Colorado State University’s fall semester COVID-19 guidelines present what university public health officials hope is an optimistic outlook on the presence and impact of the disease on campus.
In comparison to the guidelines for the fall 2021 semester — which required masks in every building, including residence halls, dining halls and classrooms; testing twice a week for students who had not been vaccinated and contact-tracing procedures — this semester’s restrictions are significantly reduced.
On July 26, CSU’s Pandemic Preparedness Team published guidelines for the fall 2022 semester. The university stated masks were no longer a requirement on campus nor booster vaccinations or regular testing. All incoming students, however, still have to upload proof of complete vaccination — boosters optional but encouraged — or declare an exemption if they haven’t already.
“I certainly hope that we continue forward a lot of these efforts because the methodology will be very important for responding to future pandemics.” – Dr. Heather Pidcoke, CSU chief medical research officer
Marc Barker, chair of the Pandemic Preparedness Team, a job that was created after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, has watched the university public health requirements change over two and a half years.
“As much as things have changed, a lot of things behind the scenes are still very much part of my every day,” Barker said. “While we no longer have mask mandates, … a lot of the work around monitoring the data — looking at trends and models for exactly where we are relative to COVID and the virus — those are still very much part of my every day. So things have changed dramatically, but we still monitor all of the triggers to ensure that we are in a good place to pivot if we have to.”
Since nearly the beginning of the pandemic, CSU’s scientific research team has founded and furthered research efforts regarding COVID, said Dr. Heather Pidcoke, CSU’s chief medical research officer.
Pidcoke said she saw the establishment of several research project groups to monitor COVID data at the university and help public health efforts in Larimer County and in the state of Colorado.
“There were multiple groups that almost immediately started working on research projects,” Pidcoke said. “There was vaccine development work, a project to look at testing masks that came from overseas that had not reached the full authorization process to make sure they were safe and effective (and) a project from the School of Music, (Theatre and Dance) to research aerosols and the safety of performing arts that gained over $100,000 of funding through donations and support from other performing arts organizations globally.”
While reflecting on the amount of research that has benefitted Colorado, Fort Collins and CSU, Pidcoke said she hopes the research done is helpful in preparation for any future pandemics.
“I certainly hope that we continue forward a lot of these efforts because the methodology will be very important for responding to future pandemics,” Pidcoke said. “CSU has a dynamic and hugely talented and very diverse group of researchers that came together and collaborated and not only made things better for our own campus but are making things better for the community.”
Barker, whose team continues to monitor COVID-19 at CSU with cautious optimism as what’s shaping up to be the largest first-year class ever enters the university, hopes the disruptions to learning due to COVID-19 are as minimal as possible.
“I have a strong desired hope that COVID doesn’t significantly disrupt the academic experience of a single student on our campus,” Barker said. “The overarching theme — and my hope for folks in our community — is that we remain vigilant. The virus is still here, and it is going to be here, so I think we all have a duty, in the mantra of ‘Rams take care of Rams,’ to continue to be responsible.”
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