AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – UMass Amherst is closely monitoring over 100 COVID-19 cases among its vaccinated students and staff, university health officials announced on Thursday.
In a joint email sent to faculty and staff, Public Health Director Ann Becker and Executive Director of Environmental Health and Safety Jeffrey Hescock said the university has seen an increase in positive cases mostly among vaccinated off-campus students in the past week. Those infected experienced a short duration of mild to moderate illness and no hospitalizations.
As of Thursday, September 9, UMass Amherst reported a total of 149 active COVID-19 cases; 19 are on-campus students, 127 live off-campus, and three are staff members. A total of 3,863 tests have been performed and the university’s positivity rate is 3.86 percent, higher than the state’s average at 2.48 percent.
Back in April, UMass Amherst required vaccinations for all faculty, staff, and students before they could begin in-person learning for the new academic year. Currently, 97 percent of students and staff are partially or fully vaccinated.
Becker and Hescock said the uptick in cases is mostly among off-campus students and has been connected to indoor social activities, including visits to crowded downtown bars and attendance at parties.
Freshman student Divya Raghunathan said she was not surprised when she saw the email sent to students, “My friends and I in my hallway, we took a test this morning. We dropped them off. It’s kind of as much as you can do. Just keep aware.”
Due to the increase in COVID cases, officials have limited the student game-day football activities that were scheduled on Saturday in lot 11, near McGuirk Alumni Stadium to only those with a day parking pass to that lot.
“People could be tailgating indoors now because UMass has gotten rid of our ability to go to a parking lot and be outside,” said Sophomores Charley Blacker & Sydney Eisner.
Both on-campus and off-campus students, as well as faculty and staff, are being advised to mask up and avoid indoor un-masked crowds to help prevent more breakthrough cases.
Freshman student Scotty Savage said he feels the school’s decision was a good call and taking steps to stay safe, “I’m just going to make sure that I have a close circle of friends and for the majority, I’m going to be keeping my mask on.”