UCCS graduation 2021

UCCS officials announced this week they will require all eligible students and employees to get the COVID booster shot in preparation for the spring semester, which begins Jan. 18. (Courtesy photo)

As the spring semester nears, the list of colleges and universities in Colorado that will require the COVID-19 booster vaccination for students and employees is growing.

Colorado College in Colorado Springs sent a letter to students on Dec. 28, informing them of the mandate, as some students returned to classes Monday and all 2,100 students will be back on Jan. 24.

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs announced Tuesday it will require booster shots for all eligible students and employees, as it prepares to resume in-person classes on Jan. 18.

That decision is a departure from two other CU-system campuses: CU Boulder and CU Denver will start the spring semester with remote instruction.

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UCCS and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora will begin with in-person learning.

“The option was always on the table to take a look at that (remote instruction),” said Chris Valentine, assistant vice chancellor of marketing and communications at UCCS.

But after speaking with local health department experts, the spike of the omicron variant of the coronavirus seems to be happening now, he said.

“Hopefully, we’ll be past the peak when classes start in mid-January,” Valentine said.

That could change, he said, in which case, UCCS might have to revise its plan. But as of Wednesday, eligible students and employees are mandated to receive booster vaccines, with medical, religious and personal exemptions available.

Students who don’t fill out an attestation form — used to tally vaccination compliance and requests for exemptions — could face delays in registering for classes, Valentine said.

As of Dec. 21, 81% of 12,283 students had been fully vaccinated, minus boosters, and 92% of 1,985 employees had been fully vaccinated, according to the school’s COVID dashboard.

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Numbers on people who have received a booster are not yet available, Valentine said.

With the updated policy, the campus’s data collection process that began last fall will “almost have to start over again,” he said.

As was the case last semester, routine COVID-19 testing will continue for students living in dorms, and face coverings, preferably surgical or KN95 masks, are required for everyone on campus.

Colorado College will require KN95 masks it will provide and mandatory testing, along with booster shots, which has produced pushback from some students.

Representatives from El Paso County’s four major higher-education institutions — UCCS, CC, Pikes Peak Community College and the U.S. Air Force Academy — met Tuesday with officials from El Paso County Public Health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated quarantine and isolation practices for higher education Tuesday, said local public health spokeswoman Michelle Beryle.

Based on those updated recommendations , higher-education institutions can lower the quarantine period from 10 to five days, depending on circumstances, she said.

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The local health department expects to receive in coming days further guidance from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Beryle said.

“We continue to work very closely with our school and education partners and maintain frequent communication,” she said. “While we await new guidance from the state, our initial conversations with K-12 school and higher education partners have provided interim recommendations to align with CDC’s quarantine and isolation recommendations.”

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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