Students react to new COVID-19 measures in Mass.

UMass released email summarizing the measures and how they are adapting to them

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(Nina Walat/Daily Collegian)

By Cassie McGrath, News Editor

Three days after Gov. Charlie Baker announced additional COVID-19 restrictions to mitigate the spread of the virus as the state sees an uptick in cases, University of Massachusetts officials emailed the school community informing them of new measures students are expected to adhere by.

The email summarized, measures which go into effect Friday, and reminded students that these precautions will increase the likelihood of on-campus activity in the spring. Jeffrey Hescock and Ann Becker, co-directors of the Public Health Promotion Center at UMass, signed the email.

First, the announcement talked about the stay-at-home advisory which instructs Massachusetts residents to stay at home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The advisory allows for activities such as going to work (including research activities), picking up take-out meals, getting groceries, and addressing health needs,” according to the email. “This advisory prohibits any gatherings in your residence hall, apartment or home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. that includes individuals with whom you do not live.”

Some students believe the restrictions will be largely ignored, while others think students will be afraid of the repercussions of violating the order.

Sophomore finance major, Brianna Ratti said, “I don’t think people are going to follow the mandate in Amherst, talking about students only though not regular town residents. But, if students are noticing that cops are being very strict about it, such as pulling people over when they’re driving or busting parties.”

Lauren Musshorn, a senior environmental science and natural resource conservation major, said she thinks people will follow the mandate, “because people don’t want to get fined and the vast majority of students want to keep everyone safe.”

Next, the email summarized the early closure of business and activities. For UMass, this means that dine-in service at UMass Dining will close at 9:30 p.m. but will continue to service grab n’ go meals until each location closes.

The measure also includes a face covering order, requiring everyone to wear a mask in all public places, even if they are six feet apart, meaning wherever you are in Amherst, you are required to wear a mask.

Lastly, the email mentioned new restrictions on gatherings. Gatherings in private residences must end by 9:30 p.m. and “indoor gatherings are restricted to 10 or fewer people, outdoor gatherings are restricted to 25 or fewer people, and organizers are required to cooperate with contact tracing,” the email read.

“We recommend that all social gatherings should be in groups of 10 or fewer, and all in attendance should wear face coverings and maintain physical distance when possible,” Hescock and Becker wrote. “As the fall semester nears its end and we prepare for a spring semester with increased on-campus activity, it is important to remember that the actions we take now impact our ability to open more fully in the future.”

“The mandate doesn’t make me feel a certain kind of way because I’ll be following it anyways. It does feel like a hassle though because I feel like this mandate won’t impact people as much as they want it to,” Ratti said. “But it is annoying because if I need to get somewhere late at night, I don’t want to feel worried about getting in trouble. I feel like it will make other students annoyed or mad.”

The measures come into place following a spike in cases in Massachusetts in recent weeks.

“The mandate is frustrating since so many other states are doing nothing, and cases will never be under control until the entire country is on the same page. It’s really sad that seniors won’t have a normal senior year at all, because of our countries leadership and the fact that other states just don’t care.”

The Massachusetts Daily Collegian reported that the University has only recorded six new cases after testing a record number 3,534 students following Halloween weekend.

Both Ratti and Musshorn said they mostly feel safe in Amherst.

“The only times I don’t feel safe is when there are huge house parties with a lot of random people,” Ratti said.

Musshorn said, “Overall I feel very safe in Amherst but to the point where some of the things the University is doing just seems overly extreme.”

“Please keep up these proactive and responsible efforts,” Hescock and Becker wrote in the email.

“By following this new guidance from the governor, we can continue to take active steps toward further repopulating campus.”

Cassie McGrath can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @cassiemcgrath_.