Boulder County Eases Limits On College-Aged Gatherings As Coronvirus Stats Begin To Improve

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A health reminder at the University Memorial Center. The University of Colorado Boulder has shifted to a two-week all-online class schedule driven by climbing coronavirus infection rates. Boulder, Tuesday, Sept 22, 2020.

Boulder is easing limits on the size of gatherings for young adults as some local COVID-19 metrics improve. 

The rules apply to 18- to 22-year-olds. After COVID-19 cases spiked in September, Boulder County issued a public health order limiting them to gatherings of just two people.

Now the county is amending that order, effective as of noon on Tuesday, so they can gather in groups of up to six.

The leader of the county's public health department credits students with responding positively to last month’s more restrictive rules.

“This is such good news. This means that our community is safer from the spread of this disease, and young adults can connect with a few more of their friends,” said Jeff Zayach, Boulder County Public Health executive director, in a press release.

The county says both case numbers and positivity declined after the more restrictive rules took effect.

One metric, the 14-day average of new cases per 100,000 of 18- to 22-years-olds in Boulder County, dropped “significantly” to 470.5, according to the county’s public health department. For comparison, in mid-September, that figure soared in Boulder County to more than 30,00, and for 18- to 19-year-olds, the average was even higher.

A second measure, test positivity rate, also declined to 6.2 percent. Statewide, the one-day positivity rate for Oct. 12 was 6.37 percent; the three-day statewide positivity rate was 5.4 percent.

With the change, this age group may now be able to participate in “regulated or CU Boulder-sponsored events,” so long as they abide by public health warnings about mask wearing, social distancing and keeping gatherings “to a minimum.”

“This has been tough on our young adults and on our community. Our hope is that new cases will continue to decline, and young adults will be able to return to the Safer at Home gathering size allowance of 10 people, like the rest of the county,” Zayach said.

As long as young people follow health protocols like mask wearing and social distancing, groups of up to six can visit businesses, like retail shops and restaurants. The University of Colorado said a return to hybrid and in-person instruction is “continuing as planned” and begins Wednesday, Oct. 14, according to information posted on its website.

Boulder County Public Health approved the university’s plan for returning to in-person instruction. The shift allows for limited CU-sponsored in-person events on campus. That includes events planned and hosted by university departments and approved by the administration. 

The guidance from CU singles out fraternities, sororities and other collegiate group homes and says they “must still follow the public health order” for gatherings of no more than six people.