COVID-19 “Cluster” identified at UMass Amherst; 13 off-campus students tested positive
AMHERST – Thirteen University of Massachusetts students living off campus have tested positive for COVID-19, the school announced on Friday evening.
“All of them are known to have socialized together, and a number of them attended a party together,” UMass said in a statement.
“Students who test positive are isolated, as standard practice, either in their off-campus residence or at an academic institution,” said a spokesperson for UMass.
Others who came into contact with the “group” of 13 students have been warned to be tested and quarantined, UMass said.
The university’s flagship campus at Amherst operates with a fraction of its normal student body and staff due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Most of the courses are held online.
“We would like to stress that all students living in the Amherst area should come for asymptomatic testing at the Mullins Center twice a week,” said Jeff Hescock, executive director of environmental health and safety at UMass. “Testing, while extremely important, tells us if a person is infected, but does not protect a person from infection. Good public health practices are essential to the success of preventing the transmission of COVID. “
UMass is urging students and others to wear face masks and practice social distancing in public and to avoid gatherings to help prevent the spread of the virus.
The school said it has conducted more than 52,000 coronavirus tests since August 6, including around 30,000 off-campus student tests.
Officials and residents of the town of Amherst have raised concerns about students living off campus during the pandemic. In July, the university estimated that about 8,500 students lived off campus.
State Department of Public Health data published Wednesday said 149 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Amherst since the pandemic began in March, including 11 in the previous two weeks. The city is in the low risk “gray” category of the state based on its infection rate.
UMass said it is coordinating with health officials in the city of Amherst to tackle the group of infected students.