public health order and contact tracing. If they comply, they too will soon be allowed to leave their homes.

Under the original order, 36 residences, mostly Greek housing, were under a strict stay-at-home order. There have been no reported violations at the residences.

The initial order paid off — cases in the city over the last two-weeks have decreased, according to county officials. The county has had 4,717 cases to date. In the last two weeks, there were 191 cases per 100,000 people, that’s down from close to 400 cases per 100,000 just over two weeks ago. Last weekend, only two new cases of COVID-19 were tied to CU Boulder.

Students are still in remote classes. They will return to in-person/hybrid learning on Oct. 14, CU officials said Wednesday.

“I want to say thank you to all the students who paid serious attention to this, took responsibility and changed behaviors associated with it. Because that's what's allowing us to be on a downward trend right now,” said Jeff Zayach, executive director of Boulder County Public Health.