UMass Amherst Will Lower COVID-19 Risk Status From “High” To “Elevated” On Monday

Covid testing at the UMass Mullins Center. Photo: umass.edu

Students Must Present Proof Of Twice-Weekly Testing To Access Classes, Jobs, Dining Hall Take-Out Meals 

Citing a decline in COVID-19 case numbers from the rapid surge which accompanied the spring semester, UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswammy announced on Friday (February 19) that the campus will reduce restrictions on Monday, February 22, and resume limited in-person instruction. 

Severe restrictions that were imposed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have “moderated” the initial surge, leading to an improved public health outlook. Students in compliance with twice-weekly COVID-19 testing requirements will be allowed to return to jobs both on and off campus. 

The UMass COVID-19 Dashboard showed  297 “active” COVID-19 cases on February 19, down substantially from 603 on February 12. The current active cases include 156 among off-campus students, 134 on-campus students, and seven faculty members and staff. Cases are considered active for 10 days following a positive test result. 

Over 78% of on-campus quarantine and isolation space is now available, according to the Dashboard. 

About 5,400 students are living on-campus, and 7,000 to 8,000 off campus, UMass officials have said.

Many Restrictions Will Remain In Place
A decision to lower the campus’ operational posture to elevated from high was made in consultation with the state Department of Health, Subbaswamy stated, adding that many  restrictions will remain. The twice-weekly testing requirement for undergraduate students living both on or off-campus, and for graduate students who come to campus, remains in effect. Those who fail to comply with testing requirements will lose access to in-person and online classes, the UMass Learning Management System, along with campus facilities and dining services.

All unauthorized student gatherings are banned, and no guests or visitors are allowed on campus or in residence halls. “Our analysis has shown that small gatherings where masking and social distancing were not strictly followed were a significant cause of the recent COVID surge. It is imperative that you restrict your contacts and socialization to your own social bubble,” Subbaswamy wrote. 

Since January 1, a total of 578 UMass students were referred to the university’s conduct office, and sanctions have included suspension and removal from university housing.    

Athletic Programs Resume On Monday
As of Monday all athletic programs will resume competition and practice, although no home competitions will be held until mid-March and will be required to stay in their assigned social bubbles. 

To prove that they have been tested, students will have to display a green Campus Health Hub checkmark to participate in an in-person class, or to work at an on-campus job. Students employed off-campus “might wish to use the green checkmark to assure their employers of their health status and commitment to public health obligations.”. 

The Du Bois Library will restore curbside pick-up and Interlibrary Loan scanning, while dining will continue only as “grab n’ go,” with students asked to show their green checkmarks. Seated dining will only resume if and when the public health situation improves further, while the Student Union building remains closed.

“We stand at a critical juncture of the spring semester. Having navigated an arduous two weeks, we must embrace our collective responsibility … and  seize this promising but fragile opportunity to gradually resume more normal campus operations.” Subbaswamy wrote.  “Together, we have made considerable, hard-earned progress .. .Let us continue on the path to recovery.”

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