CSU detects 'significantly high' COVID-19 levels in two residence halls' wastewater

Posted at 1:08 PM, Sep 25, 2020

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Colorado State University placed several hundred students who live in Braiden and Summit halls under a mandatory quarantine after the university detected significantly high levels of COVID-19 during the latest round of wastewater testing.

In a letter sent to students in both residence halls Thursday, the university said the COVID-19 levels were many times higher than at other resident halls on campus, leading them to believe a number of students are positive for COVID-19 who live in the two halls.

The university said students living in Braiden and Summit should not leave their residence halls for any reason. The quarantine will remain in place until they identify all positive cases and close contacts and the wastewater results return to normal.

Students can leave their residence halls only to pick up meals during specified times. Testing tents outside of the residence halls will be set up Saturday. CSU said testing will be mandatory. Students who test positive will be moved to another location to isolate. The university will allow students who repeatedly test negative to be released from quarantine on a timeline recommended by public health officials.

Just over two weeks ago, CSU said they were using wastewater testing for early detection to stop COVID-19 from spreading. All students who lived in Braiden Hall were already required to get tested the last week of August based on wastewater measurements.

Early this month, University of Colorado Boulder detected possible COVID-19 in four of their residence halls by testing wastewater that were among the first signals of what has since turned into the state's largest coronavirus outbreak.

Boulder County Public Health issued a new public health order Thursday prohibiting gatherings among university students aged 18-22 for the next 14 days amid the massive spike in COVID-19 cases at CU, where all students are learning remotely for two weeks.

The pilot program to test wastewater and fecal matter in Colorado began in the spring. The program expanded over the summer to include 16 Front Range wastewater utilities spanning from Fort Collins to Pueblo. Testing wastewater can serve as an early warning sign because someone infected with COVID-19 can begin shedding the virus within a few days and before they become symptomatic.