After two weeks of classes, a COVID-19 outbreak at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, one of the only universities in the state that does not require mandatory weekly testing, has shot from 149 to 371, according to data published Thursday by the school.
Administrators said that they expected an early increase in COVID-19 cases, and that they’re confident the university’s vaccination requirement, mask mandate, and social distancing protocols will keep students safe.
The school said 96.6 percent of its combined student, staff, and faculty population of 29,300 are vaccinated.
‘We knew that we were going to be seeing some cases, and we certainly anticipated a rise in cases by the first few weeks of the semester,” said Steve Goodwin, deputy chancellor and chief planning officer.
“And we’re going through that now, and as we go through it, we’re also monitoring it in many different ways as well. . . . We’re pretty confident that our strategy is a good one in terms of finding and identifying positive cases.”
In the first week of the fall semester, Sept. 1 through 7, UMass Amherst reported 149 cases — three staff, 19 students on campus, and 127 students off campus. Administrators canceled the first tailgate of the football season last weekend to contain the virus’s spread.
In the second week, Sept. 8 through 14, the university reported 371 cases — 11 staff, 68 students on campus, and 292 students off campus.
One student was hospitalized last week but has since been released, Goodwin said.
UMass -Amherst appears to be one of the only colleges or universities in the state that doesn’t require mandatory testing. Instead, testing is encouraged if someone thinks they’ve been exposed or is experiencing symptoms.
“That’s a mistake,” said David Hamer, a doctor and infectious disease specialist at Boston University. “Active surveillance should be performed at least weekly, if not twice weekly.”
Schools that test weekly, or even more often, are in a better position to control the virus’s spread on their campuses, Hamer said.
Northeastern University reported 93 new cases in its most recent weekly count; Boston College, 62; Boston University, 109; Harvard University, 64; College of the Holy Cross, 18; and Smith College, 3.
Each tests students and faculty at least weekly.
UMass students are adhering to social distancing and masking policies on campus, but off-campus behavior is harder to monitor, said, Anna Maria Siega-Riz, dean of the university’s School of Public Health and Health Sciences.
“They are wearing masking indoors, which is what we asked them to do, but some of them are also socializing off campus and in the bars, perhaps not wearing masks,” Siega-Riz said.
Correspondent Jeremy C. Fox contributed to this report.
An earlier version of this story contained incorrect data on weekly positive cases for Northeastern University, Boston University, Harvard University, and College of the Holy Cross.
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