Aug. 24, 2020
Dear CU Boulder faculty, staff and students,
On July 10, we sent an overview about the COVID-19 testing and monitoring plans for the fall semester. It included that the campus would require all students living in the residence halls to submit a negative result for a COVID-19 test taken within five days before move-in or undergo testing upon arrival. The overview also described that we intended to implement a multi-layered monitoring program.
In the six weeks since we provided that information, we completed the move-in process with every on-campus resident completing a COVID-19 test and have established the initial monitoring program. We want to provide a summary on the results from move-in and an outline of how the campus will conduct monitoring at the start of the fall semester.
Campus status updates can be found on the COVID-19-ready dashboard. Based on feedback we received, we will continue to update the format to improve it as a resource for the campus and the community.
While we are steadfast in creating a robust testing and monitoring program, the testing and monitoring work are secondary to behavior and personal choices. The best ways to protect yourself and others are to:
- Wear a face covering over your nose and mouth, indoors and outdoors.
- Stay six feet apart. Avoid close contact and crowded settings.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer.
During move-in week, all on-campus residents either provided a recent test or were tested upon arrival. Most of our on-campus residents arrived with their COVID-19 test completed and submitted their negative result for approval by medical staff. For the 2,195 students who needed a test upon arrival, our CU Boulder Medical Services team, in partnership with campus researchers, a team of volunteers and staff from across campus, completed diagnostic COVID-19 PCR tests. For the students who completed tests on campus as part of move-in week, there were eight with a positive test result. Some of the students with a positive result returned to their permanent residence to isolate themselves. Students who were unable to return to their permanent residence were provided with isolation space on campus. We’re starting the semester with approximately 250 beds set aside for isolation, and about 2.4% of the beds are currently occupied. All students who moved into the residence halls had a negative COVID-19 test.
Separate from the results from the move-in process, testing was also conducted in the Public Health Clinic at Wardenburg Health Center. This testing is available by appointment for all students with symptoms or with known close contact to a positive case.
The testing requirement for move-in is only the beginning of our mitigation strategy. Through a collaboration between CU Boulder Medical Services and the CU Boulder BioFrontiers Institute, we are going to proactively monitor, identify and refer possible COVID-19 cases to our Public Health Clinic for testing and reduction of community spread.
Beginning this week, on-campus residents will participate in a weekly screening. Each student will be assigned a location on campus where they will provide a self-collected saliva sample. The samples will be run through an RT-PCR screening test developed by our own researchers at BioFrontiers. If a sample indicates a possible infection, CU Boulder Medical Services will contact the student to arrange for a diagnostic test.
Cresten Mansfeldt, assistant professor of civil environmental and architectural engineering, and a team of 18 students have set up more than 20 wastewater monitoring stations as part of an on-campus observational network, which will be able to identify emerging infections in residence halls. This will give the university up to a week’s notice before potential community spread, and lead to more targeted, individual testing—before symptoms even emerge.
Another COVID-19 test developed at CU Boulder, the saliva-based RT-LAMP test used for rapid screening during part of the move-in process, may be added to the monitoring program. Worldwide supply challenges have delayed our incorporation of the RT-LAMP test.
Our goal is to expand capacity and add faculty, staff and students living off campus to the monitoring program. We’re working through various testing platforms and seeking ways to increase our capacity.
These efforts, combined with our campus contact tracing system in coordination with Boulder County Public Health, will make up a large-scale population monitoring program. Our experts are monitoring the latest research and seeking ways to make our testing efforts faster, better and more effective. The testing landscape changes daily and we will implement new improvements as they are developed.
Until more capacity can be established, the following testing options are in place:
- All students with symptoms or close contact with an infected person can schedule an appointment with CU Boulder Medical Services for diagnostic testing.
- Any faculty or staff member contacted through our campus contact tracing program can access diagnostic testing through CU Boulder Medical Services.
Again, testing does not take the place of prevention measures. As our testing and monitoring capabilities expand, we need you to do your part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Wear a face covering over your nose and mouth. Keep your physical distance from others and wash your hands frequently. Complete your daily health form every day you will be on campus and please stay home if you experience COVID-like symptoms.
Please visit the Protect Our Herd site, stay informed on campus efforts through the COVID-19 webpage and sign up for the weekly COVID-19 digest.
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Interim Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer