New UMass COVID cases slow down 

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst campus GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/19/2020 7:48:56 PM

AMHERST — The number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases at the University of Massachusetts has climbed to 152, though the daily number of new cases has slowed over the past two weeks.

The seven-day average of confirmed positive cases, which the university began recording on its COVID-19 dashboard starting Aug. 6, was two as of Oct. 17.

As of Monday, the largest single-day increase in cases over the past two weeks came on Oct. 5, when eight new cases were reported. The university also reported seven new cases on Oct. 13, five on Oct. 12 and three on Oct. 7. For the remaining 11 days in this period, the university reported one or zero new cases each day.

UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said the university is “certainly encouraged by the reduced number of recent positive cases.”

He added, “Our approach remains consistent, emphasizing vigilant public health prevention practices and regular testing.”

Of the 152 cases since Aug. 6, 144 have been among students. All but one of these 144 cases occurred among off-campus students, with one case at the Mount Ida campus in Newton. Six staff members and two faculty members also tested positive.

The decline in cases follows a spike that began Sept. 18, when UMass officials announced that a cluster of 13 off-campus students, all of whom had socialized and some of whom had attended the same party, had tested positive for the virus. At the time, the cluster brought the university’s cumulative number of cases to 33.

The 13-student cluster eventually grew to 33 off-campus students, and cases also grew beyond that cluster. The university reported a single-day high of 28 cases on Sept. 28.

This increase in cases among the UMass community contributed to the state designating Amherst and Sunderland as high-risk communities for COVID-19 transmission, according to Amherst and Sunderland officials.

Earlier this month, Blaguszewski told the Gazette that from the beginning of the fall semester through the end of September, 195 students had gone through the campus conduct process. Not all of these cases are related to COVID-19 public health violations, but “a notable number of the cases are connected to COVID public health concerns referred to the university,” according to Blaguszewski.

The university has repeatedly said that it is focusing on an educational approach when working with students who violate COVID-19 public health guidelines. However, “egregious or repeated acts in violation of the UMass Amherst Community Agreement” could result in sanctions under the Code of Student Conduct, ranging from reprimand to suspension or expulsion, Blaguszewski said.

Blaguszewski said that the dean of students has not yet released information regarding specific sanctions yet, but that more information will be available eventually.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at
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