AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) – Officials with UMass Amherst have outlined further details on its testing procedures for the upcoming fall semester.

Late last month, the university announced that all courses that don’t require a physical presence on-campus would be held remotely.

In addition, undergraduate students who reserved on-campus housing for the fall, for whom space is available, could live on-campus under what are described as “strict public health behavioral restrictions.”

On Monday, UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in a letter to the campus community that they expect to operate at or below 60 percent residential capacity on-campus after many students, who will be a part of remote learning, have decided not to return to campus this fall.

Subbaswamy added that the university has not seen an indication of “beyond-normal demand” for off-campus rentals in Amherst.

"It's roughly 7,000 out of about 14,000 beds that students that have agreed to come back to campus, roughly between 50 to 60-percent of our capacity, which is really what most universities are operating at and what our original intention was, but we had a tactical shift in how we were going to get to that number,” he said.

UMass also said today that they plan on implementing wide-ranging testing protocols that go beyond state and federal recommendations.

At the beginning of the fall semester:

  • All students, whether living on or off campus, will be tested prior to or shortly after arriving to campus or the Amherst area.
  • Students tested before arriving must show proof of a negative test taken within the previous 72 hours.
  • Students arriving from 42 states identified by Gov. Baker must self-quarantine for 14 days
  • UMass will provide quarantine space for students whether they live on or off campus

On a weekly basis:

  • Surveillance testing will be done for all students living in dormitories and off-campus students who have face-to-face classes or a campus meal plan.
  • Additional adaptive testing of specific populations will be done to further monitor the on-campus students

During the semester, students will conduct a daily self-screening. Those with COVID-19 symptoms will expected to report them, whether they live on or off campus, and will be tested at University Health Services. Contact tracing will also occur in coordination with Amherst officials.

"We feel like everything that science and public policy dictates in trying to keep the community safe, we certainly expect our students and our town communities will work together to bring about a healthy, safe fall semester,” Subbaswamy said. “We think we'll be able to test as many as 14,000 per week. That will not only be symptomatic testing, but also surveillance testing once per week for everyone."

UMass will provide isolation and quarantine space for on-campus students. Off-campus students will need to create their own isolation and quarantine plan, with students returning to their home city or town the recommended option where possible.

For on-campus employees, the university said that many staff members are being asked to continue remote work through the end of 2020. Those working on-campus will continue to conduct daily self-monitoring for symptoms and related testing, which is consistent with processes in place since March.

UMass spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski said that conversations about reopening are ongoing with labor unions representing some employees and it’s expected that additional protocols for asymptomatic testing will be in place.

Western Mass News will continue to follow this story and will have more information as it becomes available.

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