COVID-19 FAQs for Fall 2022

COVID-19 FAQs for Fall 2022

These Frequently Asked Questions and Answers are continually updated to address new and changing issues and concerns. Please check back often for the latest information.

Updated Sept. 8, 2022

COVID-19 VACCINATIONS

Is UMass Amherst offering the COVID-19 Bivalent Booster vaccine?

(Added Sept. 8, 2022) A limited supply of both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 Bivalent Vaccine is available by appointment at the Campus Vaccine Clinic.  Please see the Vaccine Clinic page for more information about who is currently eligible for the vaccine and to make an appointment.

 

What is the COVID-19 vaccination requirement?

(Added Aug. 17, 2022) Students, faculty and staff are required to complete a World Health Organization (WHO) approved COVID vaccine primary series prior to accessing campus or successfully apply for a UMass-approved medical or religious exemption. The university also highly recommends COVID-19 boosters when eligible per CDC guidelines.

Does the university offer COVID-19 vaccines?

(Added Aug. 17, 2022) Yes, vaccines are readily available at the PHPC vaccine clinic. Additional vaccine locations in Massachusetts are listed on the Massachusetts vaxfinder website.

How do I submit proof of COVID-19 vaccinations to UMass?

(Updated Aug. 17, 2022)  See the University Health Services immunizations website for information on how students can upload vaccine records. Faculty and staff can visit the Human Resources vaccine website for additional information.

Are there exemptions to the vaccination requirement?

(Updated Aug. 9, 2022)  Students attending UMass may request an exemption from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement, subject to religious and disability accommodations pursuant to state and federal law. 

To request a medical or religious exemption request:

  1. Login to the UMass Patient Portal
  2. Click “Forms”
  3. Select the appropriate form (Medical Exemption Request or Religious Exemption Request)
  4. Download and complete the form (must be signed by a parent or guardian if student is under 18)
  5. Click “Upload”
  6. Select “Required Immunizations Form,” upload and submit the completed form

Faculty and staff should visit the Human Resources vaccine website for additional information.

I am a student in the University Without Walls or in another fully remote program. Do I still need to submit proof of vaccination?

(Updated Aug. 17, 2022) If you are a fully remote student and never come to campus you are not required to submit proof of vaccination. 

I received a COVID-19 vaccine exemption. Do I need to resubmit each semester?

(Updated Aug. 17, 2022) No. Once you receive an approved religious or medical exemption it is valid until further notice.

How did UMass Amherst get my vaccine information without me uploading it?

(Added Aug. 16, 2021) People who are vaccinated in Massachusetts are enrolled in the Massachusetts Immunization Information System (MIIS). You may have seen this information posted where you were vaccinated or mentioned in the consent when you consented to be immunized.  We get this data from the state.  If you have more questions about MIIS you can find that information at www.mass.gov/service-details/massachusetts-immunization-information-system-miis.

MIIS only gives access to vaccination records. No other health data is shared with the University.

COVID-19 TESTING

How can I get tested for COVID-19?

(Updated Aug. 17, 2022)  University Health Services (UHS) has PCR tests available to those in the UMass community with symptoms or known exposures. Elective testing is available for a $25 fee. Enter at the main lobby of UHS for testing.

Antigen (at-home) tests are available in vending machines located on the lower level of the Campus Center. In addition, every home in the U.S. is eligible to order free antigen at-home tests through the federal government

See the COVID-19 Testing Programs page for complete details

How do I learn the results of my COVID-19 test?

(Updated Aug. 17, 2022)  If you have a PCR test at University Health Services the following notification process will occur:

If you test NEGATIVE, you will be notified via email from umalab@umass.edu. You will need to register and log in to a secure portal to access your results.

If you are a UMass student, faculty or staff member and test POSITIVE, you will receive a call from a PHPC nurse OR an email from umalab@umass.edu with your results. You can look at your lab report by clicking on the Order ID.  Order Choice showing green does not indicate a negative result. If you are positive you must isolate immediately. The UMass Public Health Team reviews all positive results and then will send information to your email address. These emails are sent throughout the day.

What happens if I test positive for COVID-19?

(Updated July 28, 2022) Regardless of your vaccination status, if you test positive you must isolate for a minimum of five days and wear a mask on days 6-10. If you test positive using UMass testing facilities, a UMass public health case manager will call and give you specific instructions. If you test positive through a different facility, isolate in place and report your results to the Public Health Promotion Center immediately by emailing testing@umass.edu.

What happens if I have been in contact with someone who tested positive?

(Updated Aug. 17, 2022If you were exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 or have been told by an individual or a public health authority that you were exposed, here are the steps that you should take regardless of your vaccination status or whether you have had a previous infection:

  • Wear a high-grade mask, such as KN95, KF94 or N95 for ten days
  • Avoid high-risk individuals
  • Get tested at least five full days after your exposure
    • If you test negative, continue taking precautions through day 10
    • If you test positive, isolate immediately and email testing@umass.edu.
  • Monitor your health daily and do a daily symptom check
  • If you develop symptoms, isolate and immediately test and report a positive test to testing@umass.edu

For more information, refer to the guidance on isolation and precautions for individuals with COVID-19 or exposed to COVID-19.

I forgot my password to access test results. What should I do?

(Added Feb. 22, 2021) If you forgot your password for accessing your test results through the UMass Lab, please do not use the “forgot your password” option, which is run by a third party and is unable to reset your password. To maintain your privacy, we ask that you instead send an email to testing@umass.edu to have your password manually reset. When your request is processed, you will receive a confirmation email. 

Who do I contact if I have a question about COVID-19 testing?

(Updated Dec. 22, 2021) Students, faculty and staff can email testing@umass.edu with questions related to COVID-19 testing. Please be aware this email is not for private health information, but for logistical or technical help with the testing process.

FACE MASKS

What is the current policy on face masks at UMass?

(Added Aug. 17, 2022)  UMass is a mask welcome campus, and we encourage everyone to respect the choices that individuals make about their own masking. Masking is strongly encouraged during the first few weeks of the fall semester, particularly in crowded settings, or for individuals who are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Mask welcome signs are available for download. 

Where are face coverings required on campus?

(Updated Aug. 17, 2022) In accordance with public health guidance, masks are required at University Health Services (UHS), the Public Health Promotion Center, the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health and the Center for Language, Speech and Hearing.

Are face masks required on PVTA buses?

(Updated Aug. 17, 2022) No.

How can I get a mask?

(Updated Aug. 17, 2022) Free KN95 masks are available in vending machines located on the lower level of the Campus Center.

What if I want to wear a mask, even in circumstances when I’m not required to?

(Added Jan. 14, 2022) Anyone may wear a face covering on campus whenever and wherever they want.

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS

I need a signed document stating that I recently recovered from COVID-19 before flying internationally. How do I get one?

(Updated March 7, 2022) UMass students, faculty and staff who will be traveling internationally and recently recovered from COVID-19 can request a certificate stating they are recovered and cleared to travel, signed by a licensed UHS healthcare provider.

To request this certificate, contact Sasha Rivera at sasharivera@umass.edu and provide your phone number. You will receive a phone call to collect the necessary info including date of positive test, date isolation ended, test location, and test type.

Signed letters will be available for pickup at the UHS front desk within four business days.

I am an international student. What happens if I can’t easily get access to a vaccine where I live, either in the U.S. or abroad? Can I get vaccinated when I get to UMass?

(Updated Aug. 17, 2022)  International students who are unable to access the COVID-19 vaccine prior to arrival in the U.S. may get vaccinated at UMass. 

STUDENT AFFAIRS AND CAMPUS LIFE

What is the Interim Pandemic Policy?

The Interim Pandemic Policy, developed by students and staff and reviewed by the Student Government Association and the Graduate Student Senate, clearly outlines expectations for the spring semester for students living either on or off campus.

What resources are available to students living off-campus?

Off-campus students have access to university support services and resources. Additionally, the Off-Campus Student Center lounge is available as an in-person resource.

May I have guests in my residence hall room and what is the room capacity with guests?

(Updated Aug. 17, 2022) TUMass residential students may host up to two guests in their residence hall room at one time.  A guest is defined as any individual who is not assigned to the residence hall. The maximum occupancy of any room, suite or apartment is the number of assigned residents plus no more than two individuals per assigned resident. 

FACULTY AND STAFF

For more FAQs related to faculty and staff, please see the Human Resources website

Do I need to provide my vaccine records if I’m on a leave of absence?

(Added Aug. 16, 2021) No. If you are on a leave of absence you do not need to provide your vaccination records right now. You will be required to submit your records prior to returning to any on-campus activity.

What options do employees have if they do not want to be vaccinated and don't have a medical or religious exemption?

(Added Aug. 16, 2021) Unvaccinated employees who do not have an exemption or are not awaiting approval for an exemption, shall be placed on unpaid leave and not permitted to work until they are fully vaccinated.  Those employees may use compensatory time, personal time, and accrued vacation, in that order, to remain in pay status. Employees may be placed on unpaid leave for a period of no longer than one year.

CAMPUS OPERATIONS

How will guidance change as COVID-19 evolves?

(Added Aug. 17, 2022) As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will continually monitor federal CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidance and local conditions, and make adjustments as needed.

How is trash removed from my workspace?

(Added July 15, 2021)  All academic buildings have established central pick-up points. Occupants take their trash to this central location, from which custodial staff remove it. Maps identifying these locations are available on the Physical Plant Custodial webpage

What COVID-19 related guidelines are used to determine best practices for HVAC?

(Added Aug. 19, 2021) UMass Amherst is using COIVD-19 related guidelines developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) to inform HVAC-related measures on campus.

What do I need to know about ventilation in university buildings?

(Updated Dec. 5, 2021) The university is employing ventilation best practices across campus. University buildings are supplied with a percentage of outside air either via mechanical fans (a mechanical HVAC system), or natural ventilation (e.g., operable windows), dependent on each building and system. Naturally-ventilated classrooms also have air purifiers for operation during the cold winter months when windows cannot be opened.

HVAC

  • In buildings with HVAC systems, air is mechanically supplied to building spaces by air handler units.  These units are started two hours prior to occupancy. Air handlers increase air flow rates as much as possible during occupancy.
  • Air handlers serving laboratory buildings provide 100 percent outside air. This means that all of the air delivered to the space from the air handler comes directly from outside and is 100 percent exhausted, with no recirculation. Windows in lab spaces with fume hoods should not be opened because this can interfere with the functioning of the fume hood. Fume hoods provide excellent exhaust for spaces and ensure adequate ventilation without opening windows.
  • Many non-lab buildings recirculate a portion of the air from the space and mix it with a portion of outdoor air. In these buildings, the campus optimizes the system to bring in maximum fresh air whenever possible and exhaust it entirely or filter any recirculated air.
  • HVAC air filtration is rated by Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values, known as MERV ratings. ASHRAE recommends filters with MERV13 rating or higher as part of its COVID-19 guidelines. UMass is utilizing MERV13 and MERV14 rated filters for all areas where air is recirculated. 
  • Facilities maintenance staff continue to perform scheduled preventive maintenance on all HVAC systems. 

Natural Ventilation

  • In buildings that use natural ventilation, occupants are encouraged to open operable windows while occupying a space.  For instructional spaces with natural ventilation, Physical Plant staff are responsible for opening and closing the windows.
  • Natural ventilation is an approved method by the CDC of improving ventilation, and good air change has been observed with this method on campus. 
  • If you are not sure if your building uses natural ventilation or mechanical ventilation, please contact your Building Coordinator.

Air Purifiers

  • The university is providing air purification units to naturally ventilated classrooms. During warmer months, opening windows provides additional fresh air to naturally ventilated spaces. Opening windows in the colder months can lead to occupant discomfort, frozen pipes and less energy efficiency. 

 

If you have concerns about specific spaces, please contact EH&S at askehs@umass.edu or at 413-545-2682. To report a ventilation problem in academic and administrative buildings, contact the Facilities Solutions Center at 413-545-6401.

Why are air purifiers provided to some classrooms?

(Added Dec. 5, 2021) The university is providing air purification units to naturally ventilated classrooms for enhanced ventilation. During warmer months, opening windows provides additional fresh air to naturally ventilated spaces. Opening the windows in the colder months can lead to occupant discomfort, frozen pipes and less energy efficiency. 

What air purification technology is used in the provided units?

(Added Dec. 5, 2021)  Air purification units all contain a carbon filter and high efficient particulate air (HEPA) filters. Carbon filters remove odor causing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air, while HEPA filters are capable of removing 99.97% of particulates and aerosols that are 0.3 micrometers (μm) in diameter. Note that HEPA filters are rated for a capture efficiency of 0.3 μm particles because this size is the most difficult to capture. This means that the filters are even more efficient at capturing particles of other diameters.

If I want an air purifier in my classroom, will the university provide one on request?

(Added Dec. 5, 2021) The university is providing air purifiers to naturally ventilated classrooms. If your classroom has mechanical ventilation, it does not need an air purifier.  If you believe your classroom is naturally ventilated and needs an air purifier, but it does not have one, please contact Environmental Health and Safety for an evaluation at askehs@umass.edu or 413-545-2682.

How should air purification units be positioned and how often are the filters changed?

(Added Dec. 5, 2021) The units have both an inlet, where air is taken from the room into the unit, and an outlet where filtered air is returned into the room. The units should be positioned so they do not blow directly onto one person. The units will be positioned correctly when they are delivered to spaces, but please check these periodically to ensure appropriate placement. If you have questions about appropriate placement, please contact Environmental Health and Safety at askehs@umass.edu or 413-545-2682.

The HEPA filters on the units are rated by the manufacturer for at least one year of service.  The filters will be changed as needed by the Physical Plant per the manufacturer's schedule. The units also have indicator lights to alert users when they need to change the filter. If the indicator lights are on, please report this to the Solutions Center at 413-545-6401 and the filters will be replaced.

What can I do to improve ventilation in my residence hall?

(Added Aug. 19, 2021) Heating and ventilation in the residence halls has been reviewed and it is recommended that students in naturally ventilated residence halls slightly open windows (1/4” to 2” crack) when occupying their room or common spaces to allow fresh air to circulate in the room. It is recommended not to leave windows open when a space is not occupied. Please close windows when you leave a space. If a window will not open or close properly, please submit an iService Request.

It is not necessary to open windows in the Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community and North Apartments because the mechanical ventilating systems in these buildings introduce enough outdoor air  automatically. It is important not to block supply and return diffusers in these buildings with items like furniture.

Bathrooms and restrooms in all residence halls use mechanical ventilation, and hallways have 100% fresh air supply. Opening windows in these spaces is not necessary.

Do bathrooms, restrooms, and elevators have ventilation?

(Added Aug. 19, 2021) Yes, bathrooms and restrooms have exhaust systems that removes air from the space and all elevators use mechanical ventilation.

What are the minimum air change rates spaces should have?

(Added Aug. 19, 2021) There is no minimum acceptable air change rate for a space as this is dependent on the activities and number of occupants in a space at a given time. It is important to note that dilution ventilation (i.e., increasing the air change rates) is not an effective strategy for controlling airborne contaminants on its own. Buildings on campus are providing at least the minimum supply air cubic feet per minute (cfm) per person as provided by ASHRAE 62.1.

Who should I call with requests or concerns about custodial services or questions about the air purification setup in a classroom?

(Updated Dec. 5, 2021) The Solutions Center is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 413-545-6401. You may also contact your Customer Service Representative.