With the fall 2021 semester underway, UCCS has asked students on campus to be vaccinated and follow policies to prevent the continuing spread of COVID-19.
Following a rise in local and national cases, Chancellor Venkat Reddy reinstated an executive directive on masks on campus, effective Aug. 9, following a shift into the “Protect the Pride” phase of Campus COVID-19 Protective Measures on Aug. 2.
In the “Protect the Pride” phase, instructional modes remain primarily in-person, meaning that classrooms, research areas and labs, events, services and public spaces operate at full capacity. However, face coverings are required both for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
“Reinstating this measure is a simple and important way to continue our plans for in-person classes, activities and events on campus, and reduce the possibility of having to move to a remote experience,” Reddy said in the email announcement.
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Health and Wellness Stephanie Hanenberg wrote via email, “The mask mandate for indoor settings was implemented as one strategy to help manage the current surge being seen in our county. We are proactively looking at ways to keep students on campus so that means working to increase vaccination rates, masking indoors, and we encourage social distancing when possible to minimize risk of exposure.”
Comparing current COVID-19 policies on campus to the previous school year, Hanenberg said, “We also had social distancing in all offices and classrooms last semester which has gone away in an attempt to bring more in-person class offerings back for students.”
Increased infection rates in Colorado and the rising prominence of the Delta variant are being factored into campus-wide pandemic related restrictions and procedures.
According to the El Paso County Public Health website, the Delta variant is now “the dominant strain of COVID-19 in El Paso County, Colorado and the country.”
The Delta variant is more transmissible than the original COVID-19 virus, though as reported by the website, “current data suggests that the COVID-19 vaccines appear to retain most of their effectiveness against the Delta variant.”
According to Hanenberg, at least two vaccination clinics will be hosted each month at the Wellness Center as long as there is demand.
Students returning to campus were required to fill out a COVID-19 vaccination attestation form, allowing them to indicate their vaccination status or exemption for medical or non-medical reasons.
“Due to the increasing cases locally, within the state, and nationally, we converted to requiring all COVID vaccine records of housing students since their living situation puts them at higher risk,” Hanenberg said. “The attestation has given us a good idea of the rates for the remainder of campus which continues to help guide our decisions.”
If a student contracts or shows symptoms of COVID-19, they should call the Wellness Center on campus to schedule a test. El Paso County Public Health also recommends various community testing sites, which can be found here.
Contact tracers will call students who test positive to identify close contacts.
“A close contact is any individual within 6 feet of the positive case for 15 minutes or more. The infectious period is considered 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms so we assess exposures during that time frame,” Hanenberg said.
Unvaccinated contacts will be asked to quarantine, while close contacts who are vaccinated can continue with regular activities but should be tested between days 3-5, according to Hanenberg.
“Many people dismiss their symptoms as something else which often results in numerous exposures,” Hanenberg said. “Those individuals then also have to stay off of campus for an extended period of time resulting in more people missing classes and work.”
So far, among people enrolled in UCCS as a student, there have been seven positive cases of COVID-19 in the month of August, according to the UCCS COVID-19-Ready dashboard.