Public Health and Safety
As we increase the campus residential population, the primary considerations are: (1) the need for social distancing and reducing contacts; (2) following mask wearing, cleaning, and other public health practices such as avoiding large gatherings; (3) frequent testing and prompt contact tracing, followed by isolation and quarantine as appropriate, with 7% of campus residential space set aside for quarantine and isolation; and (4) managing the demand for regional hospital capacity. With the experience we have gained over the Fall Semester, and with knowledge of what other campuses have successfully put in place to support a larger student population, we can support a residential population as high as 60%, provided the above conditions are met. In order to create a greater margin of safety, we recommend not backfilling any capacity freed up by members of the priority cohorts who decline our invitation to live on campus.
As requested, this Working Group re-examined actions the campus could take to help alleviate some of these concerns. The critical step will be to ensure strict compliance with the five pillars of public health and safety: mask wearing, social distancing, testing, quarantine and isolation. It will be important for Student Affairs and Campus Life, the Office of the Provost, Human Resources and every campus unit to take active interventions when necessary to ensure compliance.
Recommended Public Health and Safety Protocols
Continue with the asymptomatic testing program for the spring, utilizing the following program:
Recommend beginning the week of January 11, initiate arrival testing for individuals from higher-risk states as designated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. These individuals will be required to be tested upon arrival and placed in self-quarantine for 14 days. Students will also be tested on their final day of self-quarantine, prior to being allowed to move into their residence hall.
- Students who reside on campus should be required to be tested twice a week.
- Undergraduate undergraduate and graduate students who live in the Amherst area (defined as Amherst, Hadley, Sunderland, Belchertown, Pelham, Shutesbury and Leverett) should be required to be tested twice a week.
- Off-campus undergraduate and graduate students who live outside the Amherst area and are coming to campus for face-to-face classes, research labs or work should be required to be tested twice a week.
- Graduate students who live in the Amherst area (defined as Amherst, Hadley, Sunderland, Belchertown, Pelham, Shutesbury and Leverett) and are not coming to campus for classes are strongly encouraged to get tested twice a week.
For Faculty and Staff
- Faculty who are teaching or conducting research on campus should be required to be tested weekly.<
- Clinical faculty who are working in healthcare facilities or University Health Services staff who are providing in-person healthcare should be required to be tested twice weekly.
- Staff who regularly work on campus should be required to be tested weekly.
- The campus should continue to utilize rt-PCR for its primary testing while also following improvements in assay development and optimization.
- Asymptomatic test analysis should be through a mixture of the IALS Clinical Testing Center on campus and the Broad Institute, while symptomatic testing should continue to be performed by University Health Services.
- Institute mandatory adaptive testing (e.g., face-to-face classes) when circumstances warrant.
- Consider scheduling testing through SPIRE when scheduling classes.
- Evaluate the ability to set up a mobile testing operation for on-campus or off-campus adaptive testing needs.
- Examine the feasibility of a second testing site in the northeast portion of campus or several other smaller sites dispersed throughout campus.
- Mask wearing should be mandatory both indoors and outdoors at all times.
- Develop programs that engage faculty involvement in promoting appropriate behavior and encouraging compliance.
- Expand the current high-quality education and outreach programs to multiple touch points each week.
- All matriculated students should provide or update their Spring Semester address by January 11, 2021. Compliance should be required for course access in Blackboard or Moodle.
- All student organizations, including Greek Life, club sports and Registered Student Organizations should supply and update complete rosters by the start of the Spring Semester, with an update required at the conclusion of add/drop.
- Improve the electronic link between SPIRE data and in-person classes with a case management system.
- All on-campus events and gatherings should provide plans and protocols for approval by Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S). At a minimum, attendees should demonstrate they are in compliance (green check marks) at entry and an attendee list should be provided to the Public Health Promotion Center.
- Use the green check mark from the Campus Health Hub to allow students to demonstrate their compliance with testing to attend classes as well as access the library, Recreation Center, dining commons, etc.
- Prioritize sewage surveillance as an added early warning system for adaptive testing.
- Consider establishing a working group with Cooley Dickinson Hospital to ensure information flow and a quick update to any changes in transmission.
- Establish guidelines on the size of gatherings and the logistics of off-campus, face-to-face interactions that may be more stringent than state guidelines.
- Develop UMass-specific COVID-19 alert levels that provide the public with some of the indicators used to determine what actions the university may need to take should conditions change.
With more students on campus and increased testing, the Public Health Promotion Center needs to expand staffing. This should include additional employees for case investigations of positive tests, contact tracing, managing quarantine and isolation, overseeing compliance, and adaptive response.
All members of the campus community must take every necessary action to ensure a collaborative atmosphere focused on public health measures with the shared goal of keeping the campus open and functioning at the highest level possible.