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Denver issues public health order to stop COVID-19 spread at higher-education institutes

Denver officials announced today that a public health order has been issued to stop the recent surge in positive COVID-19 cases at institutes of higher learning.

The public health order from the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) is in response to the sudden increase in COVID-19 cases, due in part to groups of students congregating in violation of the gathering limits established in CDPHE PHO 20-35.

“The risk of continuing to spread this deadly virus is real and made even more evident by the abrupt spike in cases on and near college campuses,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “We are committed to working with institutes of higher learning to help reduce this risk, but if these measures are not successful, we will not hesitate to look at other options.”

On September 23, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) updated its weekly outbreak report to include 10 active outbreaks linked to colleges and universities around the state – including one at Regis University, one at Metro State University, and eight at the University of Denver – as coronavirus infections also sharply increased among college-aged people.

“We need to address this surge at colleges and universities immediately by implementing additional public health controls in close collaboration with their leadership,” said Robert McDonald, Executive Director of DDPHE. “We are counting on students and campuses to comply with this order quickly and do their part to keep themselves and the Denver community safe.”

According to the order, institutes of higher education are required to complete each of the following:

  • Conduct daily health screenings of students, faculty, staff, vendors and all other campus guests. Any individual experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 will be restricted from accessing any building (other than their place of residence or to seek medical attention), as well as any practice or athletic event.
  • Notify DDPHE within 24 hours of all confirmed positive cases involving students, faculty and staff.
  • Increase efforts to ensure strict adherence to DDPHE’s Face Covering Order by all students, faculty, staff, vendors and campus guests.
  • Require all student-athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, medical personnel and any other individual attending indoor and outdoor athletic activities to wear face coverings during those activities, including practices and games, except for outdoor athletic activities where participants strictly adhere to the Distancing Requirements in CDPHE PHO 20-35. Student-athletes, coaches, athletic trainers and medical personnel also must adhere to the same face-covering requirements while traveling to and from all athletic activities with another individual. All visiting teams must adhere to the same face-covering requirements while in Denver.
  • If one or more confirmed positive COVID-19 cases are reported for a single athletic team, the institute of higher education must notify DDPHE and suspend all sports programming for that team until further notice, and DDPHE will evaluate the need to impose a quarantine or isolation order on team members.
  • Develop and implement a public health order compliance plan by September 30, 2020, that utilizes campus security, campus police and other resources necessary to ensure that students are following existing public health orders, regardless of whether they reside on or off campus.
  • Restrict visitor access to all on-campus housing, except for the students who reside there and other essential personnel necessary for the maintenance and operation of the facilities.
  • Take any actions available (such as enforcement of student ethics code violations) against any student, faculty or staff member who fails to comply with any public health order or school policy related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, DDPHE recommends that institutes of higher education voluntarily suspend all nonessential in-person extracurricular social activities sponsored or supported by the college or university.

If these measures are not successful in reducing the spread, DDPHE will consider additional preventive actions, including quarantine and isolation orders, requiring virtual classes, and imposing a Stay at Home Order.

For more up-to-date information from the City and County of Denver regarding COVID-19, visit the Official Site.

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