Growing concern over off-campus activities as COVID cases rise among students

Hampshire County

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – UMass football fell to Eastern Michigan Saturday, 42-28, but there’s more concern off the field. COVID cases among students more than doubled in just one week.

“The energy before the game. It was really, like a hype-up session,” said Geovanny Antunes, a first-year student.

Even though UMass wasn’t Saturday’s winner, Minuteman pride still runs deep.

“You gotta sweat out the football games and then you go to the hockey games,” said freshman Gary.

“Go hockey,” added fellow underclassman Amanda.

But it comes at a time when COVID cases are climbing. A total of 371 cases with a positivity rate of 4.2 percent, nearly doubling the state’s average. With tailgating limited, barriers have been set up to further encourage social distancing. 22News spoke with some UMass Juniors about this school year’s atmosphere with COVID looming over campus activities.

“Just kind of made our own assumptions, you know that people are going crazy,” said Matt Distfano.

“It’s the first tailgate. Typical ‘ZooMass’ stuff, right,” said Joe Sista.

The overwhelming majority of the cases are off-campus. The school said most of them are connected to crowded events off the grounds. And now, they are reaching out to students from certain residential areas and social groups for testing to get a better idea of how COVID is being transmitted. Still, some students are worried this could mean they won’t have the school year they’ve been looking forward to.

“Put your masks on, COVID is real,” said Freshman Zih Nche.

“And get vaccinated,” added Juliana Hernandez.

UMass said more than 97 percent of students are either fully vaccinated or partially vaccinated. And that the vaccines are doing their job. Only one person was hospitalized and they have since been released and are recovering.

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