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CU Boulder moving to remote classes for two weeks amid rising COVID-19 cases

Posted at 10:35 AM, Sep 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-21 20:39:42-04

BOULDER, Colo. — The University of Colorado Boulder is moving to online-only classes for at least two weeks, beginning Wednesday, amid a rise in COVID-19 cases on campus, officials announced Monday.

All undergraduate, graduate and law classes will be held remotely under the change in format.

Philip DiStefano, CU Boulder chancellor, said in a statement Monday that the move was "in the immediate interest" of the campus community's health. Students are being asked to remain in university housing, and employees will work remotely, if possible.

"At the moment, this is a temporary situation, but it could become permanent if we continue to disregard public health guidelines," DiStefano said. "During this period, enforcement policies will continue, including suspension for repeat public health guidelines violators. We have the power to control our own destiny. If we all work together, I am hopeful we can return to campus for learning and discovery in the ways we all desire. The choice is ours."

University provost Russell Moore said in a news conference Monday that officials have seen fewer COVID-19 cases in recent days, but "unfortunately, the number of cases is not dropping enough."

Students can now face a 10-day suspension — or longer — for violating COVID-19 protocols. Interim executive vice chancellor Patrick O'Rourke said 14 students are currently suspended as they go through the discipline process for health violations. The increased enforcement, O'Rourke said, has led to some change in behavior among students off campus, with fewer violations over the weekend.

The university has struggled this month to contain COVID-19 among students, with university officials last week imploring students to avoid gatherings on and off campus. The university last week also issued a 14-day quarantine for all students, requiring students to avoid interacting with each other, except for essential purposes, such as attending classes.

CU Boulder has had a total of 765 positive cases of COVID-19 since students returned to campus in August, and those numbers have been on the rise this month. Since Sept. 11, 546 new cases have been identified, according to CU Boulder data as of Friday.

The number of isolation spaces being used on campus has also been on the rise, with 251 spaces, or 68% of available space, in use as of Friday.

On Friday, in an effort to increase the amount of space needed to isolate students who tested positive for COVID-19, all residents of CU Boulder dorm were directed to move.

Students living in the Darley North Hall, which stands out as one of the tallest buildings in the city of Boulder, received a letter from the school's housing department about the change on Thursday. Students were directed to move out by 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Gov. Jared Polis on Friday was asked if he would consider shutting the college down, if cases continue to grow.

Polis said it was "critical" the university contains the spread of coronavirus but that it would not be constructive to send students home.

"That would be very dangerous" if students returned home from CU, Polis said.