The county said students aged 18 to 22 represent 78 percent of Boulder's COVID-19 cases.

An increase in COVID-19 cases among students at the University of Colorado at Boulder has prompted Boulder County to issue a public health order prohibiting gatherings bigger than a group of two among college-aged students within the city of Boulder.

Boulder County Public Health (BCPH) issued the order, which went into effect September 24, after determining that "the majority of COVID-19 transmission within Boulder County is due to social gatherings among persons aged 18 and 22 years in the city of Boulder, during which many individuals failed to comply with public health face covering and social distancing orders."

The county said there have been 4,016 confirmed or probable positive cases and 79 COVID-19 deaths in Boulder County as of September 22. Among CU Boulder students aged 18-22 years, there have been 1,392 confirmed or probable positive cases since the first day of fall semester classes on August 24, which represents 78 percent of Boulder County's COVID-19 cases for that time period, the county said. The county also noted there have been eight confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 at off-campus collegiate group homes since September 3, including at sorority and fraternity houses.

In addition to prohibiting groups of more than two, the order instructs residents of 37 properties identified in the order as potential sources of COVID-19 transmission to stay at home except for essential activities, and prohibits others from entering those properties. All CU students are required to monitor their health daily for COVID-19 symptoms, report any such symptoms to the university, and comply with isolation requirements if they are symptomatic or test positive for the virus. The order further outlines restrictions on travel via public transportation.

Failure to comply with the order is subject to penalties including a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 18 months in jail. 

The order is set to expire October 8 unless extended or modified. BCPH said it will re-evaluate the order as new data becomes available.

CU Boulder shifted to temporary remote course instruction September 23. In a note to students, CU Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano said the campus supports the county's public health order but is concerned about impacts it will have on students.

"To support all of our students during this time, we will be providing additional care, flexibility and resources for your emotional, physical and academic needs," DiStefano said. Those measures include enhanced access to campus health and wellness services, remote events and programming that provide social interaction, and flexibility, support and options for students who are struggling.

DiStefano further outlined options students have to respond to the outbreak and public health order, including remaining on campus and following the restrictions outlined or transitioning to fully remote learning at home. DiStefano urged students not to choose a third option.

"You can choose to not follow the rules that protect our community from COVID-19 spread and run the risk of serious health consequences to yourself and others," he said. "There may be criminal penalties under the county public health order and/or suspension from the university via our student conduct code and health and safety policy. Please do not choose this option."