How a Colorado Campus Became a Pandemic Laboratory

C.M.U. is also looking ahead, brainstorming about how they could adapt Scout for the fall, when many students will be vaccinated, and whether they can use their new tools to slow the spread of other infectious diseases, like flu. “We were on a call with Fathom a few days ago dreaming about what the long game looks like,” Dr. Bronson said.

With graduation set for this weekend, Mr. Marshall, C.M.U.’s soon-to-be president, is pleased with how the past year has gone. “I view it as a success and not a small one,” he said. “I think we will look back on this year as being one of those defining moments for our university.” Yes, they had Covid-19 cases, he said, but they also had 881 freshmen who were the first in their families to go to college — who were able to actually go to college.

“It was never about how do you stop a virus?” Mr. Marshall said. Instead, he said, the challenge was: “How do you manage life while dealing with a pandemic? And in that regard, I would say we’ve done as strong of a job as anybody.”

Lucas Torres, a biology major graduating on Saturday, had initially been nervous about returning to C.M.U. during a deadly pandemic. And it had turned out to be an enormously difficult year for him: During winter break, he and several of his family members all got Covid-19. His mother developed pneumonia and his grandmother died from the disease.

School had turned out to be a bright spot. Mr. Torres was “inspired” by C.M.U.’s response, he said: “It allowed for students to have a purpose. There was a responsibility, shared responsibility coming back to campus.”

Shortly after recovering from Covid-19, he proposed to his girlfriend. (She said yes.) He is about to take his E.M.T. certification exam and hopes to go to medical school.

“I was able to make the most of my time at C.M.U., and I’m glad that they allowed for that,” Mr. Torres said. “Even if it wasn’t the same as it would be if not for Covid, it was better than sitting at home in front of a screen.”

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