CU Boulder remains committed to being a collaborative and effective partner with the city of Boulder and Boulder County Public Health as the community works to manage the impacts of COVID-19, Patrick O’Rourke, the campus’s interim executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer, told city council members Tuesday night.
City council members asked O’Rourke to provide an update on the campus’s COVID-19 strategy and current testing and related data. In thanking city and county officials for the invitation, O’Rourke noted that CU Boulder is part of the broader Boulder community and invested in its ongoing success.
“This relationship is vitally important,” he told council members during their regular meeting on Oct. 6. “We want the city to thrive. We want the county to thrive, and for businesses to do well.”
Before O’Rourke spoke to the council, Jeff Zayach, executive director of Boulder County Public Health, presented the city leaders with a trajectory of COVID-19 cases across the region in recent weeks, and noted a steep downward trend among 18-to-22-year-olds after a Sept. 24 public health order took effect. The order remains in effect until Thursday, when the campus and the county are expected to provide an update on next steps.
Thanking CU students, he said, “We appreciate that students are taking this really seriously and are responding appropriately. This really comes down to individual behaviors.”
Zayach credited social distancing, handwashing, mask wearing, avoiding large gatherings and other best practices for the marked downward trend, but cautioned residents and the campus community to continue these practices as flu season and the holidays approach.
“We know that the fall is going to be a challenge,” he said.
CU Boulder cases have also declined since the university shifted to an all-remote operational status, according to campus data.
“This is evidence that going remote, prohibiting gatherings and complying with stay-at-home orders are working,” O’Rourke told city council members.
Like Zayach, the COO thanked students for their part in flattening the curve in Boulder, noting that students have demonstrated they can be a positive force and pointing out that the campus last week recorded 63 positive cases through PCR testing, which was down from 254 the previous week.
According to the campus’s dashboard data for Oct. 5, the campus administered 813 screening tests and 36 diagnostic tests, recorded zero positive test results from PCR testing, and had 40 on-campus isolation spaces in use, which is 6% of capacity. Since Aug. 24, the university has performed 29,885 monitoring tests and made 1,032 public health referrals based on them.
Three students have been suspended due to public health order violations, and will need to reapply to attend CU Boulder in the future, according to the latest data, and O’Rourke said student conduct reports overall trended downward over the past week. Last weekend, the Boulder Police Department did not refer any student cases to the university, and most interventions have been educational, he said.
COVID-19 testing is available on campus for all students. Recently, the campus opened new surveillance testing sites at the University Memorial Center (UMC) on the main campus and at the Sustainability, Energy and Environment Community (SEEC) building on the East Campus. Together, the sites can accommodate up to 600 daily tests and are open to students, faculty and staff.
Students with symptoms or those advised by the contact tracing team to seek testing can contact the Public Health Clinic to make an appointment to get tested. More information can be found at the Protect Our Herd website. Since the fall semester began, the university has recorded 1,082 positive test results through on-campus testing, and recently expanded capacity to test students who live off campus and faculty and staff.
Council members in the past and on Tuesday night reiterated the importance they place on the campus providing testing data disaggregated by ethnicity and race. O’Rourke said the university is committed to providing the most accurate information to Boulder County Public Health, including demographic information.
While it is optional for individuals to provide personal information like this, he said CU is also committed to reconciling its database with state and county databases so obtained demographic information can be accurately displayed.
The city of Boulder, Boulder County Public Health and CU Boulder are partnering to provide weekly updates to the community. Check the city’s website for more information on how to engage in the city’s weekly briefings.