UMass requiring students to get COVID-19 booster shot, “expects” them to get tested two weeks before the start of spring classes

Those who were initially exempt from COVID-19 vaccinations will still be required to test twice weekly

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Ana Pietrewicz / Daily Collegian

By Ella Adams, Assistant News Editor

University of Massachusetts Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy announced in an email to the UMass community on Wednesday that the University is requiring all students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot. In that same email, Subbaswamy also announced that all UMass students are expected to be tested for COVID-19 two weeks prior to the start of spring classes on Jan. 25, 2022.

Subbaswamy cited the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that all individuals 18 and older get a booster vaccine due to “expected continued emergence of new COVID-19 variants.” He added that anyone 18 or older who received Moderna or Pfizer vaccines is eligible to receive a booster six months after their second dose; those who received Johnson & Johnson are eligible to receive their booster two months from the date of their single dose.

While the email stated that there are no vaccine appointments, booster or otherwise, available at the UMass Public Health Promotion Center at this time, it contained resources for students to make appointments through the Massachusetts COVID-19 vaccine finder or through Vaccines.gov.

PHPC will resume vaccine appointment availability in January 2022. Students can check the UMass vaccine website to book an appointment in the next semester, and those who were granted exemptions from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine for any reason in the past year will still be required to test twice weekly during the spring semester.

“The vaccine booster, combined with the advance testing explained below, and ongoing wastewater testing, adaptive testing, convenient voluntary testing options and our indoor mask requirement represent a comprehensive approach to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and ensure a safe and successful spring for our community,” the email said.

The advance testing referred to by Subbaswamy involves all students undergoing a COVID-19 test “between 10 and 14 days prior to the start of spring classes on Jan. 25, 2022.” The email laid out three advance testing options for students to meet the University requirement: a mail-in test, an in-person test and a test at a specified Stop the Spread location anywhere in Massachusetts.

The mail-in option requires students to pick up a testing kit and a pre-addressed postage-paid envelope at the PHPC in the Campus Center prior to their departure for winter break. These unobserved tests must be conducted between Monday, Jan. 10 and Friday, Jan. 14.

In-person tests can be conducted at the PHPC between Monday, Jan. 10 and Thursday, Jan. 13 during the center’s winter break hours.

Students anywhere in Massachusetts have the option to take advantage of free testing at any Stop the Spread site across the state. Out-of-state students can also use any community-based testing sites available across the United States. All COVID-19 tests must be PCR tests. Students are expected to take these tests between Monday, Jan. 10 and Friday, Jan. 14, and to email results to [email protected] on or before Monday, Jan. 17.

“Students who do not take a COVID-19 advance test as outlined in the options above will be expected to test at the PHPC immediately upon arrival on campus for the start of the semester,” the email continued. “Students who test positive upon their arrival on campus will be sent home to isolate for 10 days, as required by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.”

Subbaswamy noted that the testing protocols and program will “help provide the University an assessment of COVID-19 infections as the semester begins, and it allows any student who tests positive to meet the isolation requirements before classes start and therefore not miss any in-person instruction time.”

In addition to its aforementioned testing protocols, the University also expects to continue the campus indoor face covering requirement that has been in place throughout the fall semester. The email stated that this requirement will be reviewed during the semester.

Subbaswamy added that he is “grateful” to the UMass community for making the fall semester a “success.”

“Your cooperation, understanding and adherence to campus public health protocols have played a big part in ensuring the health and safety of the entire campus community.”

Ella Adams can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on twitter @ella_adams15.