The University of Colorado Boulder is moving to remote learning for at least two weeks amid a coronavirus outbreak that has sickened hundreds of people on its campus.
Starting on Wednesday, all classes will be held virtually until at least Oct. 7.
“I know this situation is extremely difficult, and I wish, as I know we all do, that our circumstances were very different,” Chancellor Phil DiStefano wrote in a letter to the campus community on Monday. “The next two weeks are about more than our ability to see each other in person. The risks to our broader community are too great, and COVID-19 spreads too easily, for any further noncompliance with public health measures to go without immediate consequences.”
The decision to suspend in-person classes comes after Boulder County Public Health last week asked all CU Boulder students to voluntarily quarantine for two weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19. Gov. Jared Polis has warned that the situation has put at risk the state’s work to stem the spread of the disease.
“Since we began the two-week stay-at home period for students last week, our COVID-19 cases have started to come down. To continue this downward trend and help protect the health and safety of our Boulder community, our campus will operate under temporary remote-only instruction for all undergraduate, graduate and law classes for a minimum of two weeks,” DiStefano wrote in his letter.
CU says researchers and research-related activities will not be impacted by the move to online learning. The campus will remain open, as will the school’s libraries and recreation center.
Students will be allowed to remain in their on-campus housing.
More than 750 people associated with CU Boulder have tested positive for the coronavirus since Aug. 24, including 457 last week alone. That’s prompted stern warnings from public health officials and the university that the trend needs to be halted or further restrictive actions will need to be taken.
The university last week sidestepped questions, however, about moving to remote learning, pointing to the fact that the disease has not been spreading at classes, but more at off–campus gatherings, like parties.
“At the moment, this is a temporary situation,” DiStefano said on Monday, “but it could become permanent if we continue to disregard public health guidelines.”
The situation at CU became so dire last week that the school moved 186 students out of a dorm to make more quarantine space for their sick peers.
Polis has said sending students home is not an option because that could spread COVID-19 across Colorado and the nation. “It would not be constructive for them to be sent away,” Polis said on Friday. “That would be very dangerous.”
The University of Colorado Boulder said it will discipline students who don’t follow its coronavirus rules and guidelines. Over the weekend, according to CU, 14 students were cited for violating public health orders and immediately suspended for 10 days. Cited students are processed through the school’s conduct office, and should they be found responsible for citation, they could be suspended for the rest of the semester.