AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- UMass Amherst health officials released data that shows a cluster of 13 students who live off-campus that tested positive for COVID-19.
All socialized and many attended a party together, according to UMass Spokesman Ed Blaguszewski in a statement.
“The case investigation is on-going, and close contacts are being notified to get tested for COVID-19 and placed in quarantine. All students are being supported in their needs. The university is working closely with the town of Amherst public health officials to monitor the matter,” the statement said.
Jeff Hescock, executive director of Environmental Health and Safety, said the cluster highlights a need for adherence to public health practices, which includes face coverings, social distancing, and avoiding gatherings, according to the statement.
“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, according to 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.”
UMass Amherst has conducted more than 52,000 tests since Aug. 6, according to the statement, including about 30,000 tests in the off-campus student population living in the town.
“I really hope that they are taking the proper precautions and being safe, knowing that they have tested positive,” senior Catherine LeRose said.
LeRose shared her message to the 13 students off-campus who tested positive for COVID-19 this week.
She said she hopes they're social distancing after getting their positive result.
UMass is now doing contact tracing to inform those who were around the students that they need to get tested and quarantine.
LeRose and her friend Bryhannah Young, also a senior, said they are taking all the precautions necessary.
“Always bringing hand sanitizer wherever we go. Freely washing our hands,” Young said. “The minute we get back to our dorm, changing our clothes, showering. Washing our clothes once or twice a week.”
Young said she is even going the extra mile to sanitize what other students have touched.
“I have spray hand sanitizer that I spray on door handles, and papers, books,” she said.
LeRose hasn't been to any student get-togethers.
“I have not been to any parties, and I plan on staying away from them for a long time,” she said.
Senior Katherine Johnson said going to parties during the coronavirus pandemic just doesn’t seem safe.
“It really does seem kind of stupid to party,” she said “Like you kind of know some people are going to do it, but it really does just seem stupid. I am not going to any parties. COVID isn’t worth it.”
In total, 25 UMass students off-campus have tested positive for COVID-19, and 13 of those were from this week alone.