Universities

Colorado universities impose COVID-19 booster shots amid omicron outbreak

Colorado public universities are stepping up protection against pandemics by requiring COVID-19 booster vaccinations for students and staff before resuming in-person learning this month.

Campus administrators at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado State University at Fort Collins and Western Colorado University at Gunnison said on Tuesday they made the decisions in response to the omicron push, following the example of some private schools in the region.

CU Denver and CU Anschutz medical school officials have also made booster shots mandatory, and CU Colorado Springs officials “strongly recommend” COVID-19 boosters and testing.

“Vaccines and boosters are the best way to reduce the spread of COVID and minimize infection in breakthrough cases,” CU Acting President Todd Saliman said. “This approach is key to our priority of in-person learning, research and health services. “

On the CU Boulder campus, school officials decided to delay the start of in-person classes until January 24 due to the combination of the omicron surge and disruption from Firestorm Marshall, which displaced approximately 120 students and employees. (CU officials said they raised more than $ 170,000 to support them.)

The move to mandatory booster injections strengthens existing defenses against the pandemic. Colorado’s public college campuses, once considered COVID-19 hotspots, have over the past year transformed into zones of relative safety by persuading most students and employees to get vaccinated and wear masks.

COVID infection rates on college campuses in Colorado have mostly remained below 5%, typically well below off-campus rates in surrounding communities. And last fall, state health officials reported few major outbreaks at universities. At CU Boulder, over 90% of students and staff have been vaccinated.

Only students and employees who get written immunization exemptions for religious, health, and personal reasons can skip recalls.

The state’s higher education leaders say they plan to stick with in-person learning, with delayed starts if necessary while they monitor the spread of omicron. In some schools, authorities have increased the limits on mass gatherings such as sporting events.

Two private schools – Regis University and Colorado College – have led the toughening of pre-vacation protocols by requiring booster shots and proof, before students can start learning in person this month. Reverend John Fitzgibbons, President of Regis, framed it as a matter of helping relieve healthcare workers and respect for co-workers, classmates, friends and neighbors.

At CC, students must take a test upon their return to the Colorado Springs campus. And CC students are required to cover their nose and mouth in all indoor spaces with N95 or KN95 masks, replacing fabric masks that medical professionals say might not completely block omicron.

Officials from the Colorado Department of Higher Education recently spoke to school presidents about the omicron surge, but did not respond to questions about possible guidelines across the board. the state for schools.

In Gunnison, officials at Western Colorado University pointed to infection rates below 2% last year and predicted a return to in-person learning this month as long as students have booster shots of here Jan. 31.

“If you have the vaccine, you may get less sick,” WCU Acting President Nancy Chisholm said. “We want our students to come back to campus. This is what parents say they want. This is what the students said loud and clear they wanted. We want to protect our students, ”said Chisholm. “It’s the safest place they can be.”