UMass explains COVID-19 expectations and protocols

Students who are in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 should still attend class, per the University

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By Irina Costache and Alex Genovese

As students and faculty at the University of Massachusetts return to campus for face-to-face learning, some feel left in the dark about the University’s COVID-19 protocols for the fall semester.

According to University Spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski, anyone who tests positive — vaccinated or unvaccinated — “must isolate for a full ten days.”

However, those who are vaccinated and in close contact with someone who tests positive “do not need to quarantine but are asked to wear masks and test regularly,” said Blaguszewski in an email on Monday.

Those who are unvaccinated close contacts “must go into quarantine for a minimum of seven days,” he added.

A planning guide created by the University for individuals who must isolate can be found here.

Blaguszewski also clarified the policy regarding class attendance for those who have had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Students are expected to attend classes “unless they themselves test positive,” he said.

Additionally, if someone in a class tests positive for COVID-19, not all students may receive a contact tracing notification.

“Not every student in a class would be determined to be a close contact. Depending upon the timing of symptoms, positive test, activities in the last couple of days, etc., students in a class may not be identified as close contacts,” Blaguszewski said.

If a student has tested positive for COVID-19 and has attended a class, the professor should not cancel class. Instead, “class can continue as planned.”

Clara Goldberg, a senior studying Political Science and Sociology, said that her experience with UMass contact tracing was confusing and lacking accountability. Goldberg received an email from the University last Friday stating that she was in close contact with a friend who had tested positive for COVID-19. Goldberg said that the last time she had seen that friend was the Monday before, for about two hours outdoors.

In the email, the University wrote, “You have been identified as a close contact for someone recently diagnosed with COVID-19. Because our records list you as fully vaccinated, we ask that you get a test as specified below, in order to ascertain whether you are also positive.”

 

The email proceeded to lay out the details for both symptomatic and asymptomatic testing.

Goldberg was alarmed at the University’s lack of accountability with regard to making sure she was tested. “I’m not sure anyone was checking to see I actually got tested in the recommended time frame, so I don’t think there was much accountability from the school,” she said.

Graduate students on campus have also voiced concerns about feeling left in the dark about University COVID-19 decisions and rising cases among students on and off campus.

“Since the beginning of the semester, it has made me essentially, really, a lot more hesitant to go on campus and a lot more hesitant to actually engage with the community that I came here to work with. I don’t know whether somebody in my lab is going to test positive,” said Sam Stern, a graduate student in the computer science department.

“Being put in immediate danger by this lack of information makes me unable to do [my work] as well and really impacts the quality of my research, and just makes me unable to do what I was brought here to do,” Stern said.

Alex Genovese can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @alex_genovese1. Irina Costache can be reached at [email protected]  Follow her on Twitter @irinaacostache.