An outbreak at Western Colorado University threatens to shut down the campus two weeks before students are scheduled to go home for the remainder of the semester.

“Let me be clear: if evidence of further spread continues, we risk having to shut down,” said Greg Salsbury, university president, shortly before 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6 in an email to students and faculty.

Since Oct. 28 there have been 32 positive COVID-19 tests on campus, leading Gunnison County Public Health to classify Western as having an outbreak.

The virus has spread by students bringing it back to campus after they traveled to other parts of the state and through parties. Contact tracing has shown these to be the two main means of transmission, according to Salsbury.

“Just last weekend we know of two large gatherings that occurred on Halloween—this, after students were reminded to engage in only low risk activities. We will address this via our Student Conduct Process. Further, fatigue has set in and some people have become lax in following protocols, especially outside of the classroom,” Salsbury wrote.

There has been no evidence of classroom spread of the virus, he said.

Salsbury said Western leaders would modify the institution's risk mitigation plan and that “this plan will focus on eliminating travel, non-Western sanctioned events (i.e. parties) and quarantine procedures.” The new plan will outline the university’s procedures “for the next two weeks and beyond,” he said.

Salsbury’s message Friday follows reports by students that Western’s football team has been quarantined after three athletes tested positive. According to students on the team, members of the football team attended in-person classes on Monday morning before the team was put into quarantine Tuesday.

The football team traveled to Texas last week for their season-opening game. Their game against Colorado Mesa University this Saturday has been canceled.