Classes begin at the University of Massachusetts on Aug. 24, and while much of the school community won’t be on-campus or in the Amherst area, a large contingent will be. For those students, at least one asymptomatic COVID-19 test is on the horizon, with possibly many more to follow, as UMass looks to proactively track the virus’ spread.
All students arriving to the extended Amherst area, whether they live in a dorm or an off-campus apartment or house, are required to get tested upon their arrival.
This will occur in UMass’ Public Health Promotion Center, located in the Mullins Center, which will be open for asymptomatic testing on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., beginning on Monday, Aug. 17. The PHPC will also be open the weekend of Aug. 22-23, prior to the start of classes.
The school emailed students coming from Massachusetts or other low-risk states on Friday with instructions on how to schedule an arrival test at the PHPC.
Prior to arrival, out of state students from higher-risk areas have a few options. They can arrive in Massachusetts or one of the other nearby lower-risk states and quarantine for 14 days before coming to school, or they can get a negative test result within three days of move-in.
By testing negative before arriving, students living on-campus will be able to quarantine in their dorm while awaiting the results of their arrival test.
However, those on-campus students who haven’t tested negative prior to arrival and haven’t quarantined in Massachusetts or another lower-risk state will be placed in a university-assigned space until they receive two negative test results.
For those with an entirely online course load, the road hopefully ends there. Those students will only be tested further if there is community transmission of the virus or if they come into contact with someone who tests positive.
But if you live on-campus, work there or take an in-person class, then the asymptomatic testing has just begun.
Students in the asymptomatic testing program have received email instructions on how to schedule their appointments through the UMass Health Hub app.
They will visit the PCPH for a test twice weekly, while faculty and staff will do so once a week.
A video published by the school Thursday lays out what the testing process will look like, showing an individual arriving at the Mullins Center, checking in with his ID, swabbing his nose with a Q-Tip, then placing the Q-tip in a sealed collection tube and exiting the building.
The whole process will take five minutes, UMass says. Results will be ready within 24 to 36 hours, with an email sent to those who test negative and a call from a school health care worker with further instructions for those who test positive.
More information on UMass’ testing program can be found on the school’s reopening website under the “Testing” or “FAQ” sections.
Will Katcher is an assistant news editor and can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter at @will_katcher.