Boulder limits gatherings of college-age residents

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BOULDER | Boulder County health officials issued new restrictions Thursday on gatherings of college-age residents after state officials reported that a coronavirus outbreak at the University of Colorado’s main campus had surpassed 1,100 cases.

Under the order, anyone from 18 and 22 years of age in Boulder “may not participate in any gatherings of any size, whether indoors, outdoors, on or off campus, or with individuals of any age” until at least Oct. 8. It does not affect people living in the same dorm room or household.

The order temporarily suspends university athletic team practices, but allows gatherings of people at work or in classroom learning authorized by the university. Solo outdoor activity is permitted.

Officials also issued a stay-at-home order for 36 off-campus residences — most of them fraternities and sororities — that “have repeatedly engaged in activities that violate public health orders or who live in congregate living situations,” the Daily Camera reported.

University, city and county health officials worry students could infect people who are more vulnerable to COVID-19, especially older people and those with preexisting health conditions. It’s a concern shared nationally in cities and towns with colleges and universities that allowed students to return to campuses.

Thursday’s order allows residents in the younger age group to leave their homes for medical care, curbside pickup or delivery of food and other essentials, and for solo outdoor exercise. Masks are required outside the homes.

The university, with about 30,000 students, and health officials had taken measures earlier, including transitioning to remote classroom teaching for two weeks, to stem the virus’ spread.

Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment declared a formal outbreak at the university late Wednesday, reporting that at least 1,198 students and 12 staff members have tested positive for the virus.

Jeff Zayach, executive director of Boulder County Public Health, urged family and friends of affected young adults to support them “by being available for them and helping them access mental health resources, if needed.”

“The more diligently this order is followed, the sooner we’ll be able to lift it,” Zayach said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.