The UMass Amherst campus lowered its operational posture from High Risk to Elevated Risk this week as restrictions imposed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 moderated a surge of positive cases that emerged at the start of February.
The determination to lower the campus operational posture to Elevated, made in consultation with the state Department of Public Health, means that a number of public health-related restrictions will remain in place, but others, such as the suspension of in-person instruction, were lifted on Monday, Feb. 22.
Following the early-February surge and subsequent restrictions, the positivity rate for COVID tests has declined. During the first week of spring classes from Feb. 1-6, the campus had a positivity rate of 2.41%, which resulted in the move to Elevated Risk operational posture on Feb. 5 and then to the High-Risk operational posture on Feb. 7. Under High-Risk restrictions, the positivity rate decreased to 1.90% during the first week (Feb. 7-14) and then further decreased to 1.12% during the second week (Feb. 15-21). The current seven-day positivity rate, posted Feb. 25, is 0.81%.
In a Feb. 19 message to the campus community, Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said, “We stand at a critical juncture of the spring semester. Having navigated an arduous two weeks, we must embrace our collective responsibility, comply with public health protocols and seize this promising but fragile opportunity to gradually resume more normal campus operations. If conditions continue to improve, other aspects of campus life could return in a phased manner, including in-person dining, access to the Recreation Center, and hosting a guest in a residence hall. Other universities of our size in the region have managed to operate without uncontrolled surges and outbreaks. We can do it, too.”
For ongoing updates and details on the university’s COVID-19 response, please visit www.umass.edu/spring. Resources include:
In addition, a call center is providing answers about UMass services and policies in the pandemic. It is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Those with questions should call 413-577-2999 to speak with staff or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Any concerns specifically about student conduct should be submitted through the Dean of Students online reporting tool.
Specifics of the shift to an Elevated operational posture, effective Feb. 22 include:
- In-person classes resume, but only for students in compliance with their twice-weekly testing requirement. Students must display a green Campus Health Hub checkmark to get access to in-person classes.
- Students out of compliance with the testing protocol lose access to their fully remote courses. Access to Moodle and Blackboard will be curtailed.
- Employment restrictions lifted for students who are in compliance with twice-weekly testing requirement. Students employed in on-campus jobs should consult with their supervisor on the re-opening date of their work and must present a Campus Health Hub green checkmark to their supervisor in order to return to work. Students employed off-campus might wish to use the green checkmark to assure their employers of their health status and commitment to public health obligations.
- Du Bois Library restores onsite services, including curbside pick-up and Interlibrary Loan scanning.
- Athletics: All programs resume competition and practice. No home competitions until mid-March. Teams will maintain assigned social bubbles.
- Dining: Grab ‘n’ Go continues. All guests will be asked to show their Campus Health Hub green checkmark upon entry into a dining location. Seated dining will only resume if and when the public health situation improves further.
- Campus building access restricted. Where necessary, monitors who check for green checkmark certification might be posted.
- Student Union will open if the public health outlook continues to improve and will strictly adhere to COVID-19 capacity limits. Only students with Campus Health Hub green checkmark will be allowed entry. Masking, social distancing, and avoiding unauthorized gatherings should be strictly observed.
- No unauthorized student gatherings of any size permitted. Our analysis has shown that small gatherings where masking and social distancing were not strictly followed were a significant cause of the recent COVID surge. It is imperative that you restrict your contacts and socialization to your own social bubble.
- Visitors or guests are not allowed on campus, including in residence halls.