UMass announces COVID-19 and travel procedures over winter break

Testing will continue under different hours over break

By Cassie McGrath, News Editor

As the end of the fall semester approaches, University of Massachusetts officials sent an email to the school community Thursday afternoon with updates about travel guidance and COVID-19 information for the upcoming winter break.

The email, sent by Jeffrey Hescock and Ann Becker, co-directors of the Public Health Promotion Center, began by thanking students, faculty and staff “for their efforts to follow public health measures as Massachusetts and the nation work to combat the concerning rise in coronavirus cases.”

The last day of finals is Dec. 4 and classes resume on Feb. 1. Both asymptomatic and symptomatic testing will continue over winter break, with a modified asymptomatic testing schedule for weekdays and holidays, the email said.

Beginning Nov. 23, the PCPH will be open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The center will not offer asymptomatic testing Nov. 25-26, Dec. 23-24 and Dec. 30-31.

Additional updates about testing, including additional operating hours, will be released closer to the start of the spring semester.

Symptomatic testing will continue to be available at University Health Services during the break to students, faculty, staff and their spouses, domestic partners and dependents with symptoms of COVID-19, or those who have been exposed to COVID-19. The email directed individuals to the UHS website for hours of operation.

Hescock and Becker also encouraged all students to follow regular testing protocol and to get a COVID-19 test two or three days before they plan to leave the Amherst area.

“This is important to guard against spreading the virus in your home environment. For students who test positive, the university will offer isolation space,” the email read. “If you will be living outside the Amherst area during winter break, we recommend getting tested at a site near you.”

Students can visit  the Massachusetts testing location site for more information.

The email also provided winter break travel guidance and reaffirmed that “all academic work and final exams” assigned after Nov. 20 will be given remotely “to minimize the need for travel around the holidays and to reduce on-campus interactions.”

The most effective way to reduce this risk is to minimize travel, strictly limit the size of gatherings, wear a mask and maintain a 6-foot distance from others whenever possible. Please visit Massachusetts’ tips for a safe and healthy Thanksgiving,” the email read.

The University has protocols for faculty, staff and students returning to the UMass campus next spring. UMass asked all those who travel out-of-state to follow the Massachusetts COVID-19 Travel Order. Additionally, the University will continue to require a 14-day quarantine “for all travelers returning from an international or higher-risk domestic destination.”

Faculty and staff cannot substitute a negative COVID-19 test result in place of quarantine. Students returning must self-quarantine for 14 days in University-designated quarantine facilities.

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