Local lull in COVID-19 cases, fall 2022 campus measures undecided 

     Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the future remains uncertain. According to the New York Times, cases are gradually rising in the U.S., but the daily average remains at its lowest point since summer 2021. 

     With lower case numbers on campus and locally in El Paso County, UCCS is preparing to end the spring 2022 semester on a more normal note than in the previous two years. However, next semester’s approach will depend on how cases develop, according to COVID-19 response manager Alyssa Monterroso. 

     “We basically need to see how summer plays out, we need to see what our cases are looking like closer to fall. Right now, El Paso County is doing really incredible with cases. … As far as bringing back surveillance testing and all that stuff, it’s always on the table because as we’ve seen throughout this pandemic, we just never know what’s going to hit next,” she said. 

     The Wellness Center recorded five positive cases in April as of April 18, according to Monterroso. In addition, the El Paso County Public Health COVID-19 dashboard reported 531 positive cases, seven hospitalizations and zero deaths for the month as of April 18.  

     Case incidence in the county is significantly lower compared to January’s total of 42,998 cases, an all-time high driven by the omicron variant. 

     “As of right now, we’re not terrified of another outbreak. We were a little worried about the BA.2 variant. We were monitoring, watching that, making sure it’s not getting out of control, but it ended up not spiking to a level that we needed to shut down or anything like that. That was the most recent one, other than that we haven’t been too worried,” Monterroso said. 

     With the switch to the mask-optional policy beginning March 7, UCCS suspended its COVID-19 dashboard, where testing and positive case numbers used to be published. As a result, current and past case data are no longer public, although the Wellness Center can provide the information upon request. 

     “I continue to update the dashboard even though it’s not getting released to the public. We do still collect our data,” Monterroso said. 

     Though masks remain optional, Monterroso advised that they are one way students can protect others with different health risks. 

     “If someone is immunocompromised and chooses to wear a mask, let’s not place judgment, let’s not ask them about their decision. … If they feel comfortable saying ‘would you mind wearing a mask around me?’ just be respectful and mindful that they might be worried about their own health, and it’s a small step you can take to decrease the chances of them getting sick,” she said. 

     “It’s basically just showing respect for people who have different risk factors and might require some different safety precautions.” 

     Students can get tested for COVID-19 through the Wellness Center with a $20 telehealth appointment by calling 719-255-4444 or using free drive-thru community testing sites such as the Chapel Hills and Citadel malls. Free kits of four at-home tests also remain available through the U.S. Post Office. 

     Monterroso recommended that students continue to refer to UCCS’ COVID-19 resources page at covid19.uccs.edu.  

     “If you have any concerns about symptoms, exposures, positive tests [or] what you should do to keep yourself and others safe, please give [the Wellness Center] a call,” she said.