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CMU advances return to campus

Safe Together Strong Together planning initiative earns praise from elected leaders

Mesa County Health Director Jeff Kuhr presented the department’s weekly COVID-19 update to the Mesa County commissioners. His update set the stage for CMU President Tim Foster who issued a progress report to the commissioners outlining Safe Together Strong Together, CMU’s return to campus planning initiative. Foster was joined by project Co-Chairs Amy Bronson, EdD, and CMU Vice President for Student Services John Marshall. The three campus officials outlined plans to open campus and highlighted progress currently under way at CMU resulting from Mesa County's reopening variances received from the state of Colorado. 

On May 11 after review from the campus medical advisory committee and approval from Mesa County Public Health, CMU initiated opening with implementation of Phase 1. The pilot opening included the Hamilton Recreation Center and a number of CMU outdoor recreation venues.

“We are making headway in being prepared for resuming classes this fall and that progress is a result of a lot of hard work,” said Foster. “We were the first institution in Colorado to freeze tuition as we work to support our first-generation and low-income students. The tuition freeze is one more way our plan is integrated and represents a singular purpose in mind — safely providing in-person education this fall.”  

Foster communicated the importance of community partnerships in making a safe return to campus. Area hospitals, Mesa County Public Health and area nonprofits were discussed as contributors to CMU’s planning effort. 

In addition to providing background about CMU’s progress during the recent “Stay at Home” and “Safer at Home” state orders, campus officials telegraphed optimism about the campus’ forthcoming Phase 2 opening plans that are anticipated to be reviewed the week of June 1. 

“For CMU opening is a moral imperative,” said Marshall. “We have done it carefully, we have thought it through and we have built out a medical team that can really help us. This team is a combination of community and campus health officials whose combined expertise makes us truly stronger and truly safer.” 

CMU’s ability to engage in preliminary opening is possible as a result of community variances received by Mesa County from the state of Colorado. The variances were issued in part because of the county's robust healthcare capacity, relatively low COVID-19 case numbers, community capacity for future contact tracing and plans for virus and antibody testing.  

Bronson is the planning project liaison for Safe Together Strong Together in working with the robust medical advisory team. Bronson introduced the commissioners to the medical reviewers including experts from St. Mary’s Hospital, Community Hospital, Mesa County Public Health and CMU health-related faculty experts.  

“Partners at Mesa County Public Health and area hospitals are helping CMU use the best available science at every decision point,” said Bronson. “We are focused on testing, tracking, tracing and creating a culture of social responsibility as students arrive and live on campus this summer and fall.” 

According to Bronson, testing is among the most important aspects of the planning initiative and noted student testing begun on May 28 with around 60 students having already been tested for COVID-19.

“Using data to really understand how to open campus the right way is key,” said Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese in response to the presentation. “We appreciate what you are doing and for being a model in the state of Colorado. I remember college being one of the most important experiences of my life, so restoring higher education in our society is important and I commend you for what you are doing.” 

Chair of the Board of Commissioners Scott McInnis and Mesa County Commissioner John Justman also offered complementary responses to the plan’s outline. 

Mesa County residents interested in CMU’s Safe Together Strong Together pandemic planning initiative are encouraged to visit the Safe Together Strong Together updates and communications blog.   

View complete video of the briefing.

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Written by David Ludlam