UMass sees a sharp drop in COVID cases

  • A UMass student employee waits to register people for COVID testing at the UMass testing site at the Mullins Center. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/1/2021 10:27:15 AM

AMHERST — The University of Massachusetts recorded 40 new COVID-19 cases in the last week of September, a sizable drop since a surge in infections earlier in the month.

A letter sent Thursday to the campus community from Ann Becker and Jeffrey Hescock, co-directors of the UMass Public Health Promotion Center, cites both the drop in cases between Sept. 22 and 28, a nearly 90% decline from the 380 cases identified in the same timeframe two weeks earlier, and the .57% positivity rate, out of 6,879 tests, compared to the 4.18% positivity rate, out of 9,082 tests, between Sept. 8 and 14.

“We are extremely encouraged with the recent decrease in the positivity rate and cases,” Becker and Hescock wrote. “Please continue to follow important public health protocols, including wearing masks indoors and while outdoors when social distancing is not possible.”

Of the 40 positives, 25 are among students who live on campus, 12 are from students who live off campus and three are among faculty and staff. As with the previous week, no hospitalizations were identified.

“Most cases continue to be of short duration resulting in mild-to-moderate illness,” Becker and Hescock wrote.

They also cite unmasked social activities among undergraduate students as the main driver of cases, and say that there has been no spread in academic settings.

The town of Amherst’s dashboard shows 75 active COVID-19 cases. Amherst College has one active case, a faculty member, and Hampshire College has no active cases.

Becker and Hescock’s letter notes that UMass is continuing what is known as adaptive testing in which random students, who are also known to not be close contacts of students who have tested positive, are selected for COVID-19 testing. The first round of adaptive testing turned up no positive cases.

The letter also reminds the campus community that there are still twice-weekly vaccination clinics at the Campus Center, with Pfizer vaccine booster shots available to those eligible, and that flu vaccine clinics are also starting.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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