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Plans and Protocols/Return to In-Person on Jan. 18

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Sarah Watamura

COVID Coordinator

News  •

Email highlights

  • Campus positivity is sharply dropping and manageable 
  • Please see revised isolation, mask, and vaccination protocols
  • Please reacquaint yourself with the return to campus steps
  • Temporary Work and Learning Remote Accommodations are described under Resources

Dear DU Students, Staff and Faculty,

As we prepare for the return to in-person classes on Tuesday, Jan. 18, we wanted to provide an update on resources and protocols. Please note that this information will be also available on the DU COVID-19 website.

COVID-19 Conditions

Omicron, a milder and more transmissible variant, has led to a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases – in Denver, across the country, and around the world. Fortunately, this increase of cases has not resulted in a proportional increase in hospitalizations and deaths. As we have throughout the pandemic, we have kept positivity on campus much lower than the surrounding community. However, we have also had the highest number of cases with omicron than we have had at any other time. With our protocols, we have detected COVID-19 among incoming community members at the pre-arrival test before they have reintegrated into the community. The positivity among winter pre-arrival tests is 18 percent, dropping dramatically by second and subsequent tests.

Further, in addition to seeing our campus positivity decrease, we are also seeing the viral load in individuals testing positive going down – a pattern we have seen in the past and one that is indicative of a testing program that identifies COVID-19 very early in its infectious cycle ultimately leading to fewer cases. With evidence that omicron is peaking in major cities, and flattening evident in the Denver data, we feel prepared to return to in-person classes and transition back to a fully in-person immersive experience across the second half of January. Please see our COVID-19 dashboard—you will need to log into the VPN client to view the page from off campus.

Campus Access

As in prior terms, campus access requires a number of steps to be completed for each person, including vaccination, testing, and compliance with COVID-19 protocols. To determine your campus access status, please log into PioWeb and click on “campus access status” on the top left.

  • Remember that you must have a negative test result from a test taken on campus on or after Dec. 27, 2021 to return to campus in January, and that you must take your second test on your assigned testing date. 
  • After these two required reentry tests, you may adjust your testing to better suit your schedule by testing ahead of your assigned date.
  • Please note that testing frequency will remain high in January, especially for high contact staff, campus residents, and anyone not fully vaccinated. 
  • Proof of a current flu vaccine is also required for campus access. 
  • Please also upload your COVID booster record as soon as possible to your myhealth record or email it to Boosters are required by Jan. 31, 2022. 
  • Due to high testing volume and demands of the current COVID-19 climate, test results may take 24-72 hours for processing. 
  • The review of uploaded documents (flu and COVID vaccines, positive test results, external PCR tests, etc.) will take 3-4 business days. Please plan ahead to avoid return delays.

Updated Campus Protocols

A number of campus protocols have been updated and we invite you to review these updates. Major changes are described here.

Isolation & Quarantine

We have updated our isolation and quarantine protocol following a positive test to reflect new guidance from the CDC and utilizing our on-campus laboratory capability. Specifically, while the default isolation period following a positive COVID-19 test results is still 10 days, if you are feeling well, you are welcome to test on day 5 to determine if you are eligible for early release from isolation. Please test at the Carepod or at Nelson Hall between the hours of 9-10 a.m. Faculty and managers, please accommodate student and employee testing at this set time by allowing brief absences. Note that Nelson is closed to regular testing from 9-10 a.m. daily and the Pod will have both prior positive and general testing lines. Prior positive testing at a different time will significantly delay your results and strains resources. 

  • If your 5-day test is negative “not detected” or if manual review of your positive “detected” test results indicates a lower viral load, you will receive a secure message in myhealth with next steps. 
  • If your day 5 test indicates you are still likely to be infectious (no release secure message), you may test again on day 7 for possible release on day 8. 
  • Isolation for residential students typically occurs in Hilltop; however, students in individual rooms (without roommates) may sometimes be assigned to isolate in place. handles COVID-related housing needs for those in isolation or quarantine.


Because data from omicron transmissibility suggests that cloth masks do not provide sufficient protection, we have revised our face covering protocol to require an N-95/KN-95 mask or 3-ply surgical mask while on campus in alert level green or higher, including the yellow alert level which we are in now. Please stop by the spit testing sites or your residential front desk to receive an N/KN-95 mask to start the in-person term. We will continue to provide surgical masks at building entrances.


Please review the vaccine policy, which provides detail on the booster requirement. The booster requirement is in place Jan. 31, 2022; after this date those who are eligible for a booster without an acknowledged booster record will no longer be considered “fully-vaccinated” and may be required to participate in additional mitigation measures.

If you have recently had COVID, please note that your eligibility will be automatically adjusted to reflect the guidance that boosting should occur 28 days following a positive test. We strongly encourage you to get boosted as soon as you are eligible. Should your eligibility fall after the Jan. 31 deadline your individual deadline is automatically adjusted. If you need to request additional time following infection or require a new medical exemption, please contact the HCC at or file a medical exemption using the booster medical exemption form.

Testing & Contact Tracing

We continue to require frequent testing and use an interview process to determine close contacts. Because the interview process can result in delays while we gather information, we have shifted residential students to testing every 3 days. This testing schedule is more frequent than that required of close contacts and therefore temporarily augments the close contact interview step in this population to more rapidly identify and control the spread of COVID-19. Please still complete the interview questions, please notify your own close contacts, and if you have a known exposure, please be sure to follow the quarantine protocol appropriate for your vaccination status. We look forward to reducing test frequency when conditions improve.

DU Resources

While many people have returned to campus, and we very much look forward to having the rest of our community return next week, we understand that individual students, faculty and staff may have medical needs that would benefit from an additional 2 weeks remote while the remainder of our community members get their booster. We expect that omicron will peak and decline in that time. Students who are immunocompromised should visit the DSP COVID-19 accommodations page to apply for a 2-week delay to in-person return and faculty and staff who require a 2-week delay for their own or their dependent’s medical or COVID-19 related needs should log into PioWeb, and select “Omicron Surge Work Accommodation Request” from the top left section.

Instructors should review these resources from the Office of Teaching & Learning for navigating student absences and supporting student learning during a time when additional community members may have COVID-19. Shortened isolation periods should help alleviate some strain; however, COVID-19 related absences are inevitable, and we encourage instructors to be flexible and supportive. Similarly, instructors should work with their department/division leads to be sure they have a backup instructor in the event they need to be away from their class for an extended period, and students are asked to understand that instructors may have unplanned illnesses themselves or among their dependents that may require temporary adaptations.

We ask that each class provide a seating chart to assist contact tracers in accurate tracing of close contacts during class and remind everyone that we are in alert level yellow where masking is required indoors at all times (except while actively eating and drinking or in one’s private office or residence hall room). Eating continues to be prohibited during class.

While we all wish this pandemic was over, we have seen how well we can manage on campus when we all work together. Hopefully, as we transition into February, we will be talking seriously about moving to endemic management and away from pandemic response. This should look a lot more like the best of life in 2019, bringing with us the insight and connection we have built weathering this pandemic together.

Our team is experiencing a high volume of calls and emails. To help connect you to the right resources quickly, please email or direct all COVID-19 calls to 303-871-2683 (COVD) and listen carefully to the menu options. If you have questions or need assistance please use these channels versus contacting individuals. These communication channels are monitored 7-days a week.

Sarah Watamura & the COVID-19 Response Team