Just two days after moving to an “elevated risk” status, Umass Amherst announced a continuing surge in coronavirus cases and switched to a “high risk” position, which requires all in-person classes to continue remotely and all students to self-sequester.
College Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in a letter to the campus community that the latest three days of testing results at the campus, from Feb. 2 to Feb. 4, totaled 298 positive COVID-19 tests, and 398 active cases.
IMPORTANT COVID-19 ANNOUNCEMENT
Due to the continuing surge in COVID-19 cases, the campus is now considered HIGH RISK. Effective 2 p.m. today, Sunday, February 7, the campus is open to essential operations only for a minimum of 14 days. https://t.co/J2LUnb0MMm
— UMass Amherst (@UMassAmherst) February 7, 2021
The campus’s symptomatic and asymptomatic testing sites have reported an upward trend since Thursday, and more students have been forced to quarantine.
Amherst’s new regulations went into effect at 2 p.m. Sunday and will be in place for at least two weeks. Subbaswamy added that the measures will only be lifted when public health conditions improve significantly.
On Saturday, the college tweeted about new restrictions that would go into place for the elevated status, adding that officials are closely monitoring the case numbers and evidence of community spread to determine a more specific time frame for the lockdown.
“In the last several days, we’ve seen a concerning rise in positive test results. Based on contact tracing, it’s clear that the spread is directly related to socialization among students,” the college said. “We need to immediately move into a period of limited interactions to reduce continued spread.”
In the last several days, we've seen a concerning rise in positive test results. Based on contact tracing, it's clear that the spread is directly related to socialization among students. We need to immediately move into a period of limited interactions to reduce continued spread.
— UMass Amherst (@UMassAmherst) February 6, 2021
Now under the high risk status, both on and off-campus students are only allowed to leave their residences to get meals, undergo their twice-weekly COVID-19 testing, or to attend medical appointments.
Students have also been asked not to travel from campus or outside the surrounding area. Testing and vaccination clinics will continue operations as scheduled, the college noted, but all campus athletic competitions and practices are canceled.
“To many of you these may seem like drastic measures, but faced with the surge in cases we are experiencing in our campus community, we have no choice but to take these steps,” Subbaswamy said in his letter. “By acting aggressively now, we are confident we can contain this surge.”
Director of the Office of Parent Services Rose Boulay emailed a letter to families on Sunday as well, outlining the changes and asking for support.
“We ask that you please encourage your student to stay in their residence hall or off-campus apartment until the situation is stabilized,” she wrote. “Our goal is to return to in-person programing and face-to-face instruction as quickly as possible, but we must first focus on the health and safety of our students.”
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