AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM)--Western Mass News is hearing from students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on the school's COVID-19 protocols.
Cases for the first week of September sit at 149, with a positivity rate of nearly four percent. This comes as the campus is not requiring regular testing of the entire student body.
According to university officials, students with medical or religious exemptions to the vaccine must get tested twice a week. While the student body has a 97% vaccination rate, breakthrough cases are possible.
“They’re trying to strike sort of a balance between feeling safe and being extra secure. I’m not sure if it’s the best approach,” said senior Thomas Morton, a senior.
Thomas Morton is a senior at UMass Amherst and remembers the rigorous COVID-19 testing from last semester before the vaccine was widely available. Western Mass News learned that 97% of students are vaccinated and they aren’t required to get tested.
“Maybe not to the extent that last semester was, but maybe some testing should be in place,” said Morton.
Some argue the sheer number of students at the school makes mandatory testing difficult.
“Honestly there’s so many kids here it’s kind of hard to do,” said freshman Charlie Ganote.
“This is just so big of a school,” said freshman Anjali Vittal.
Voluntary testing is available on campus for whoever wants it. Masks are required indoors regardless of vaccinations status if you’re a student. But in a recent op-ed in the school's paper The Daily Collegian, a student criticized the fact that professors are allowed to instruct unmasked. Students Western Mass News spoke with said the experience varies by classroom.
“I don’t have a single teacher who doesn’t wear a mask when they’re speaking,” said Ganote.
“When they do wear the mask and they have to wear a mic like it’s very muffled and so it benefits me if they don’t wear one and I think they’re far away enough,” said Vittal.
Western Mass News found that only around 94 percent of faculty and staff are fully vaccinated compared to that 97 percent number for students. Three of the COVID-19 cases from the first week of September were among staff.