Testing Turnaround: CC now says it will test all students. Here’s what you need to know

Plus, what other higher-ed institutions in Colorado are planning for fall

Good morning, and happy Friday. On this pre-pandemic date last year, the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society was hosting a Star Party at the Space Foundation Discovery Center. (Organizers have cancelled the Aug. 1 Public Star Party.)

Today, we explain Colorado College’s recent announcement regarding testing for all students returning to campus. We also round up some fall semester updates from other colleges and universities in Colorado. 

➡️ICYMI: Yesterday, we explained how the pandemic is affecting Colorado College admissions, and we recapped why some families are looking to adopt “pods” for Pandemic Fall.

✉️In Your Inbox: Students received an email Wednesday from Registrar Phillip Apodaca. Some registration updates from the email:

  • All course changes, including new course mode designations, will be available on Banner no later than Aug. 7.

  • Stay tuned for information about registering in the fall for J Block, which runs from Jan. 4-22, 2021 along with half block this year.

  • The Registrar’s Office will continue allowing students to change their grade track for a course until 5 p.m. on the last day of the block.

Colorado College rethinks its approach to testing

Some big news hit inboxes Thursday. 

Colorado College will now test all students on campus for COVID-19, beginning Aug. 5 in staggered times. Because traveling back to campus can expose students to the coronavirus, a student who tests negative before returning to campus will still have to get tested on campus upon arrival. The testing is in partnership with UC Health, and they will administer PCR nasal swabs.

An excerpt from the email

“Testing all students who are on campus is not a fail-safe measure; it will provide us with a snapshot in time. But testing all students will provide us with a better chance to identify pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic infections early, and conduct contact tracing quickly to help prevent the spread of the virus.”

Until they receive their test results, students will have to follow enhanced social distancing protocols. This means they should:

  • Bring essentials with them to campus so they don’t have to leave their residence other than to pick up food on campus.

  • Only exercise if they are outdoors on campus and wearing a mask.

  • Always wear a mask when outside of their dorm room or apartment.

  • Maintain at least six feet of distance when around anyone outside of their “household.”

  • Cover coughs and sneezes, and wash hands frequently.

If their on-campus test result comes back negative, the student can shift to the college’s “regular virus risk mitigation protocols,” including wearing a mask outside of their room or apartment and maintaining social distance with anyone other than their roommates.

The announcement does not say how long it will take to get results, stating only, “The turnaround times from testing to receiving test results varies depending on the case and testing loads in our region.” Students should download the UC Health app to view their results. Additionally, the college plans to conduct “surveillance testing,” or randomly testing members of the college community throughout the semester.

The latest news about testing upon arrival is a significant departure from earlier announcements about testing at Colorado College. While other higher-ed institutions said they would require testing upon arrival on campus, CC maintained for weeks that it would have testing available for symptomatic individuals, but was not planning to test students upon arrival. The college cited guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommended against testing all returning students.

“We started this months ago, when COVID hit back in March, that ... we were clearly going to test people with symptoms. And then we stuck with that until we got the best science and medical advice,” Brian Young, vice president for Information Technology and chair of the college’s Prevention Work Team, tells The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project, adding that at the time Colorado Springs wasn’t seeing a rise in virus cases.

El Paso County, where Colorado College is located, is now one of 15 counties at risk of losing its relaxed variances from state health orders because of a rising caseload. 

“We're going to have to be nimble as things change,” Young says. 

The latest news brings CC more in line with schools like the University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado Mesa University, Colby College, Middlebury College, Swarthmore College, and Williams College, all of which will require students to get tested before or upon arrival. 

Young will moderate a Town Hall on the updated testing procedures Monday at 1 p.m. MT. Can’t attend? Don’t worry — we’ll be there to recap the highlights.

COVID-19 courses and ‘social-norming’ campaigns: Colorado higher-ed readies for students to return next month 

University of Colorado at Boulder is requiring all students to complete a course on COVID-19 prevention and expectations by Aug. 1, including passing all course quizzes. If a student fails to complete the course, the university will place a hold on their account, which means they cannot register for new courses or change their existing schedule. Students are also required to complete a community promise, which includes expectations for keeping the community safe.  

University of Denver is partnering with National Jewish Health for testing and quarantine logistics this fall. 

Before they return to campus:

  • Students are required to complete a community responsibility course on Canvas. Students who violate the policies outlined in the course may face suspension or expulsion. 

  • During the 14 days leading up to their arrival, students and anyone traveling with them must quarantine. Students will answer daily questions about their health and possible COVID-19 exposure on an app. 

  • All students must take a nose swab test before coming back to campus. Local students can get a test for free on campus, and the university will provide emergency funds for students who need financial assistance if they have to pay for a test elsewhere. Students who do not get tested before their arrival will be tested when they return to campus and will quarantine until they receive test results. 

While they are on campus: 

  • During the school year, all students will participate in symptom monitoring twice per day.

  • If a student tests positive for COVID-19, they will isolate in designated locations, receive meals, engage in online learning, and have access to tele-mental health. Staff will also make regular medical check-ins.

Colorado School of Mines expects to offer 60% of classes either fully in person or in a hybrid format this fall. The school will record all in-person lecture-based courses to allow students to complete the courses remotely. Students must inform the school if they intend to learn remotely this fall by Aug. 31. 

Course definitions: 

  • Hybrid courses are a combination of both in-person and online instruction, with regular aspects offered virtually.

  • Remote courses are synchronous, which means students will meet on Zoom with their professors at the same times they would have if the course was on campus. 

  • Online courses are asynchronous, which means students can learn on their own time.

University of Northern Colorado launched a dedicated webpage for “COVID-19 Exposure and Health Alerts.” The page provides information about positive cases in the community, and as of July 30, there are nine cases among UNC students. 

Colorado State University is planning to deep-clean areas where a sick person had spent time, and the university will deliver food to isolated or quarantined individuals. Each person is expected to clean their desk and chair or workspace before a class or lab with provided disinfectant supplies. To allow as much in-person instruction as possible, CSU is hiring additional instructors for extra class sections and increasing the number of “technology-enhanced classrooms,” which can support in-person and online learning. The university will run a “social-norming campaign” to encourage behaviors to prevent spreading COVID-19. 

Colorado State University at Pueblo is open to the public Mondays–Fridays from 9 a.m.–12 p.m. and 2–5 p.m. If there is a positive case on campus, the community will receive an email notification. Administrators also released protocols for reporting a positive case, which includes three steps: notification, notification to impacted groups, and disinfection. 

Regis University is planning for in-person classes this fall. The semester begins Aug. 17, and in-person classes end Nov. 20. The semester ends remotely on Dec. 6. The university is offering three formats of classes: in-person, hybrid, or “blended.” 

  • Hybrid course: a class where some students may attend in person and others will participate virtually.

  • Blended course: a class with some in-person components and some remote activities. 

Colorado Mesa University is partnering with COVIDCheck Colorado to provide COVID-19 tests and contact tracing tools. Students, staff, and faculty can get tested on campus until Aug. 13, and students currently living off campus can receive an at-home test kit in the mail. Everyone is required to be tested for COVID-19 within the week prior to their return to campus. Negative results will be available online, and a telehealth provider will call to explain the results if someone tests positive.  

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.