Chancellor Subbaswamy announces COVID-19 mitigation plan for spring semester

Undergraduate students on campus or in the Amherst area will be required to get tested twice a week

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Collegian File Photo

By Sophia Gardner, Assistant News Editor

The University of Massachusetts plans to build on the COVID-19 measures that were in place for the fall semester, which included “establishing one of the largest virus-testing operations in the state, implementing extensive contact tracing, following rigorous quarantine and isolation protocols,” according to an email from Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy Friday.

Subbaswamy’s email was divided into nine categories, each of which explained an aspect of UMass’ COVID-19 mitigation plans.

The first category was titled “Ongoing Asymptomatic Testing.” It stated that all undergraduate UMass students who plan to live on campus, in the Amherst area or on the Mount Ida campus, as well as graduate students living on campus during the spring semester, will be required to get a COVID-19 test twice a week.

Graduate students living in the Amherst area are “strongly encouraged” to get tested twice a week as well, according to the chancellor. Students, faculty and staff can make testing appointments online beginning Tuesday.

“Students are reminded they must stay up-to-date on testing to participate in face-to-face classes or events,” read the email.

The second category, titled “Protocols for Students Coming to the Amherst Area and the Mount Ida Campus,” stated that all students are required to get tested upon their arrival to the Amherst area or Mount Ida campus, and that a second test is also required on the fourth day after arrival.

Students are expected to minimize their social interactions until they receive their second negative result, the email said. Then, they will be able to attend in-person classes or activities.

The “Campus Life” section stated that events planned by residence hall staff, student groups or campus departments will be held virtually, in-person or hybrid, depending on “public health metrics.”

The “Interim Pandemic Policy for Students” section stated that all students in the Amherst area must adhere to the Interim Pandemic Policy. The policy has six requirements: students must provide the University with their phone numbers and addresses; comply with the quarantine protocols “associated with out of state travel;” comply with the University’s on-campus visitor restrictions; adhere to the University’s testing protocols; cooperate with contact tracing efforts and quarantine or isolation directives; and follow federal, state and local government COVID-19 guidelines.

The “Faculty and Staff Protocols” section stated that essential and on-site UMass employees must do one of two options after out-of-state travel. The first option is to get a test upon arrival to the state and then another four days later. Until receiving the second negative result, they must limit social interactions. The second option is to quarantine for 10 days after arriving in Massachusetts. The University also noted that it does not provide accommodations for travel-related quarantines.

The “Campus Facilities and Classroom Protocol” states that UMass facilities will only be used by UMass students, staff, faculty and designated visitors. The occupancy of classrooms has also been limited to allow for social distancing.

The email also stated that there will be signs posted to direct students about where to enter and exit spaces. Reminders about “preventative health practices” will also be posted, according to the email. Those teaching in-person classes will be provided with face masks. Face shields will be “provided to those needing them,” and in-person classrooms will be stocked with cleaning supplies.

This section also states that “research and creative activities” should remain remote when possible, but facilities are beginning to reopen.

According to the section titled “Monitoring Risk Levels,” the University has developed a system of “operational postures,” which is meant to help determine if it is safe to continue with in-person activities and classes. The system uses the rate of positive cases in Amherst and surrounding areas, turnaround time for tests results, percentage of UMass quarantine and isolation rooms available, as well as several other indicators to determine the level of risk at a given time.

The email also states that UMass has been established as a vaccine clinic for first responders in the section called “Massachusetts Vaccine Plan.”

A more comprehensive overview of the COVID-mitigation plans for the spring semester can be found on the COVID-19 website, the email said.

Sophia Gardner can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @sophieegardnerr.