CSU detects high levels of COVID-19 in wastewater, quarantines 2 residence halls

Coronavirus

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (KDVR) — Colorado State University said it is placing Braiden and Summit residence halls under mandatory quarantine due to high levels of COVID-19 in wastewater.

CSU sent a letter to students on Thursday stating that the quarantine would begin immediately.

“These levels are many times higher than others that we have detected on campus in past samples and indicate that a number of students in your hall are likely positive for COVID-19,” shared by the university’s pandemic preparedness team.

Heather Pidcoke, Chief Medical Research Officer for CSU, said:

“People who are very early in their infection have a huge spike in how much virus they shed in their fecal matter. There have been publications showing wastewater is actually a way to have early detection of an infection, little like canary in a coal mine.”

“This is what you would call a micro surveillance approach where instead of getting waste water at the level of a big treatment facility , we actually get it just outside the buildings so that we know the signal is coming from that building or that group of buildings.”

“It’s just a much higher level per liter. Normally, if there’s no COVID, we see several dorms have 0 per liter. In areas we have seen 3-5 cases, the numbers have been 8,000 to 12,000 per liter. In this case, it was over a million per liter in viral copies. That led us to believe there are more cases that we see.”

Heather Pidcoke, Chief Medical Research Officer for CSU

Lori Lynn, Executive Director of CSU Health Network, said:

“Many of the students are appreciative of us working with them to try to mitigate this and to identify the cases. We do have an interest in ensuring the public health measures are in place and actively monitoring and responding to cases to keep the community safe. We have some students and parents who have reached out. W talk with them and we do have a strategy for identification of cases, and then going ahead and addressing them isolation of individual and then identifying those close contacts so we can mitigate the spread and get everyone back to a normal routine as quickly as we can while keeping the campus safe.”

“I’m not sure we have a defined period. We are looking at testing over the weekend, isolating those, identify those positives, remove them from the population, into isolation, do contact tracing.”

Lori Lynn, Executive Director of CSU Health Network

They say of the six positive cases this week, all have reported mild symptoms in some cases, some students report no symptoms at all.

Here’s the full letter sent to students:

Dear student,

As you know, the university has been testing wastewater for signs of COVID-19 at specific locations that are tied to residence halls. We have detected a significantly high level of COVID-19 in the wastewater from (Braiden Hall/ Summit Hall). These levels are many times higher than others that we have detected on campus in past samples and indicate that a number of students in your hall are likely positive for COVID-19.

Because of this, we are placing the entire residence hall into a mandatory quarantine. This means that you should not leave your residence hall for any reason, beginning immediately. The quarantine will be in place until all positive cases and close contacts in the residence halls have been identified and the wastewater results return to normal.

  • For the health of your family, friends, fellow students and coworkers, do not go home or leave the hall to stay somewhere else. Doing so could expose them or others to COVID-19.
  • We understand that this hall was in the process of completing mandatory testing. Do NOT go to the Lory Student Center for COVID-19 testing, even if you have signed up for testing tomorrow. Leaving your room or hall puts others at risk and will spread COVID-19 to others in our community and through other communities, as well.
  • You should not leave your residence hall room, except for limited circumstances, such as to pick up a meal as outlined below or get tested at the tent outside of your residence hall, also outlined below.
  • Protocol for hall floors remains the same and residents should not visit residents on floors other than their own.
  • Guests from outside the building should not visit either Braiden or Summit, including in the lobbies. Packages will continue to be delivered.

Both Braiden and Summit Halls are being placed under mandatory quarantine due to these high wastewater signals, we must notify all instructors of this quarantine. In light of privacy concerns, we are not providing instructors with the names of students who are impacted. You should communicate directly with your instructors, informing them that you live in a residence hall that is under mandatory quarantine and make arrangements for online learning.

You are required to comply with this directive as provided by the university’s COVID-19 policy. http://policylibrary.colostate.edu/policy.aspx?id=774.

FOOD, CLEANING, TITLE IX AND MAINTENANCE ISSUES

  • Beginning with breakfast tomorrow morning, you will not order meals online through MyRamCard.colostate.edu. Instead, please visit Braiden Dining Center/the tent that will be located outside Summit Hall to pick up your meals, no reservation needed, anytime during these hours:
    • (Braiden) Breakfast: 7-10 a.m.; Lunch: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Dinner; 4-7 p.m.
    • (Summit) Breakfast: 8-9:30 a.m.; Lunch: 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; Dinner: 5-7 p.m.
  • Braiden Dining Center will only be open to Braiden residents until the quarantine is lifted. RamWich will also be closed.
  • You may order food from restaurants and other delivery services if they provide contactless delivery.
  • Public spaces will be frequently disinfected. Housing & Dining Facilities will not clean suite bathrooms during this time.
  • Urgent maintenance and Title IX issues will continue to be addressed; however, non-urgent matters will be scheduled and addressed at a later date.

NEXT STEPS AND TESTING THIS WEEKEND

We know this message may be upsetting and that being on quarantine is not easy. We want you to know that we are committed to helping you through this time.

  • The Pandemic Preparedness Team is setting up tents for testing outside of your residence hall on Saturday. Testing will be mandatory.
  • More information about testing this weekend will be sent to you via your CSU email as soon as testing is arranged. Even if you were tested already this week at the Lory Student Center, you may be required to again test this weekend.
  • We will notify everyone of their test results within 48 hours.
  • Our public health office will trace close contacts of any students who are positive.
  • You will be asked to test again in several days. This is because wastewater signals a COVID-19 infection before nasal swab tests may reflect a positive. In fact, nasal swabs sometimes do not show infection for up to a week.

A negative test does NOT release you from quarantinePublic health officials will contact you to release you from quarantine.

Determining all of the positives in your hall will take some time. You should expect to be on quarantine for a period of time that will allow us to identify those students who have COVID-19 and their close contacts. The amount of time you are required to be on quarantine will depend upon several factors, but we are committed to minimizing the impact of this order as much as possible.

KEEPING YOU UPDATED AND RESOURCES

We will provide you with updated information about wastewater results as it become available, as well as collective and non-identifying COVID-19 results for your hall. We test wastewater multiple times a week and anticipate being able to share collective results of the nasal swab COVID tests by early next week.

Learning that your residence hall has been subjected to mandatory quarantine is stressful. The CSU Health Network Counseling Center is available; more information is at https://health.colostate.edu/about-counseling-services/. The Health Network also offers these resources for stress and anxiety https://health.colostate.edu/managing-anxiety-coronavirus/. Case Management can also assist with class absences (https://studentcasemanagement.colostate.edu/).   

Please know that your health and well being is our absolute top priority.

Thank you,

The Pandemic Preparedness Team

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