Published: Jan. 20, 2021

With a focus on how CU Boulder continues to be a COVID-19-aware campus, Interim Chief Operating Officer Pat O’Rourke and Associate Vice Chancellor Jennifer McDuffie provided an overview to the Boulder City Council of the broadened measures in place to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during the spring semester.

At the Jan. 19 meeting, they updated the council on how the campus began the semester remotely, increased and expanded testing, decided not to hold a traditional spring break and established greater communication and collaboration with public agencies and community groups.

“We really appreciate the partnership that we’ve had with you, with the city manager, with our partners at Boulder County Public Health and other agencies in the community,” O’Rourke said during the presentation. “Addressing COVID really has been a community effort.”

O’Rourke explained how the campus worked closely with Boulder County Public Health to address the outbreak that occurred during the fall semester among 18-to-22-year-olds in Boulder County. The experience from the fall semester and the county’s status on the state COVID-19 dial in December heavily impacted the decision to begin the spring semester remotely before returning to a blend of in-person, hybrid and remote classes on Feb. 15.

“Our goal is really to be able to resume in-person instruction and proceed into the spring semester without the same degree of anxiety and uncertainty that we saw both as a campus and a community in the fall semester,” O’Rourke said. “It was shifting back and forth from different types of educational experiences, from different expectations about what was permissible both on and off campus, that I think really created some frustration and anxiety.”

O’Rourke shared how the expanded capacity for surveillance monitoring testing on campus means all faculty, staff and students who come to campus are expected to participate. Results from the monitoring program and from diagnostic testing completed on campus will continue to be reported on the campus COVID-19 dashboard.

“We consider their participation in those programs crucial to avoid having further public health restrictions and the type of environment that we ended up in last semester,” he said.

In addition to participating in the campus monitoring program, students, faculty and staff are also expected to continue to comply with public health orders and campus policies.

“We unfortunately had to suspend students last semester for behaviors that were inconsistent with public health orders,” O’Rourke said. “We don’t take those actions lightly and we want nothing more than for our students to succeed and to be able to advance them to their degrees, but we need them to abide by public health requirements. We know that there will be instances where students don’t meet our expectations and we are working with the Boulder Police Department, CUPD, as well as Student Conduct to respond whenever we’re learning of those behaviors that pose a risk to the community.”

O’Rourke introduced McDuffie and updated the council on her new role leading the campus Pandemic Response Office. 

McDuffie explained how the Pandemic Response Office was established to lead protocols and logistics for campus efforts related to COVID-19. The office is managing the vaccine rollout initiative, supporting the campus monitoring surveillance program and seeking ways to integrate technology into the management of COVID-19 mitigation.

She explained how most students, faculty and staff will not have access to the COVID-19 vaccine by the time in-person classes resume Feb. 15, which means current mitigation measures of daily health check-ins, testing, social distancing, contact tracing, case investigation, isolation and more will continue for the foreseeable future.

“I think it’s important as we look at what we’re doing to really look at the semester as a whole,” McDuffie said. “We recognize that this will not be a problem-free semester, that there are multiple things happening and evolving, whether it’s the variant or the changes with the vaccine distribution. Our commitment is to be good partners and our hope is that we can meet these challenges with you and that we can solve these problems together.”

A recording of the Boulder City Council meeting is available on the city’s website.