BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) - The University of Colorado and Boulder County Health Department are asking students to self-quarantine for 14 days in response to a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases. The new guidelines require students to go beyond precautions like social distancing and mask wearing, but some students worry those expectations may not be practical.
"I mean it's just not surprising at all," said Juliet Ricci, a senior at CU Boulder. "Just kind of what I think we've been anticipating."
The health department said on a video conference Wednesday that they've recorded 50 new cases each day for the past six days. This comes after hundreds of cases were linked to CU students.
While most of the cases are students, leaders say only a small number are causing the spread.
"We know the vast majority of our students are doing the right thing to keep our community safe," said CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano. "A large group gathering and not wearing masks [...] an alarming rise in cases."
The city of Boulder also issued a mandatory self-quarantine order on Wednesday for a duplex on University Hill. The property, located at 1125 10th Street, serves as an annex for the Kappa Sigma Fraternity. Officials said activities at the property have repeatedly violated public health orders.
Some students told CBS4 they are making changes to their regular routine due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. The university encourages virtual engagement and DiStefano said they would provide programming to help students stay connected.
"Just really more aware of what I'm doing, or who I'm around, or how many people I'm around," said Yareni Renteria, a CU senior. "Friends haven't' seen me in months because they need me to take a test."
The punishment for violating protocol could include a temporary expulsion from campus, probation, or suspension. While CU has not removed any students permanently from the university, 422 students have been referred for violating conduct.
Under the new recommendations, students are being asked to stay home and only leave for essentials and exercise.
"What students have expressed to us is that they want to be able to continue with their educational experiences," said Patrick O'Rourke, chief operating officer for CU Boulder.
Students worry about how some of their peers will handle these new expectations when they travel to campus regularly and live in a variety of housing options.
"I totally understand that, but sometimes the message is contradicting when we also [have] classes in person," Ricci told CBS4.
Avoiding social gatherings outside of her home isn't as much of an issue Ricci explained.
"I live in a house with a ton of other people so it's easier for me to say that but for other people who are living by themselves," said Ricci.
O'Rourke said the university is not blaming students, but asking for their help. He acknowledged that students may not have understood the gravity of the situation until now. University leaders added that this strategy is not unique, given similar scenarios in Michigan, Arizona, and Wisconsin.
"The importance of the collaboration with the city and county," DiStefano added. "We need to step up to further mitigate spread."
Two testing sites are opening to help track the spread of COVID-19, including the parking lot at 1205 Pleasant Street, which starting testing on Wednesday.
A line wrapped around the site and staff stayed late to finish helping everyone who showed up. Another testing location will open at Gerald Stazio Softball Fields, located at 2445 Stazio Drive.
Both locations will operate from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week for two weeks. For more information, visit boco.org/COVID19Testing.
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