After logging 55 cumulative COVID-19 cases among students, faculty and staff since the fall semester began just over two months ago, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs will switch from a combination of in-person and remote classes to all online learning after the Thanksgiving break.
Instruction during the final three weeks of the semester will be delivered in an electronic format to “minimize risk and potential spread of COVID-19,” Chancellor Venkat Reddy announced late last week.
A limited number of courses will be exempt from the change, such as nursing students doing clinical training at hospitals, education students working in schools, and students with internships at companies, he said.
Students living in on-campus dorms will have the option to stay in the residence halls until the semester ends, with increased COVID-19 testing.
“We know that we are beginning a season of holidays that often involve travel and family gatherings,” Reddy said in a memo to the campus. “We still have four weeks until the start of the Thanksgiving break, and we must remain dedicated to the mitigation efforts that have made UCCS an example of how to return to on-campus operations during this pandemic.”
Dorms are 75% full this semester with about 1,200 students living on campus, UCCS spokesman Jared Verner said.
Also being factored into the decision is El Paso County’s mounting number of COVID-19 infections, Reddy said.
With cases nearing a record high since the onset of the pandemic in March, the county now must tighten restrictions under Gov. Jared Polis’ executive orders. Starting Wednesday, personal gatherings will be limited to 10 people who must stay at least 6 feet apart to social distance.
UCCS on-campus dining halls will be open at 50% capacity with a 50-person cap, the school's recreation center will be open at 25% capacity with a 50-person limit, and the campus library will operate at 50% capacity.
The spring semester, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 19, is expected to follow the same hybrid model as this semester, officials said.
Of classes being offered this semester, 19% are fully in-person and 17% are fully online, Verner said. A total of 61% of classes have some type of remote instruction, he said, and 43% have some in-person learning component.
Students are being tested only if they have COVID-19 symptoms, he said, with random testing to start in January. UCCS just received rapid-antigen testing equipment and now can perform 15-minute tests for students only in its wellness center, Verner said.
For the week ending Oct. 30, nine people reported a positive test for COVID-19, according to the school’s case count.
Of the 55 people identified as infected through testing at the campus lab since the semester began on Aug. 24 and through last Friday, 50 have recovered, the school reported. The number of positive cases does not include results from outside testing sites or primary care doctors. A 33-room isolation center set up on campus has received some use, data show.
Colorado College has had 18 cumulative positive cases since the semester started, according to its statistics. The school announced two weeks ago it will only allow seniors, freshmen, other new students and international students to live on campus in the spring. Sophomores and juniors will either have to take remote-learning classes or live off-campus and go onto campus for in-person instruction.
Pikes Peak Community College had an outbreak of three cases identified on Oct. 16, state public health data show, and has had at least five other single cases.