The Bridge: COVID - Our Past Accomplishments and a Look to the Future
CORRECTION: The previously sent out Bridge edition misspelled the name of our accomplished and highly appreciated Nancy Lorenzon in Biology, who managed collection sites and our student teams that operated morning, night and weekends!
DU Public Health Takeover Edition
Moving Forward and Looking Back
As DU public health transitions from its emergency response to the pandemic to a sustainable model, we aim to grow from our experiences and integrate what we have learned into our operations. To that end, we are returning to what DU has always done well—educating individuals to be responsible citizens.
The concept of citizenship has evolved over the last two years, elevating the importance of holistic health—meaning our community's physical and mental health. As institutions have shifted or are shifting their attention away from COVID, here at DU, we will integrate the remarkable work of our COVID team into new initiatives to cultivate a healthy workplace.
To keep our community healthy and effectively deliver on our mission, we must embrace the lessons we have learned over the last two years. Here are a few:
- If you have symptoms, get tested and wear a mask.
- Make time to create social connections. Relationships sustain us and others during challenging moments.
- Remember that we have a shared educational purpose, and a shared sense of purpose can be a powerful source of belonging.
- Quality science and data improves decision making.
Current COVID-19 Updates and Information
Fall 2022 COVID-19 Changes
Over the summer, we communicated specific changes to vaccination requirements, COVID-19 testing, and building access. This message summarizes what to expect when you return to campus fall 2022.
This year we are not using the Hilltop Apartments as an isolation space for residential students who test positive for COVID-19. Instead, we are allowing students who live in congregate housing with communal bathrooms to leave campus and return to their home to isolate if they are able to safely travel in a personal vehicle.
Students who cannot leave campus and return home will isolate in an on-campus facility for at least five days from the date of their positive test and they will be released when they receive instructions from the University.
Students in Fraternity & Sorority Life housing and many residential students with single occupancy bedrooms will isolate in their own rooms.
DU no longer requires arrival testing or mandatory testing for COVID-19, except for the following situations:
- When you are notified by the DU contact tracers that you are part of an outbreak, defined by the Colorado Department of Public Health as five or more confirmed related cases of COVID-19 in a facility or group within 14 days
- When you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
- When you have been exposed and identified as a close contact of an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19
As in the past two years, the University requires the influenza (flu) vaccine for all students, faculty and staff living, learning or working on campus. For those with a COVID booster appointment please remember to bring your COVID vaccine card and, if you have medical insurance, please bring your insurance card.
You must receive and upload proof of your influenza vaccination to your MyHealth portal or have an approved exemption no later than Dec. 15, 2022.
Free Testing Remains Available at the Care Pod:
DU’s Care Pod is open and available to any DU community member without an appointment.
Friends and family can test for a fee but must make an appointment through the myhealth.du.edu portal.
Please check the Care Pod website for hours of operation and to make appointments for friends and family.
Updated Location and Additional COVID Shot Clinics
Great news! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends the new bivalent (updated Omicron) booster for all those 12 years and older who have previously received the primary COVID-19 vaccine and/or the monovalent (original) booster.
Please use the CDC vaccination calculator to determine if you are currently eligible to receive the new COVID-19 bivalent booster or when you will be eligible.
The flu/COVID-19 booster clinics will take place in the Daniels College of Business (DCB), room 125, also known as the Marcus Commons, at the dates and times listed below. Thanks to DCB for the use of their space for such an extended period.
Clinic Dates and Times
Meet New Members of the Public Health Team at DU
Eric Hartman arrived at DU in the Summer of 2021 to establish an enterprise risk management (ERM) program at DU.
He spent most of his career in student affairs and was a chief student affairs officer for a decade. Hartman transitioned from student affairs into risk management seven years ago and during that time, he developed a national model for converting traditional risk management into initiatives that rally individuals together to address systemic priorities like workplace culture.
In June, Therese Mashak stepped into the role of Public Health Project Manager, a new position for the University and one that will focus on all DU community members, students, faculty, and staff.
Mashak brings years of experience as a critical staff member in the provost’s office as well as a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration. Mashak has supported aspects of the COVID-19 response since 2020.
The Early Days of COVID
Sandy Johnson, director of the University of Denver’s Global Health Affairs program gave a fantastic initial introduction to COVID-19 general impact, global response and xenophobia in the DU RadioEd episode "The Coronavirus: Keep Calm and Carry On" back on February 26, 2020.
The Team That Carried DU:
COVID-19 Response Network
The COVID-19 Response Network was established in the pandemic’s early phases to handle the University response to positive COVID-19 tests and outbreaks and case identification from symptom tracking.
It was this team’s responsibility to implement response protocols such as contact tracing, quarantine/isolation of students/employees, building disinfection or space modification and reporting findings to the state, city and county. They also made rapid recommendations to inform senior leadership on serious and emergent issues and developed procedures and protocols when operational gaps were identified.
The COVID response team worked with National Jewish Health to set up vaccination clinics, making the COVID-19 vaccine available to the DU community as well as the community at large. Over 16,000 vaccinations were given as a result of this effort.
The University of Denver COVID-19 Response Network is comprised of four groups:
- Senior leadership team
- COVID coordinator team
- University COVID-19 response team
- Health partner liaison team
COVID Coordinator Sarah Watamura and Team
In late January 2020, University of Denver leadership began intensively watching the developing SARS-COV2 “COVID-19” pandemic, putting in motion contingency steps in the event that action was needed (e.g., buying supplies, investing in technology supports, evaluating extraction options for students abroad).
Led by a core team of four (Watamura, Lengsfeld, Silver, and Gorgens), these policies and operations were made possible through the extraordinary cooperation, dedication, and creativity of 70 highly involved staff, faculty, and students, supported by an additional 230 interns and volunteers.
We would also like to give a shout out to the amazing efforts of, Nancy Lorenzon in Biology, who managed collection sites and our student teams that operated morning, night and weekends. She also provides oversight to the EMS student team. She did everything from coordinating staffing schedules to running samples to the labs. Her commitment to the cause is remarkable and mostly invisible to most.
A tenured professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, Phillip Danielson is a integral team member of DU’s COVID Response Team and the innovative leader of saliva COVID testing.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, nasal swabs were the gold standard. I worked to develop a reliable, sensitive, cost-effective and fast saliva PCR test for COVID. The testing process that my lab developed turned out to be as good as the best test from any hospital lab. To date, the Spit Lab alone has processed over 450,000 saliva tests.”
Outside of DU, Danielson enjoys traveling internationally, collecting modern fine art, and loves EDM. He is also a passionate chef who enjoys cooking both classical French as well as modernist/molecular cuisine.
Student Perspective: Vander Georgeff
Current undergraduate student Vander Georgeff, who studies biochemistry and molecular biology, began his involvement with DU’s COVID response team during the winter interterm of the 2020-2021 school year.
Georgeff says he has “learned so much about working in clinical CAP-accredited labs, molecular diagnostics, and life in general.” While COVID may have brought many hardships to the DU community, Georgeff is grateful for the opportunities the lab has provided him and is proud of the accomplishments of the COVID team.
Article Archive – Looking Back
University of Denver Expected to Triple COVID-19 Testing for Winter Quarter (2021)
To manage the higher positivity conditions expected in the 2021 winter term, DU significantly increased testing frequency for those living and working on campus. Achieving this goal of increased testing was accomplished through the introduction of salivary RT-PCR testing conducted on campus and eventually using an extraction-based approach. The results were a 96.7% sensitivity rate on positive tests and a 100% specificity rate on negative tests.
“What this testing strategy does is gives us the ability to have control over our campus and bring down our positivity and maintain it being down no matter what is happening around us,” says Corinne Lengsfeld, senior vice provost of research and graduate education and one of the leaders on the COVID response team. “This prepares us for success regardless of what is happening in our surrounding communities.” By the end of winter quarter, the University anticipated having tripled the amount of testing performed in the fall.
As the University opened in fall 2020, members of the COVID coordinator team learned to use data collected by the contact tracing team to alert exposed community members and mitigate outbreaks, keeping the University’s positivity levels well below those of the surrounding community. Contact tracers used course schedules, group organization membership, program of study, and residential living assignments, in addition to wastewater surveillance and event attendance, among other attributes, to trace probable COVID-19 cases.
Helping Children and Families Thrive During COVID-19
During COVID-19 physical distancing, children, families, mental health experts and the broader community were able to find social support resources thanks to DU’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology, University Libraries and the philanthropists whose generosity has fueled these innovative programs.
“Just as with everything in this ever-changing environment, we’ve had to pivot a bit–in a way that I think will make a difference for families stuck at home,” said Michael Levine-Clark, dean of University Libraries.
DU's Graduate School of Professional Psychology and their Caring for You and Baby clinic team succeeded in turning previously in-person writing, art, and author reading events to online weekly programming for families. These events succeeded in providing opportunities to keep little kids engaged and learning and a sense of a weekly routine.
DU's Partnership with National Jewish Health
In July 2020, the University reached out to National Jewish Health, a not-for-profit academic health center and the #1 ranked respiratory hospital in the U.S. After an in-depth review process, we selected NJH to serve as our strategic partner as we developed, refined and delivered monitoring, testing, isolation, and quarantine, and contact tracing protocols for the DU campus for the academic year 2020-21.
In January 2021, as DU began daily testing via saliva sample RT-PCR, the NJH provided site visits and helped maintain the highest standards of testing for all on-campus antigen and saliva PCR testing.
Ultimately, NJH helped support DU with expertise that was broad and well-aligned to our needs. They consulted on a full range of protocols, including quarantine and isolation, vaccination, residence halls, dining, scenario planning and testing schedule and requirements. We are proud to have National Jewish Health as our partner in guiding us through the COVID-19 pandemic.
How COVID-19 Impacted Society
University of Denver Researchers Study the Impact of Long COVID
Working with many individuals who have experienced the long COVID phenomenon, DU's professors have launched testing and research to study the long-term neurological effects and figure out what can be done to minimize the duration and intensity of the side effects of those experiencing long COVID.
COVID-19 Concussion Research Study
The Linseman Lab at the University of Denver’s Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging would like to invite DU faculty, staff, students and community members to participate in a research study about the long-term brain health effects of COVID-19 in individuals with and without a history of brain trauma (concussion). This study investigates how COVID-19 might impact the health of your brain over a period of five years.
This study is completely voluntary. Individuals who are interested in participating in the study can fill out the prescreening survey here.
For any questions or concerns, please contact the study coordinator, Allison Grossberg, at email@example.com.
STAT Conference Recap From the Past Two Years
As universities pivoted to provide safe access to higher education in a world with continued closures and shut-downs due to COVID, DU created the STAT conference--Seeking Tomorrow’s Answers Together.
This conference, held in January 2021, was an opportunity to promote DU’s leadership, innovation and research prowess, using DU’s 5 Strategic Imperatives as a foundation and unifying element for content and deliverables. Learn more about DU's 5 strategic imperatives here.
DU hosted guests and participants from around the world for a virtual half-day conference exploring the ways in which institutions, researchers and academics pivoted in real time to respond to the unprecedented challenges of the day.
In 2022, DU held the second annual STAT conference to again bring together thought leaders and experts from across the nation to discuss the impacts of the coronavirus on all aspects of modern life. DU continues its vision and goals to continue to build upon how DU can help contribute to the public good and accelerate the ways research can be used to address society’s most pressing problems through DU's Impact2025 campaign.
Learn more about DU's IMPACT2025 campaign here →
Throughout the changes that COVID-19 brought to students, faculty, staff and community members of DU, we have always found ways to prevail.
Among many initiatives and programs that DU has introduced and participated in, here are some numbers showing the impact the DU community had during the
COVID By the Numbers
Number of Spit Tests collected and tested as of Oct. 10, 2022:
Number of students employed by the DU spit labs:
Number of meals served to students in quarantine:
11,300 isolation meals
2650 quarantine meals
Number of students who successfully graduated from DU during the 2020-2022 COVID timeframe:
Graduate (master's and doctoral): 6,598
Number of masks given away to the DU community:
Cotton DU Logo Face Masks 15,000
Disposable Standard Face Masks 427,000
High Efficiency KN95/N95 Masks 12,040
Number of faculty/staff town halls held:
Number of COVID email responses sent since January 2022:
Number of Lives Saved: