New Public Health Orders Issued In Boulder County: What To Know

BOULDER COUNTY, CO — Two new public health orders were issued Wednesday in Boulder County after a drop in coronavirus cases.

One order limits gathering sizes for people ages 18 to 22 years old, and the other order provides guidance for collegiate group homes.

“We are so pleased that the number of new COVID-19 cases in this age group has dropped significantly,” said Jeff Zayach, Boulder County Public Health executive director.

“Thank you to every single young adult in our community who has been following this order, on top of all of the other behavior changes we’ve asked of you. Your actions have made a difference!”

The county’s first order outlines four levels for gatherings for 18 to 22-year-olds:

  • No gatherings at all

  • Private gatherings of six people

  • Attendance at regulated events

  • Gathering sizes permitted under the state dial level for Boulder County

“The metrics that trigger changes in restrictions between levels are largely influenced by individual behaviors, so they create incentives for young adults,” Zayach said.

The levels are based on:

  • Testing goals

  • Cases per 100,000 among people ages 18 to 22

  • The positivity rate among college-age students

  • Number of CU students tested

  • Cooperation with contact tracing

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Movement to ease restrictions on gatherings will be based on a 14-day positivity rate and 14-day cases per 100,000; while movement to more restrictive levels will be based on a 5-day positivity rate and 5-day cases-per-100,000 metrics. Any movement between levels will be decided and announced by Boulder County Public Health, officials said.

“First, I want to thank our students who have been complying with local and state public health orders to reduce the spread of COVID-19. I know this has been difficult,” Philip DiStefano, University of Colorado Boulder Chancellor.

“We believe we have strong testing plans, and we know that individual behavior is the biggest determinant of success in the fight against the virus, so I encourage all our students, faculty and staff to keep up the good work as we transition back to in-person instruction by Oct. 14.”

The second public health order, which is effective immediately, addresses collegiate group homes on a list of identified properties. The homes must remain under stay-at-home orders until Oct. 12, or until they complete an isolation, quarantine and testing plan, which needs to be approved by Boulder County Public Health.

The agency provided the following summary of the new orders:

What’s the same?

  • Young adults (18-22 years old) in the City of Boulder:

    • Face Coverings must be worn per state and local requirements

    • Social distancing must be followed per state and local requirements

    • May gather with one other person, including shopping and exercising

    • May go to work

  • Properties under Stay at Home Orders must stay at home until October 12 or until they submit an infection control plan, whichever is later

  • CU students continue daily symptom monitoring and reporting of symptoms


Drastic measures to curb COVID-19 at CU Boulder cast pall over campus

An eerie, remarkable scene unfolded across the University of Colorado Boulder’s grassy Norlin Quad on Wednesday: It was a beautiful autumn afternoon with nobody around to enjoy it.

Boulder’s student-dominated spaces looked like a museum to the city’s pre-pandemic self — empty academic buildings and deserted University Hill sidewalks relics to a time when COVID-19 had not altered life in this quintessential college town in nearly every conceivable way.

A gorgeous day on the campus of yore would have yielded slacklines taut with the weight of intrepid youth, flying Frisbees, scholars cracking textbooks beneath shade trees, and friends meeting to plan the weekend’s escapades. On Wednesday, there was nary a human in sight aside from a rare masked student and occasional patrols by university and local police.

“Walking around, it’s like a ghost town,” freshman Ethan Fantl said.

Following a surge in coronavirus infections tied to the university community, the Boulder campus shifted classes online for a minimum of two weeks, beginning Sept. 23. The next day, Boulder County Public Health ordered a two-week ban on gatherings of 18-to-22-year-olds in Boulder, and put more than three dozen properties — largely Greek houses — under a stay-at-home order.

On a visit to Boulder one week into these measures, the CU community remained the largest COVID-19 outbreak in the state with more than 1,500 confirmed cases, though new infections among those in their late teens and early 20s are now trending downward, according to state and local public health data. CU leaders have attributed that progress to an earlier intervention: the recommendation that all students living in Boulder self-quarantine.

Nevertheless, infections among all other age groups continued to rise this week, with local health authorities sounding the alarm that Boulder County was in the state’s “red zone” for new cases — something that could trigger more aggressive restrictions to stop the virus’ spread.

Chet Strange, Special to the Denver Post

A bus makes its way through campus at CU Boulder on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020.

“A culture of fear”

Fantl, 19, was heartened by the dropping numbers among CU students, but said he thinks the university will have a tougher time healing its reputation in light of the past few turbulent months.

“For a lot of students, the fear of getting sick is there, but there’s not a whole lot of knowledge about what it will do to someone who is young. Some people think it’s just like a cold,” Fantl said. “But in terms of the punitive measures students could face for breaking public health rules, everyone is really terrified of that, even more so than getting sick. We’re living in a culture of fear.”

Violating the county’s public health order is a misdemeanor subject to criminal and civil penalties and fines, said Shannon Aulabaugh, spokeswoman for the city of Boulder. A violator would receive a summons to appear in Boulder Municipal Court with penalties including up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Students also could be reported