Over the past two weeks, the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) has reported over 100 positive Covid cases, all but two of whom are students living off campus, according to the UMass Covid-19 Dashboard. As of Oct. 6, UMass has reported 124 cumulative positive cases since Aug. 6, when data was first reported.
Last week, The Student reported that 18 UMass students tested positive for Covid-19 as part of a cluster of cases stemming from attendance at a party in violation of Covid rules. Since then, 33 of the 100 cases reported since the cluster was detected on Sept. 23, have been linked to directly to the party; the university is still investigating if the other cases come from the cluster. Amherst College has experienced no active positive cases in this period of time.
In a statement to The Student, Chief Communications Officer Sandy Genelius wrote that “it is impossible to know all of the actions of Amherst students living on or off campus. On-campus students must comply with strict ‘no traveling off campus’ policies, and students who don't comply risk disciplinary action.”
Although on-campus students are restricted from travel into town, limiting the risk of the cluster reaching them, off-campus students as well as staff and faculty living in the area are potentially put in a more precarious position due to these developments.
“Off-campus students — we estimate that there may be 35-40 in the general Amherst area — are studying remotely and are not allowed on the Amherst College campus. We have made testing available to them in a time period separate from on-campus students, and they must comply with the safety protocols if they participate in the testing,” Genelius said. “It would seem to be an especially good time for compliance, given that we now have a confirmed prevalence of the virus in town.”
“Staff and faculty who are approved by their division head to work on campus must follow a strict health and safety protocol … that includes regular testing, the completion of online training, and the filing of a daily health status survey, among other requirements,” she added. “While we all know the situation can change, as of today, of more than 8,000 staff COVID-19 tests administered since mid-July, there has been one [staff] positive test result.”