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COVID-19: Update on Recent Cases

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University of Denver

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Dear DU community members,

The Coronavirus pandemic has inserted an entirely new vocabulary into our lives. While the colloquial use of the word “outbreak” implies widespread illness, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) uses the term more strictly. For CDPHE, it requires only two confirmed connected cases in a facility (or building) in order to declare an outbreak.

The health department’s definition does not affect our planning and protocols, but it’s important to understand the distinction, as news from CDPHE about confirmed outbreaks might cause undue anxiety or confusion about the size of the spread of the virus. To that end, I’d like to share that the University of Denver learned today that the CDPHE has determined that DU had three such “outbreaks.” Each outbreak is a total of 3 cases.

As is our standard procedure, all students living on campus who are confirmed positive for COVID-19 are temporarily moved to our designated isolation spaces, where they receive care (meals, rest, monitoring, and access to mental health resources) while they focus on getting well. Those who have come into contact with positive individuals are asked to quarantine (i.e., restrict their movement and social contact). If anyone who tests positive has been in a classroom, common area or other facility, cleaning and disinfection follows our posted protocols as relevant for the space.

Our Testing is Designed to Find Positive Cases

While we would like for no one in our community to test positive for COVID-19, our robust testing is meant to reveal positive individuals. Finding positive cases quickly and isolating individuals as they focus on getting healthy is how we mitigate the spread of the virus.

Positivity Rate Gives Insight Into Community Spread

A better indicator of community spread than “outbreaks” is the percent of positive cases we find relative to the amount of testing we are conducting. This information is available and updated daily on our dashboard. Right now, despite the CDPHE-defined outbreaks and our aggressive testing regimen, our percentage of positives is quite low, and we are remaining in the green or lowest alert level.

Ongoing Updates

We knew going into this term that the transition would require us to be nimble. We will continue to test in high numbers to monitor potential spread of the virus. And we ask that the community download the Everbridge app, which significantly supports our contact tracing efforts. Also, please continue to refer to the dashboard for the most up-to-date data. If significant changes occur—such as moving from one alert level to another—expect to receive an email communication.

This week has asked a lot of us, but the safety and well-being of the DU community remain of utmost importance. That well-being includes the acknowledgment of the toll the pandemic is taking on mental health—on those confirmed positive for the virus and otherwise. We encourage everyone to use the resources available to take care of ourselves, just as we wear masks and practice social distancing to take care of others.


Sarah Watamura
COVID Coordinator