25 new UMass students test positive for COVID-19; party cluster grows to 28 cases

Of the students who tested positive Monday, 10 are linked to a growing cluster

By Ella Adams and Jack Underhill, Collegian Contributors

Coronavirus cases at the University of Massachusetts increased by 25 Wednesday morning, including at least 10 new cases connected to a cluster caused by an off-campus party, according to the UMass COVID-19 Dashboard.

The total number of cases currently connected to the initial cluster is 28, according to Ed Blaguszewski, executive director of strategic communications.

All 25 of the new cases come from off-campus students who tested positive for COVID-19 Monday. Only three of the 25 students were symptomatic, but all are “self-isolated on and off campus,” according to the dashboard.

Since the start of asymptomatic testing on Aug. 6, UMass has obtained 69 positive tests, 63 of which have been students and six of which have been faculty.

As of Wednesday, UMass’ weekly positivity rate is the highest it’s been, at 2.72 percent — a drastic increase from the .02 percent positivity rate observed just 10 days ago. Before the newest cases were reported, the University’s weekly positivity rate had been reliably hovering around 0.1 percent.

On Monday, when the 25 cases were detected, UMass performed 3,032 tests, the highest amount of tests the University has conducted in a single day. This came on the heels of the school’s announcement Friday of a COVID-19 cluster stemming from an off-campus party — the same cluster that has now risen to 28 confirmed cases.

UMass is asking all off-campus students living in the Amherst-area to get tested twice weekly.

The Town of Amherst also saw a sharp rise to 35 active cases of the virus. According to an email sent by Town Manager Paul Bockelman and published by the Amherst Indy, the increase means the town’s public schools will not open Thursday, as planned.  Amherst has totaled 181 cases as of Wednesday, according to the town’s dashboard.

Bockelman acknowledged in his email that the increase in cases resulting from off-campus students has broader implications for the town.

“We are meeting with the University and the Reopening Committee tomorrow and will seek a better understanding of this cluster and how it is being managed.”

Ella Adams can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @ella_adams15.

Jack Underhill can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @jackunderhill16.