Editor’s note: this letter was sent to Florence Rosenstock on November 17, in response to her inquiry directed to UMass Chancellor Subbaswamy..
The University takes the health and safety of the campus and off-campus community very seriously. As of this writing, our surveillance testing program has administered nearly 147,000 tests to our on-and-off campus population. As more people go inside – whether with their families, or roommates, or members of self-selected pods – the chances for transmission of COVID are higher. What we are seeing in Amherst is reflective of a nationwide trend now that cold weather is upon us.
The University works very closely with Amherst Town Government in our efforts to contain the spread of the virus. Our staff in the Center for Health Promotion is in daily contact with the Amherst Health Director. And, as you are aware, there is a Town-Gown Working Group that meets weekly to coordinate our efforts. Just last week, we appeared before the Amherst Town Council to brief them on our efforts. You may view the presentation here.
Our student body, both on-and-off-campus, have been very responsive to public health guidance and have been heeding advice to stay within their own pods and to limit social activity. With a public health messaging campaign, town-gown outreach, twice-weekly testing of our students, and extensive contact tracing, we have been able to keep our cumulative positivity rate and weekly positivity rate (0.22 and 0.52 respectively, as of 11/16) well below the state average.
Off-campus students who are found to be positive are interviewed by contact tracers to determine if they have adequate conditions for isolation and quarantine in their homes or apartments. Those who do not are offered space on-campus. The University’s contact tracing team conducts daily check-ins with each of our students in isolation and quarantine to check on their health and to ensure compliance.
Please let me know if you have additional questions or concerns.
Tony Maroulis is Executive Director of External Relations and University Events at UMass Amherst