With the return to campus in September, the University of Denver wasn’t taking any chances with the health and safety of its students, faculty and staff.
After adroitly handling the COVID-19 pandemic through the 2020–21 academic year, with students taking advantage of HyFlex classes that mixed online and in-classroom learning, the University was well prepared for a return to normal, or near normal, in fall quarter.
Matters were complicated by the highly contagious delta variant, which sent infection rates climbing in Colorado, particularly among the unvaccinated. To protect its students, faculty and staff, the University launched a robust campaign to vaccinate as many members of the DU community as possible. By October, says Sarah Watamura, DU’s COVID response coordinator, the University had achieved a 96% vaccination rate.
By the time students started class in September, the campus was designated level green. That level requires face coverings for anyone not fully vaccinated, except when outdoors and socially distanced or alone in a private office or room. Even fully vaccinated individuals were required to wear masks indoors for all meetings with five people or more, unless they were eating, drinking, or presenting or performing at a 6-foot distance. To make contact tracing more effective, students were assigned seats in classrooms. What’s more, they could not eat during classes unless they had an accommodation from the Disability Services Program.
Community members also were required to take COVID tests at assigned intervals. Roughly 10,000 tests were administered each week, Watamura says. Any students who were ill and placed in isolation or quarantine were provided access to course materials to continue learning. Throughout fall quarter, quarantine was only required for close contacts who were unvaccinated or partly vaccinated, a practice that ensured that far fewer students than last year were affected. On campus, Watamura says, positivity was at or below a quarter of a percent all of fall term, despite statewide positivity of more than 5%.