COVID-19 detected in CSU wastewater, leading to quarantine

Gov. Polis highlights ‘success’ at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction

Braiden Hall on the campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins. (Google)

Colorado State University became the latest university to quarantine students after COVID-19 was detected through wastewater testing in Braiden Hall and Summit Hall dormitories, according to a Sept. 24 statement from the school.

“As you know, the university has been testing wastewater for signs of COVID-19 at specific locations that are tied to residence halls. We have detected a significantly high level of COVID-19 in the wastewater from (Braiden Hall/ Summit Hall),” the statement said. “These levels are many times higher than others that we have detected on campus in past samples and indicate that a number of students in your hall are likely positive for COVID-19.”

Students in those residence halls must stay in their rooms for two weeks, except to pick up breakfast, lunch or dinner from designated areas or to get tested at a tent outside the residence halls on Sept. 26.

CSU has reported 304 positive cases as of Sept. 24 since testing began in June. Of those, 51 were reported since Sept. 18.

Meanwhile, the University of Colorado Boulder has moved fully online until at least Oct. 7 as the school works with Boulder County Public Health to stem a rapidly growing outbreak.

On-campus testing at CU Boulder has revealed 997 positive cases of COVID-19 since Aug. 24. More than 500 of those were reported in the last week.

Boulder County Public Health on Sept. 24 also ordered restrictions that apply to the residents of 36 addresses in the city of Boulder as a way to reverse a rise in new COVID-19 cases.

The order also includes a provision that applies to anyone age 18 to 22 anywhere in the city and says they “may not participate in any gatherings of any size, whether indoors, outdoors, on or off campus, or with individuals of any age.”

In contrast, at a briefing held Sept. 25 at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Gov. Jared Polis highlighted what he said had been a successful response so far to prevent a similar situation on the Western Slope.

The university, he said, had provided outdoor concerts and other events for students so they wouldn’t be as tempted to attend large off-campus parties with alcohol, where the virus can easily spread.

“Telling the student not to have fun never works,” Polis said. “It’s more about how you can have fun in a reasonably safe way, and how you can structure those opportunities to have some university oversight over those activities.”

He added that the university has restricted access to residence halls, allowing only the students who live in a particular hall to visit dormitories in that building.

Colorado Mesa University has reported 61 cases of COVID-19 since Aug. 21, including 16 in the past week.

“I hope our other universities can really step up and do a better job … and really look at some of the examples here at Colorado Mesa,” Polis said.

Mesa County recently received Protect Our Neighbors status from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Protect Our Neighbors is a less restrictive regime that counties can adopt after demonstrating low case incidence, hospitalizations and test positivity rates. The status allows most activities to occur at 50% of normal capacity with up to 500 people.