UMass COVID-19 cluster grows to 18 students

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst campus GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/28/2020 2:23:45 PM

AMHERST — A cluster of University of Massachusetts Amherst students who tested positive for COVID-19 has grown to 18 as of Monday afternoon.

On Friday evening, the university reported that 13 students who live off-campus had tested positive for the virus over the past week. The students had all socialized with each other, and some had attended a party together, according to a campus announcement.

The five additional students who tested positive since that announcement also live off-campus and are connected to the same social group, according to UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski. All students who tested positive are now in isolation.

Blaguszewski said he believes that some students identified by contact tracers are still awaiting test results.

The additional cases bring the university’s cumulative positive case tally up to 39 since Aug. 6, with one of these cases identified at the Mount Ida campus. UMass has conducted 57,270 tests overall for a 0.07% cumulative positivity rate and a 0.16% weekly positivity rate.

Blaguszewski did not specify if any of the involved students are facing disciplinary action, adding that the university’s investigation remains ongoing.

“Students sign the UMass Agreement with responsibilities tied to that, and if there are matters that rise to the level of potential discipline, then that’s forwarded to the dean,” he said.

The UMass Agreement, which all students returning to campus or the surrounding area were required to sign, includes pledges to avoid locations “where social distancing is difficult” and to “NOT host or attend gatherings and parties where social distancing is not possible,” in addition to other public health measures.

Blaguszewski did not provide additional details about the party, such as how many students were in attendance.

The university’s response to reported incidents so far has emphasized educating students on best practices and “really meeting them we’re they’re at shortly after incidents occur,” Blaguszewski said.

A team of town and university officials talk to involved students after such incidents to “emphasize how good behavior is going to protect them and their neighbors and everyone in town,” he noted. “We think that has been largely effective.”

But cases that “may be repeated or egregious will be forwarded to the dean of students for review and potential sanction of the code,” according to Blaguszewski.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at
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