‘It will not be normal’: Colorado releases new guidelines for state colleges and universities

Plus, a new rundown of plans from other higher-ed institutions around the state

Good morning, and happy Friday. On this pre-pandemic date last year, Manitou Springs residents were listening to Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven perform at Lulu's Downstairs. Because of the pandemic, Lulu’s is temporarily closed.

Today, we break down new guidelines from the state government about reopening college campuses for fall, and we explain what you’ve missed from announcements by Colorado higher-ed.

➡️ICYMI: Yesterday, we explained changing federal guidelines for international students who are studying at U.S. colleges and universities. We also rounded up announcements from institutions that are planning to hold classes and dining outside. (Spoiler: it’s B.Y.O.C. — Bring Your Own Chair.)

🔌We’re famous: Just kidding, but thanks to FOX21 for reporting on our humble newsletter project for a TV news broadcast yesterday. The station said the CCCRP “keeps classmates informed” during the pandemic. Believe the local news. The station also interviewed our resident microbiologist in a separate broadcast.

😷Mask up, Colorado: Yesterday, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis issued a statewide mandate ordering Coloradans to wear masks in public, indoor spaces, and while waiting outside for transportation. People who don’t wear masks in those places could be charged with trespassing, states the order. “The data is beginning to be alarming,” he said.

New state guidelines call for daily health assessments and cohort living this fall

The Colorado Department of Higher Education released considerations and recommendations for institutions planning to reopen this fall. “While we don’t know what COVID-19 will bring in August and September, we do know it will not be normal— that is, pre-COVID-19 normal,” the document states. It’s 25 pages long, so we don’t blame you if you haven’t read the entire thing. We read it and have the highlights for you. 

State Guidelines for Testing & Contact Tracing: Colleges and universities should require self-assessments to monitor coronavirus symptoms for students, faculty, and staff whenever they are entering buildings on campus. They should focus on three questions: (1) Are you feeling well?; (2) Do you have a family or household member who is sick?; (3) Have you been knowingly exposed to anyone with known or suspected COVID-19? Higher-ed should closely watch for when campus individuals are absent from work or class, and monitor the seating arrangements of face-to-face classes for contact tracing purposes. Additionally, institutions should develop and communicate a clear testing policy, including when individuals will need to get tested before entering certain facilities or events.

💬What CC is planning: Colorado College will implement daily symptom screenings through an app and will have temperature-screening stations around campus. Tests for symptomatic individuals will be cost-free and available on campus. A CC staff member will serve as lead contact tracer for a team of 15-20 people on campus trained in contact tracing.

State Guidelines for Safety: Expect to never leave the house without a cloth face covering. Also, we suggest bringing a jacket because the guidelines recommend colleges leave windows and doors open to increase the circulation of outdoor air. Plexiglass barriers should be in place to protect staff and student workers at frequently-visited areas. If feasible, the state says Colorado schools should “encourage students, faculty and staff who use mass transit to consider using other transportation options.” (Can’t help but think of that new White House initiative for out-of-work Americans to “find something new.”)

💬What CC is planning: Students will receive packages with masks, disinfectants, and gloves upon their return to campus. Facilities staff has done a “deep review” into the ventilation of campus buildings, and the college is currently looking into classroom spaces for fall, which includes outdoor locations. Some popular spots, like the CC Mail Room, have already gotten makeovers with new plexiglass barriers.

State Guidelines for Student Life: Colleges and universities should consider a “cohort approach” to residential life, where students who share living spaces, including bedrooms and bathrooms, would be a defined group. Non-residents should not have access to residential buildings. Face coverings and social distancing would only apply when students from different cohorts interact. Students should have limited access to common spaces, and break areas should have clearly posted capacity limits. Schools should also consider moving student services like career centers online and should create virtual student centers with remote activities.

💬What CC is planning: Colorado College is already considering placing students in cohorts, and creating systems like advance signups for use of common spaces in residence halls. The Career Center is offering virtual services during the summer. 

State Guidelines for Dining: The guidance also recommends “cohort dining,” which means specific groups would have designated times to enter dining facilities. It also recommends using disposable or single-use dining items and offering takeout options at every meal. Dining facilities should also replace shared appliances with no-touch or single-use items. 

💬What CC is planning: Colorado College dining options will only offer takeout meals, to start. Staff will wear masks and gloves, and crews will clean high-touch areas every 30 minutes. They will serve all food on disposable containers. The dining facilities will only accept card payments, not cash. 

State Guidelines for Faculty & Staff: Current Colorado guidelines state that higher-ed should consider a phased return to campus, allowing no more than 30% of the workforce on-site at a time. Even after campuses reopen, offices should still hold meetings virtually. If this is impossible, they should gather fewer than 10 people and require social distancing and masks. Faculty over 65 and other at-risk individuals should have the opportunity to continue to work remotely. All faculty, staff, and students should participate in COVID-19 awareness training.

💬What CC is planning: Colorado College employees are currently set to continue working from home until Aug.1. In the announcement of their fall plan, administrators wrote that they would adhere to the state’s 50% density limit when the college began a phased return of employees back to campus. The college encourages offices to continue holding meetings virtually, even after they return to campus. Professors have the option to teach any block remotely if they have COVID-19 concerns. The college is working on an educational module with information about the coronavirus and community expectations, which all CC faculty, staff, and students will need to complete.

🧐What raised our eyebrows: This quote: “Institutions should prepare for the likelihood of a local rebound of infections that may result in a return to more restrictive mitigation measures and increased physical distancing for periods of time.” (A different tune than this soundbite from White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.)

Higher-ed in Colorado keeps updating plans to welcome students back to campus  

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs released new guidelines for student life and activities on campus, including:

  • Clubs and organizations cannot travel out of the region.

  • Event organizers may request exceptions to serve food, but no outside food or beverages are allowed. 

  • All activities should be able to accommodate any students who cannot physically attend. 

  • Activities, programs, and meetings will require advance RSVPs. 

University of Colorado at Boulder announced all students living on campus will either need to have a COVID-19 test within five days of their arrival on campus or get tested upon arrival. Students living off-campus this fall are waiting for the university to announce their testing requirements. Additionally, the university will test wastewater from 20 locations on campus to attempt to identify potential outbreaks.

University of Northern Colorado will have an in-person component for about 50% of courses this fall. Ballrooms, event rooms, and fitness spaces will function as classrooms, and classrooms will hold about 30% of its previous capacity. The university is requiring face coverings whenever a person is in a public place on campus, and students should wear a mask at all times except in their room or when doing tasks like eating. Staff and faculty received card access to campus buildings beginning on Monday. Move-in begins Aug. 14, and each student has a 30-minute window on a specific day to come to campus. The campus rec center opens on Aug. 20 and will not let more than 300 people in at a time.  

Regis University is hosting five commencement ceremonies on July 31 and Aug. 1-2. Only 100 students are allowed at each ceremony, and each person is going to sit six feet away from anyone else. No guests are allowed to attend, but the university will livestream all ceremonies on its website and Facebook. Additionally, the university is providing new and transfer students with online orientation modules to complete before they return to campus. The first session, on Zoom, will take place July 27, with additional information coming over the following two weeks. 

Metropolitan State University of Denver released a set of protocols and a daily health assessment with information about what people should do before and during their time on campus. The two-part health assessment asks about possible COVID-19 symptoms and exposure. 

Some of the health protocols include: 

  • Wearing a face covering whenever community members are around another person

  • Banning food-based events or gatherings 

  • Limiting time on campus 

Colorado Mesa University wrote in a recent announcement: “We know members of our campus community are going to contract COVID-19.” The university is requiring all students to undergo a COVID-19 test before they move in. If students are tested in Grand Junction, they will have to get tested three days before they move in, then isolate while they wait for test results. Students testing at home or at a “regional site” should do so five to seven days before they move in and may wait at home for their results. All students must complete an online COVID-19 safety course before they return to campus. During more-in, each student will have a two-hour time slot and may bring up to two guests into their residence hall. 

About the CC COVID-19 Reporting Project

The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project is a student-faculty collaboration by Colorado College student journalists Miriam Brown and Arielle Gordon, Journalism Institute Director Steven Hayward, Visiting Assistant Professor of Journalism Corey Hutchins, and Assistant Professor of English Najnin Islam. Work by Phoebe Lostroh, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at CC and National Science Foundation Program Director in Genetic Mechanisms, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, will appear from time to time, as will infographics by Colorado College students Rana Abdu, Aleesa Chua, Sara Dixon, Jia Mei, and Lindsey Smith.

The project seeks to provide frequent updates about CC and other higher education institutions during the pandemic by providing original reporting, analysis, interviews with campus leaders, and context about what state and national headlines mean for the CC community. 

📬 Enter your email address to subscribe and get the newsletter in your inbox each time it comes out. You can reach us with questions, feedback, or news tips by emailing ccreportingproject@gmail.com.