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COVID-19 Update: Return to Campus; Testing and Quarantine Protocols

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Jeremy Haefner

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En español.

Dear DU students and families,

On July 15, I shared the University of Denver’s action plan, A Community of Care: An Action Plan for DU’s Return to Campus. Since then, we have intensely consulted with our health care partner, National Jewish Health (NJH) on detailed symptom monitoring, testing, quarantine and personal responsibility logistics. I write to share those details with you now. The quarantine and testing protocols we developed for faculty and staff align with those outlined here for students. You can view those protocols and the message we shared with faculty and staff here.

We are asking a lot of our students before they come to campus. Why are we doing this? Because in addition to ensuring we make the DU campus as safe as possible for everyone, we also want our students to have the very best in-person experience possible the moment they return to campus. 

Substantial evidence—from the CDC, WHO, NJH’s epidemiologists, public health officials across the nation, as well as our own in-depth modeling—shows that the more we do upfront, the more we can contain the virus. And the more we contain the virus, the more we can have an optimal in-person experience on campus.

We must all do our part. As we have mentioned in numerous messages, social distancing, facial coverings, frequent handwashing, testing and ultimately, contact tracing, are the foundation for preventing the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. I cannot stress this enough—we are committed to providing students with an exceptional DU education and experience, and we are determined to do so safely.

Requirements Before Returning to Campus

1. REQUIRED: Identify campus return date: All students who will be on campus this fall must identify their return date in pioneerweb.

If you are living on campus, your move-in date will be the week of September 7.
 Housing and Residential Education (HRE) will send individual letters to students within the next few hours with their specific room assignment and assigned move-in time. Students in a University-owned or operated fraternity or sorority facility will work with their chapter leadership and the Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) staff to select their move-in time. HRE will also reach out to students living in any off-campus, University-owned or operated facilities.

We are making this a requirement t
o carefully manage and stagger the return to campus and minimize the chance of infection.

2. REQUIRED: Responsibility Course: To ensure we are all well-informed of our plan, the entire DU community must complete the Trail Back to Campus course in Canvas before their arrival date on campus and no later than August 14 for the Law School, August 24 for all first-year and transfer students, and September 10for the rest of campus. More information about this course will be shared with the Sturm College of Law community this week and with the rest of our community by August 14.

We are requiring this course to inform the community about our response plans to mitigate the spread of the virus and cultivate a culture of personal responsibility, which will determine our ability to continue working, learning and living on campus. Students who are believed to not follow the policies may be referred to the Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities. If found responsible for violating these policies, Outcomes will be assigned which could include temporary or permanent removal from the University. Looking out for ourselves, and for one another, is the DU way.

3. REQUIRED: Pre-arrival quarantine: For 14 days before their arrival date, all students and visiting family members (for move-in only) are required to quarantine. During this time, you should remain home and avoid physical contact with others except those you live with. I recognize such a protocol is a challenge, but it is the best measure we can take to protect ourselves and the DU community, as it drastically decreases the chance of exposure to individuals who may transmit the virus that causes COVID-19.

The behavior of those already on campus—students, faculty and staff—is expected to align with what we are strongly recommending for our students. Everyone must follow all social distancing and face-covering protocols, wash hands frequently, and not engage in large group activities.

If you are unable to quarantine

I also recognize such a quarantine before returning to campus is not feasible for some due to other responsibilities—in particular, our students who may be working or in training during the weeks just prior to the return to campus. In such instances, we encourage minimal contact as much as possible. Avoid large gatherings and social events, maintain a six-foot distance between yourself and others, use a face covering, refrain from touching your face, and practice vigilant hand washing. These practices are essential during the duration of the pandemic, but they should be attended to particularly rigorously the 14 days before a return to campus.

If you are arriving from abroad

If you have been living abroad, regardless of your nationality, you are required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the U.S. 

4. REQUIRED: Symptom monitoring: During the 14 days before arrival, each day students will be required to answer questions regarding potential COVID-19 symptoms and exposure to the virus, as well as adherence to quarantine protocols. The symptom monitoring protocol will increase to twice daily once students have returned to campus and will continue for as long as they remain on campus.

To accomplish this monitoring, everyone in the DU community is expected to download an app (on a phone, computer, or tablet) that will support daily symptom monitoring and allow us to quickly contact trace should someone in our community test positive for COVID-19. We will share more details soon about this contact tracing app, including, importantly, its security features.

5. REQUIRED: Pre-arrival Testing: Prior to arrival on campus, all students must take a nasal swab RT-PCR test for the virus that causes COVID-19.  We will be sharing more information about how and to whom test results may be shared.

We know that many of our law school students and faculty are soon returning to campus and the Auraria Student Lofts. We will work closely with you to enable a safe and timely return.

If you will be in Denver, you may provide a validated negative molecular test result for the virus that causes COVID-19 from a location of your choosing collected during your 14-day quarantine window. If you prefer, you will be assigned a testing date and time via DU to take the test in Denver at no charge, administered by a trained medical professional. Your preference will be asked in the pioneerweb link referenced above asking for your arrival date. More information about how to submit your test results or to request a testing assignment in Denver will be forthcoming shortly. Please be aware that if you arrive without a negative test result you will not be allowed on campus until you can show proof of a negative test for the virus. A positive result will trigger that students follow the isolation protocols described later in this message.

If you will be outside the Denver metro area during the 14 days before your fall arrival date, we encourage you to complete a test at a testing location in your area and provide the verified results to us. Here is a link to locations where testing is available.

Testing on campus is free to students, faculty and staff. For those outside Denver, we will make emergency funds available to students for whom testing costs would pose an undue hardship.

If you test positive, we strongly encourage you to immediately contact a healthcare provider and require you to delay your arrival on campus until:

  • Ten days have passed since your first symptoms; and
  • You are fever-free for 24 hours (without medication); and
  • Symptoms have improved;
  • OR, if asymptomatic, 10 days have passed since your positive test result and you have not developed symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

If you test negative, you may return to campus on your selected return date as planned, having followed all quarantine protocols listed above. Proof of a negative test and adherence to symptom and quarantine monitoring will be required in order to bypass the testing and quarantine protocols upon return to campus.

Any exposure to someone known or presumed to have COVID-19 will trigger the same requirements as a positive test, including delaying your travel and return to campus for 14 days.

One of the best ways to keep our community safe is to constantly refresh the data available to us through testing and symptom monitoring so that we can adjust our planning based on known facts. The pandemic is incredibly dynamic, requiring all of us to be agile and willing to change our plans abruptly and efficiently. If the situation on campus changes, or if local or state regulations change, we will reassess and adjust processes—always keeping health and safety as our top priorities. 


During your travel to campus, everyone is expected to take careful precautions, including wearing a face covering at all times, practicing excellent hand hygiene, avoiding face touching and, wherever possible, maintaining a six-foot distance from others. 

All community members are expected to follow our existing travel restrictions— specifically the restrictions against international travel or to any location considered a “hotspot” for the duration of the fall term. If you must travel to these locations, you will need to remain off campus and follow the quarantine guidelines outlined above for 14 days.

Once You Are on Campus

If you follow the university pre-arrival requirements, have tested negative and are free of symptoms, you can expect to be in your classes as anticipated, observing all social distancing and facial covering protocols, as well as other stated precautions.

If you were not able to meet all the pre-arrival requirements, including testing, you will be required to take a nasal RT-PCR test on your first day on campus. DU will administer these tests in coordination with NJH. Until test results are received, you will be required to quarantine either in your dorm room, if in a single, or an off-campus house or apartment if you have your own bedroom.

For students who do not have their own single bedroom, you will need to stay in a nearby hotel until test results are received—which take approximately 48 hours. To be connected to area hotels with discounted rates, please contact We will make student emergency funds available to those for whom this would pose an undue hardship.

Regular Testing and Contact Tracing

We will re-test individuals who are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 due to their living arrangements, work requirements or co-occurring medical conditions within seven days after their arrival on campus. This will be paid for by DU.

Additionally, we will conduct random surveillance testing of students, faculty and staff each week, again, at no charge to individuals.

Participation in surveillance testing is highly encouraged, as it is one of the only ways to assess changes in the prevalence of COVID-19 in our community and to prevent outbreaks. As we test and contact trace, I want to emphasize our emphatic commitment to privacy and information security. We are dedicated to protecting our community while also protecting personal information. Further information about contact tracing protocols will be provided in the coming weeks. A working group has been established specifically to address how we can best maintain data protection and privacy.

If you test positive at any point during the fall quarter: All students living on campus who test positive are required to isolate for 10 days after symptom onset (or, if asymptomatic, from the date of a positive test). Before leaving isolation, they must also have no fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications and see an improvement of other symptoms.

  • Location | Students who test positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 will isolate in designated spaces, such as Hilltop.
  • Meals | Meals will be brought to COVID-19 positive students by individuals wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Learning | Students in isolation will engage in classes using only online learning.
  • Mental and medical health support | Students have 24/7 access to tele-mental health through My Student Support Portal and the Health and Counseling Center. A student outreach and support (SOS) case manager will make regular check-ins with undergrads who must isolate and determine if any further action needs to be taken for their health and safety. Resident assistants (RAs), will also provide virtual outreach. We will also make regular medical check-ins for students in isolation or quarantine.
  • If a student requires a higher level of medical or mental health support, DU will be available to assist in care coordination.

Upcoming Virtual Town Halls

This is a lot of information. And I expect there will be many important questions from our community. I encourage you to attend one of the virtual town hall meetings to hear from our experts, ask questions, or provide feedback. We will include Zoom links in the invitations to these town halls, which begin tomorrow afternoon. (The law school invitation will go out tomorrow morning.) You can also find additional details about these plans in our FAQ on the COVID-19 website.

For Sturm law students
Tuesday, July 28th from 4-5 p.m. MDT

For graduate students
Tuesday, July 28th from 5:30-6:30 p.m. MDT

For undergraduate students and their families
Thursday, July 30th 5:00-6:30 p.m. MDT

Going Forward

This moment is particularly challenging because the future is so unknown. For now, please be assured that the science supports our quarantine and testing protocols. Collecting data on test results before students arrive on campus will provide an idea of how many people have the virus that causes COVID-19, allow those who test positive to recover at home, and allow for evidence-based decision-making. 

Lastly, thanks again to the many people across campus working so hard on our plan and in partnership with NJH. Your efforts are instrumental. The willingness of so many to take on this work in addition to the regular demands on their time and attention speaks to the excellence of this community and the love and pride so many feel for DU. Thanks as well to the faculty, students, staff and family members who have shared with us their feedback on the action plan so far.


Jeremy Haefner