Colorado State University Officials Claim State Data Misrepresents COVID-19 Cases On Campus
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has declared an outbreak at Colorado State University reporting that 375 attendees tested positive for COVID-19.
CSU officials released a statement saying, “CSU does not currently have a new, single COVID-19 outbreak of 375 students, and has never had an outbreak of that size”. They said the discrepancy is most likely caused by the CDPHE changing the way cases are reported since the start of the pandemic.
This comes as other universities in the state struggle to implement effective policies for student health and safety on campus. In Colorado, universities like Colorado College sent students home and the University of Colorado Boulder has seen a campus wide outbreak.
The statement also said the most accurate reflection of COVID-19 cases on campus is the CSU dashboard which is regularly updated. As of October 8 the university has reported 468 cases among students and staff since tracking began in May. In contrast, CU Boulder, a similar sized university, has reported 1,097 cases since August 24th.
CSU Health Network Executive Director Lori Lynn is co-chair of the university's Pandemic Preparedness Team. She says they work hard to collect testing data and provide comprehensive case counts.
“The bulk of that dashboard consists of testing we’re doing on campus. We’ve done over 20,000 tests already,” Lynn said. “Most of the numbers are generated from that, but it also does capture cases that are reported from other sources. Whether it’s through a hospital system or a private physicians office or testing that might be done through the county or state.”
Lynn said when people are tested and identified as CSU students, faculty, or staff that data is funneled into their system for tracking.
CSU has been working closely with Larimer County Public Health to manage cases and divide up contact tracing efforts, but student residences both on and off campus have posed a challenge.
Boulder County Health placed a stay at home order on 37 off-campus student houses at CU Boulder to prevent further spread. Larimer County reports there are ongoing outbreaks at six CSU fraternity and sorority houses. Lynn said the key to addressing those outbreaks has been flexibility and targeted testing.
“The majority of our testing efforts have been for the congregate living arrangements on campus, such as the residence halls or university housing,” Lynn said. “We do the wastewater testing. I believe there are 17 different locations across campus, and they target different buildings. When we had the Braiden and the Summit students stay in place that was due to elevated wastewater signals, and a pattern of cases within those facilities.”
Students living in Braiden and Summit Halls were placed on mandatory quarantine from September 24 until 29. Testing was also mandated for 13 different on campus residences and all students living in 6 off campus greek houses between September 23rd and October 1st.
Lynn said going forward they plan to continue aggressive testing and contact tracing to mitigate risk on campus and in the greater Fort Collins community.