The public universities of Colorado are guarding against the pandemic by requiring COVID-19 booster vaccinations for students and staff before resuming in-person learning this month.
Campus administrators at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado State University in Fort Collins and Western Colorado University at Gunnison said Tuesday that they made the decision in response to the Omicron boom following lead by some area private schools.
CU Denver and CU Anschutz Medical School officials have also mandated booster vaccinations, and CU Colorado Springs officials are “strongly recommending” boosters and COVID-19 testing.
“Vaccination plus boosters are the best way to reduce COVID spread and reduce infection in success cases,” said CU Acting President Todd Saliman. “This approach is key to our priority of personalized learning, research and health services.”
On the CU Boulder campus, school officials decided to delay the start of in-person classes until January 24 due to a combination of disruptions from the Omicron surge and the Marshall firestorm, which displaced approximately 120 students and staff. (CU officials said they have raised more than $170,000 to support him.)
The shift to mandatory booster shots protects against the current pandemic. The Colorado public university campus, once seen as a COVID-19 hot spot, has been turned into areas of relative safety over the past year by persuading most students and staff to vaccinate and wear masks.
COVID infection rates on campuses of colleges around Colorado have been mostly below 5%, generally well below off-campus rates in surrounding communities. And state health officials last reported some major outbreaks at universities. At CU Boulder, more than 90% of students and staff were vaccinated.
Only students and employees who receive written immunization waivers based on religious, health, and personal reasons may skip the booster.
Higher education leaders across the state say they plan to stick with in-person learning, with delayed starts as they monitor the Omicron spread. In some schools, officials have increased the limit for mass gatherings such as sporting events.
Two private schools — Regis University and Colorado College — took the lead in tightening protocols this month by requiring booster shots and proof of their vacation leave, before in-person learning begins. Rev. John Fitzgibbons, president of Regis, put it as a matter of relieving health care workers and helping to show respect to coworkers, classmates, friends and neighbors.
At CC, students must take a test upon return to campus in Colorado Springs. and CC students are required to cover their nose and mouth in all indoor locations with N95 or KN95 masks, replacing cloth masks that health professionals have said may not completely block microns.
Officials with the Colorado Department of Higher Education recently chatted with school presidents about the Omicron increase, but did not respond to questions about potential statewide guidance for schools.
In Gunnison, officials at Western Colorado University pointed to an infection rate below 2% last year and were planning on-person learning this month, as long as students have booster shots by Jan.
“If you have the vaccine, you’re less likely to get sick,” WCU interim president Nancy Chisholm said. “We want our students to come back to the campus. That’s what parents say they want. That’s what the students say loud and clear about what they want. We want to protect our students,” Chisholm said. “It’s the safest place they can be.”