By Alan Gionet

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – The University of Colorado Boulder is heading into the Halloween weekend benefitting from vaccine requirements for students and faculty. This fall, positive PCR tests for COVID infection are a fraction of last year’s totals.

“What we’re expecting this weekend especially as it relates to COVID is we are not seeing the trends that we saw last Fall, said Jennifer McDuffie, Vice Chancellor of Health and Wellness Services for the University.

(credit: CBS)

Halloween weekend is typically a party event around campus. Last year, even with many restrictions in place about gatherings, students blew through those restrictions and got together anyway. Boulder Police wrote nearly two dozen public health order violations and nuisance party tickets. By Nov. 4, positive COVID tests were nearly four times what they were just before Halloween.

The university moved to remote learning in the middle of the month.

“I was stuck in my room most of the time,” said student Jack Knight, who uses a wheelchair and is immunocompromised.

The semester was tough on a lot of students before there was an option for vaccination.

This fall, with the university creating a vaccine requirement and a masking requirement for indoor spaces, things are a lot different. Knight believes it’s working.

“I didn’t want to get sick, and I felt like if I didn’t get vaccinated, there’s a chance I could get other people sick.”

Other students are glad to be socializing again.

“There’s definitely a big difference in the amount of people who are getting together because last year a lot of the classes were online so nobody really got to meet many people,” said sophomore Alexi Retler.

“They’re taking this seriously. They’re getting tested, they’re monitoring symptoms. They’re coming in for cold and flu,” said McDuffie.

Testing data shows there were about 1,100 positive PCR test results by this time last year. So far, there are 105. Some days last year brought a lot of positive tests, 130 on one day. So far this semester the greatest number reported in a single day has been six.

“So far I think the judgment that we’ve come to is that the vaccine mandate absolutely allowed or us to have an in person experience this Fall,” said McDuffie. The cases they have seen, seem to be coming in from gatherings off campus, or from home. There have been no outbreaks in classrooms or in dorms.

Of 35,897 students, 33,676 have completed the vaccine reporting requirement. The percentage vaccinated among those reporting is 94%. Some have sought religious or medical exemptions. There are some others who have yet to get vaccinated. The university says it is trying not to be punitive. It has assessed fines, but small ones of $25. Next week, it will become tougher to avoid when they register for spring classes.

“Our students actually begin registering for classes in early November. Their inability to register starting next week is going to be very challenging.” That will mean those who are unvaccinated and without exemption will have no spot in classes on campus.

The university too has learned the value of interaction through the pandemic.

“What we’re learned throughout the pandemic is what we already knew is that humans are social creatures.”

Being able to put students together has helped. Even with far more gathering this year, the rates of COVID are a fraction of last fall. It’s brought some piece of mind to many students like Retler.

“Most people on campus are vaccinated and we’re required to still wear masks even with the festivals indoors. I’m not really worried.”

Alan Gionet