As a result of a surge in COVID-19 cases, revealed at the campus’s symptomatic and asymptomatic testing sites, UMass Amherst is currently conducting business in a High Risk operational posture. The designation and related mandatory restrictions, made in consultation with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, was declared on Sunday, Feb. 7, and will be in place for a minimum of 14 days, or until Feb. 21. It will only be lifted when public health conditions improve substantially.
The decision to move to High Risk came just two days after the level was raised to Elevated Risk, prompted by a continuing rise in positive tests, predominantly among undergraduate students.
Measures implemented include:
- All in-person classes transitioned to remote format.
- All students, on campus or off, required to self-sequester. Students only allowed out for twice weekly COVID testing, to get food, or for medical necessity. Failure to comply will result in disciplinary action, which may include removal from residence halls and/or suspension.
- Campus athletic competitions and practices cancelled.
- To minimize potential spread, students should refrain from travel from campus or outside the surrounding area.
- Failure to comply with these directives is a violation of the Code of Student Conduct and will result in disciplinary action, which may include removal from residence halls and/or suspension.
In his Feb. 7 message to the campus community, Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said, “To many of you these may seem like drastic measures, but faced with the surge in cases we are experiencing in our campus community, we have no choice but to take these steps. By acting aggressively now, we are confident we can contain this surge and more quickly return to normal operations, including a resumption of in-person classes and organized student activities. Our extensive planning process anticipated the possibility of this occurrence, and we are prepared to take swift and decisive action to protect our community.”
The chancellor also noted, “Let this moment be a stark reminder to any of you who may have been cavalier about COVID-19 that your individual behavior has a profound impact on everyone in your community. If each of us follows proper protocols to help protect the community, we can get through this trying time sooner and stronger.”
Student Employment Questions
The directive to students to self-sequester and not travel to jobs has resulted in financial hardship for many who rely on income from their employment to support the costs of attendance. The university is acutely aware of the difficulties that this decision—driven by the public health imperative to stop the spread of the virus—has presented to so many of our most vulnerable students.
In a Feb. 9 message to students, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life Brandi Hephner LaBanc provided details about the employment restrictions and announced creation of a Student Employment Assistance Grant program with awards of up to $300 per student. Additional help is also available through the university’s Single Stopresource guide, including how to access resources related to housing, food and financial insecurity.