The University of Colorado has been struggling for weeks to contain the spread of COVID-19 on campus, and now Boulder County Public Health is taking matters into its own hands as the outbreak threatens the broader community. The public health agency on Thursday issued both a “gathering prohibition” order as well as a stay-at-home order for all individuals between the ages of 18 and 22 who live at the properties near the CU Boulder campus.

“COVID-19 positive case data for Boulder County shows that at this stage of the pandemic emergency, it is essential to slow the virus among CU Boulder students aged between 18 to 22 years old, especially those that reside in the Hill neighborhood of Boulder, collegiate group homes, and residences with documented histories of public health order violations,” reads a release from Boulder County Public Health. “By reducing the rate of potential transmission of COVID-19, this Order helps to prevent increased disease transmission across the greater Boulder County community and preserve critical and limited healthcare capacity in Boulder County.”

Specifically, gatherings of any size are prohibited by the new order and the stay-at-home restrictions apply to 36 off-campus residences that house University of Colorado students (addresses of those residences, which are primarily fraternities and sororities, can be found here.) The order begins September 24 at 4 p.m. and expires October 8, unless extended. Students who do not comply with the order could be fined up to $5,000 or jailed for as many as 18 months.

The tightened restrictions come amid the state’s largest outbreak of COVID-19 since March. According to the order, there have been 1,392 “confirmed or probable” cases of COVID-19 among CU students in the 18- to 22-year-old age range, which makes up 78 percent of all of Boulder County’s cases since August 24.

Already, the University of Colorado had tried to quell the transmission rate by instituting remote learning for a two-week period, and Boulder County Public Health had already issued guidance that all students self quarantine.

Gov. Jared Polis, who is from Boulder and has repeatedly called on CU students to limit gatherings and slow transmission rates, issued the following statement in response to the public health order: “The better students do avoiding gatherings, the sooner they can get back to in-person learning and the sooner they can resume their regular activities. We know this isn’t the school year that any of us imagined, but urgent action is needed to prevent further spread in the community.”

Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard is a Denver-based writer and a former editor on 5280's digital team.