The most recent COVID-19 outbreaks report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment set an unfortunate record for new entries, including three Greek houses at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
Add the outbreaks at Phi Delta Theta, Pi Kappa Phi and Sigma Pi to one at Kappa Sigma in early September and another pair (Chi Omega and Gamma Phi Beta) later in the month, and that's a total of six fraternities or sororities at the school that have been hit by the disease — and that number doesn't include the two dormitories placed under quarantine amid a rise in Colorado case counts largely attributable to infections among college students.
Unlike the University of Colorado Boulder, which made a temporary shift to remote learning after its COVID-19 numbers began spiking, CSU is still holding in-person classes. But judging from our visit to Fort Collins on Saturday, October 3, the university community is taking the potential spread of the virus very seriously.
Under normal circumstances, hundreds of students would have been outdoors, enjoying an absolutely glorious early fall afternoon. But the athletic fields, the recreational center, the plentiful walkways and even Greek row along South Shields Street were largely deserted, as if summer break had just been declared and everyone was already headed home.
CSU and CU Boulder have been rivals for well over a hundred years, but when it comes to the competition for the fewest infections from the novel coronavirus, there's no contest. According to CSU's COVID-19 dashboard, its cumulative case count currently sits at 440, with three positive student tests recorded on October 3, the most recent date available.
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Contrast that with information from CU Boulder's COVID-19 dashboard, which calculates 1,082 positive results from on-campus testing since August 24. But that's hardly the end of the story.
The CDPHE has grouped cases at the school under a single heading, "University of Colorado Boulder Community Outbreak." In its September 23 analysis, the CDPHE noted that twelve staff members and 1,198 students had tested positive, while another 104 were considered to have probable cases of the disease. A week later, the staff diagnoses remained unchanged, but the positive student cases had risen to 1,503, with another 161 considered to have probably been infected.
There were few opportunities for such spread at CSU on Saturday.
No one was playing basketball on the main outdoor courts, leaving a wide expanse open for a single skateboarder to turn lonely circles. A few small groups of two or three students could be found here and there on the nearby green space; some were masked even though the distance between them and others could often be measured in hundreds of yards. We saw several people riding stationary bikes in the exercise center, but all of them were masked, and none were anywhere near each other. An impromptu volleyball game staged on the grass because the main pits had been designated as off-limits was pretty much the height of activity.
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Things were even quieter near the frats and sororities. We didn't spot a single student outside, and a sign on the front door of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority made it clear that only a special few could gain admittance. An all-caps sentence stated: "TO SAFEGUARD OUR RESIDENTS' AND STAFF'S HEALTH, UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE, WE ARE NOT ALLOWING ANY UNAUTHORIZED GUESTS OR VISITORS IN THE BUILDING."
The closing lines of the missive were friendlier: "We ask for your patience and forgiveness for not inviting you into our building during this time! We wish you and yours good health and happiness!"
Yes, the lack of activity was sad — but it had something of a defiant edge to it. Sorry, CU Boulder, but CSU is kicking your ass.