UMass officials: Cluster of 13 students test positive for COVID-19

  • A student is directed to a hand sanitizing station, left, before proceeding to a nose-blowing station, right, which were requirements before entering the Mullins Center for COVID-19 testing, Monday, Aug. 17, 2020 at the University of Massachusetts. FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Students line up at the Mullins Center for COVID-19 testing, Monday, Aug. 17, 2020 at the University of Massachusetts. FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/26/2020 10:24:33 AM

AMHERST — The University of Massachusetts has identified a cluster of 13 students living off campus who have tested positive for COVID-19, according to an announcement made by the school Friday.

“All are known to have socialized together, and a number of them attended a party together,” reads a statement from the university.

According to the statement, the students tested positive for the coronavirus this past week. A UMass spokesman said that all students are in isolation. Officials are investigating the case, and close contacts are being notified to get tested for the disease and to quarantine, the school said. The university is also working with public health officials from the town of Amherst to monitor the situation.

Jeff Hescock, executive director of environmental health and safety and emergency management at UMass, said in the statement that the positive cases show the need for people to continue following public health practices, such as social distancing and wearing face coverings.

“We want to emphasize that all students living in the Amherst area should come in for asymptomatic testing at the Mullins Center twice a week,” Hescock said in the statement. “Testing, while extremely important, tells us whether someone is infected, but does not protect a person from becoming infected. Good public health practices are critical to the success of preventing COVID transmission.”

At UMass, only students who needed to take in-person classes were invited back for the fall semester, with some exceptions. A Gazette article from August reported that about 1,100 students would live on campus, compared to the usual population of more than 14,400.

Another Gazette article from August reported that in normal years, 8,000 to 8,500 UMass students live off campus, and that of those off-campus students, around 2,400 need in-person instruction. School officials had urged off-campus students with remote classwork to refrain from coming back to the area for the semester. Most classes are being conducted remotely.

Some Amherst residents had expressed concerns over the summer about the potential surge of COVID-19 cases in the area due to an influx of students coming back for the fall semester.

According to the UMass online COVID-19 dashboard, the school has performed 52,446 tests for the coronavirus since Aug. 6, with 33 cumulative positive cases for a positivity rate of 0.06%. The total number of tests includes about 30,000 tests in the off-campus student population living in the Amherst area, according to a statement.

Michael Connors can be reached at 

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