Yesterday, City of Boulder spokesperson Sarah Huntley characterized increased enforcement efforts related to an explosion of COVID-19 cases among college students as a "ramping up" of activity rather than a crackdown.
A new move by Boulder County Public Health makes that distinction debatable. The agency has just announced that starting at 4 p.m. today, September 24, gatherings of 18-to-22-year-olds will be banned for the next two weeks.
The language of the announcement doesn't specify the size of the forbidden get-togethers. The key passage reads: "Anyone aged 18 to 22 years old anywhere in the City of Boulder may not participate in any gatherings of any size, whether indoors, outdoors, on or off campus, or with individuals of any age; and residents of 36 addresses identified in the Order who have repeatedly engaged in activities that violate public health orders or who live in congregate living situations must stay at their residence at all times (i.e. Stay-At-Home Order)."
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The situation is certainly severe. The latest outbreaks report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment documents more than 1,300 positive or probable cases of the novel coronavirus among the University of Colorado Boulder community — a number that explains why the college has temporarily switched to remote learning. But the sweeping nature of the new edict will no doubt cause controversy, anyway.
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After Boulder's revelation, the office of Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued a statement that reads: "Governor Polis knows that 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."
Here's the full release from the City of Boulder, complete with details about repercussions for violators.
New Boulder County Public Health Order Requires all 18 to 22-Year-Old Individuals in Boulder to Halt Gatherings to Slow Rate of New COVID-19 Cases
Boulder County, CO – New cases of COVID-19 have been on the rise for nearly three weeks in Boulder County, with the vast majority due to transmission among Boulder residents aged 18-22 years, particularly those attending the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) and living in the Hill neighborhood. In an effort to reverse the trend of new cases, Boulder County Public Health, with support from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), has issued a new Public Health Order for specific Boulder residences. The Order takes effect at 4 p.m. on Thursday, September 24, for the next 14 days.
“We must take stronger action to stop the spread of this virus in our community,” said Jeff Zayach, Boulder County Public Health executive director. “We have researched the actions we can take that would be effective while minimizing burden on those who have not been the source of increased transmission. We believe this strategy can achieve both goals.”
The Order includes two key provisions: Anyone aged 18 to 22 years old anywhere in the City of Boulder may not participate in any gatherings of any size, whether indoors, outdoors, on or off campus, or with individuals of any age; and residents of 36 addresses identified in the Order who have repeatedly engaged in activities that violate public health orders or who live in congregate living situations must stay at their residence at all times (i.e. Stay-At-Home Order).
While there has been little evidence of spread of the virus beyond the 18-22 age group, the continued increase in new cases in the city of Boulder prompted the Public Health Order to help prevent the spread to other community members.
The Order prohibits all indoor and outdoor gatherings involving or among 18-22-year-old individuals within the City of Boulder, regardless of where they live or whether they are currently enrolled at CU. Young adults this age are permitted to participate in exercise outside if they are alone, study outside alone, and go to work if they don’t live in a residence with stay-at-home requirements. Young adults this age are permitted to interact with members of their household, and those in high school are permitted to participate in school activities, as defined in the Order.
“We understand that restricting gathering of young adults can have negative effects on their mental health,” said Zayach. “We urge family and friends to support the young adults in their life during this time by being available for them and helping them access mental health resources, if needed. The more diligently this Order is followed, the sooner we’ll be able to lift it.”
“We are supportive of the public health needs of the Boulder community to stop the spread of the virus,” said Dan Jones, CU Boulder Associate Vice Chancellor of Integrity, Safety and Compliance. “This new public health directive will be a strain on our students living in Boulder, and we are focusing on efforts to support them.”
The Order also requires residents at 36 identified properties within the City of Boulder to stay at their homes residence or at least 14 days. These residents may only leave for certain essential activities, which include:
• To seek medical care, including COVID-19 testing
• To obtain necessary supplies using curbside pickup or contactless delivery only. Necessary supplies include food, pet supply, medical supplies, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of a residence
• To engage in outdoor activity exercise (e.g. walking, hiking, biking, running, etc.) alone, and able to maintain at least six (6) feet distance from all other persons at all times.
The Order prohibits residents of the identified properties from:
• Dining outside of the residence, whether at a business or at another residence.
• Using any mode of public transportation or rideshare (e.g. bus, plane, taxi, train, Uber, Lyft, etc.).
• Allowing anyone who does not live at the property to enter unless they are an essential visitor (e.g. service provider).
• Leaving the property to move to another location, unless specific requirements are met.
• Congregating in any common areas at the residence.
• Participating in any form of outdoor activity exercise with another person.
• Traveling further than walking distance of their residence when outdoors for exercise or work (with exceptions for financial hardship).
The Order also requires that residents under the Stay-at-Home portion of the Order always wear a face covering whenever outside their residence; maintain social distancing of at least six feet from all other people outside the household; and avoid contact with all others as much as possible.
“We are appreciative of the responsive and targeted approach our partners are taking to address the recent increase in COVID-19 cases among college students in Boulder. We urge students and all other young people aged 18 to 22 to remember they are a valued part of this community — and have a responsibility as such to comply with public health orders. We know this is hard; however, this is a critical time to ensure the health, safety and vibrancy of this city we all love,” said City Manager Jane Brautigam.
Anyone under this Order who tests positive or has symptoms of COVID-19 is required to isolate. Neither a negative COVID-19 test nor a positive antibody test will negate the requirements of the Order. Residents under the Stay-at-Home portion of the Order must also provide the names of everyone living in their household.
To avoid transmission to other communities, individuals under the Stay-at-Home portion of the Order must stay in their Boulder residence or stay at an alternative location that is within a 5-hour drive. Shared or public transportation is not permitted, including air travel.
For detailed information, review the full Order or visit at https://boco.org/covid19GatheringsOrder.
Anyone who feels they need mental health support can contact Colorado Crisis Services any time, day or night, by calling 1-844-493-8255 or Texting “TALK” to 38255. CU Boulder students can also check mental health resources available at https://www.colorado.edu/covid-19.
This post has been updated to include a comment from Colorado Governor Jared Polis.