UMass updates face covering requirements ahead of spring semester

All positive COVID-19 tests on-campus show evidence of the Omicron variant

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McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

By McKenna Premus, Managing Editor

The University of Massachusetts is updating its face covering requirements ahead of the upcoming spring semester.

According to an email sent to the UMass community Thursday evening by Co-Directors of the Public Health Promotion Center (PHPC) Ann Becker and Jeffrey Hescock, “everyone should use a higher-grade mask, such as KN95, KF94, or N95, or double-mask. Cloth masks are not effective in limiting the spread of Omicron and should only be used in double masking, with a close-fitting surgical mask underneath.”

The University’s COVID-19 testing data from the week of Jan. 5-11 indicates 377 new positive cases with a cumulative positivity rate of 7.56 percent – a decrease from the prior week’s rate of 13.21 percent. All positive COVID-19 tests conducted on-campus show evidence of the Omicron variant, per the email.

The email also stated that a University employee died as a result of COVID-19, the first death of an active University employee from the virus.

Beginning on Tuesday, Jan. 18, the PHPC will no longer be offering observed testing. Students will only be able to pick up unobserved testing kits located on the lower level of the Campus Center, University Health Services, Bangs Community Center and the Jones Library. Completed testing kits can be dropped off at kiosks located around campus, which are now open every day, 24 hours a day.

“As we near the third year of the pandemic, it is clear that COVID-19 will be present for the forseeable future,” the email stated. “Everyone must continue to monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms each day before coming to campus. If you feel unwell, stay home.”

With other universities and colleges either delaying the start of the spring semester or temporarily switching to a remote format, such as Georgetown University, American University, Syracuse University, The University of Chicago, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Salve Regina University, UMass has made no indication of delaying the first day of classes on Tuesday, Jan. 25, or switching to a temporary remote format.

McKenna Premus can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @mckenna_premus