Public Health Preparations for the Fall Semester
Dear UMass Amherst Community,
As the fall semester approaches, we are excited to welcome everyone back to campus. This marks the start of a third academic year in which COVID-19 is present, and our understanding of the virus as well as the tools to mitigate its impact continue to improve. Additionally, the campus is closely following developments related to the monkeypox virus (MPV) and has developed academic guidance on monkeypox. Your continued commitment to public health best practices will help ensure a successful start to the school year.
In keeping with our approach throughout the pandemic, university policies and protocols are based on federal guidance from the CDC and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and this practice will continue as we monitor conditions and circumstances. local this fall. Here are the key aspects for the fall semester.
COVID-19 test before arrival
- All students must pass a test before arriving on campus. Students can take either a PCR test within 72 hours of arrival or an antigen test (at home) within 24 hours of arrival. If you test positive before returning to campus, you must self-isolate per CDC guidelines before returning to campus and also notify the UMass public health team at [email protected] If you test positive after arriving on campus, you will be required to self-isolate. Please see details in the Isolation Management section below.
COVID-19 test in progress
- Students, faculty, staff, and members of their household who need to be tested because they have symptoms, have been exposed, or have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 can either take a antigen test (at home), or visit University Health Services (UHS) for a PCR test. Tests will be billed to individual insurance and most insurance companies cover COVID-19 tests administered for health reasons at no additional cost to you. Students, faculty, and staff should continue to report positive test results to [email protected] Elective PCR tests (such as travel tests) are available for $25 per test at UHS, a price significantly lower than that offered by pharmacies and other providers.
Masking and antigen tests (at home)
- Masks are welcome on campus and mask wearing is strongly encouraged during the first few weeks of the fall semester, especially in crowded environments, or for people who are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 . In accordance with public health guidelines, masks will be required at University Health Services (UHS), Center for Public Health Promotion, Center for Counseling and Psychological Health, Center for Women and Community, and Center for language, speech and hearing.
- UMass is a mask-hosting campus, and we encourage everyone to respect the choices individuals make regarding their own masking. Mask welcome signs are available for download. Please note that individuals and departments cannot create mask requirements that are separate or more restrictive than university requirements.
- Free KN95 masks and antigen tests (at home) are available from vending machines located on the lower level of the Campus Center. Additionally, every home in the United States can order free home antigen testing through the federal government. We encourage students to bring these home tests with them to campus. To help prevent individuals from spreading COVID-19, the FDA recommends when using antigen tests that you repeat the test after a negative result, whether or not you have symptoms of COVID-19.
- Students, faculty, and staff must have completed a World Health Organization (WHO)-approved primary series of COVID vaccines before entering campus or to successfully apply for a UMass-approved medical or religious exemption . The university also strongly recommends COVID-19 boosters when eligible under CDC guidelines. Vaccines and boosters are readily available at the PHPC Immunization Clinic. Students can visit the University Health Services Immunizations website for more information on how to upload your immunization records. Faculty and staff can visit the Vaccine Human Resources website for additional information.
Management of isolation
- People who test positive for COVID-19 will be required to self-isolate for at least five days before returning to class, work or attending events. They should then continue to wear a mask for another five days. For more information, see Guidance on Isolation and Precautions for People with COVID-19 or Exposed to COVID-19. The campus does not maintain an isolation space for people who test positive or who have been exposed to or have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19.
- On-campus students who test positive for COVID-19 should self-isolate at an off-campus location, such as their permanent residence, if they are able to get there by private vehicle. On-campus students who cannot leave campus to self-isolate due to distance or having high-risk family members, regardless of campus living situation, will be required to self-isolate on campus. place in their on-campus residence. For more information, see Guidance on Isolation and Precautions for People with COVID-19 or Exposed to COVID-19.
- We strongly advise each student to prepare a self-isolation kit prior to arrival. It should include acetaminophen (Tylenol) ibuprofen (Advil), a thermometer, snacks, prescription medications, personal care items (cough drops, contact lens fluid, tissues), masks, disinfectant wipes, alcohol-based hand sanitizer and antigen test kits.
Everyone should continue to monitor themselves daily for symptoms of COVID-19 before coming to campus. Anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 should wear a mask, stay home and get tested.
The campus continues to have a process for requests for medical accommodations related to COVID-19. These requests will be reviewed through the regular ADA process administered by the Workplace Accessibility Office of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access. Faculty and staff seeking medical accommodations should email [email protected] Students seeking accommodation (including students with on-campus employment, such as a graduate assistantship) should visit the Disability Services website for more information.
The university is also closely monitoring local, regional, and national public health situations regarding the global outbreak of monkeypox (MPV). The campus is committed to educating the UMass community about health issues that may affect them. We recognize that there is a risk of stigma or discrimination when communicating a new disease outbreak. We all have a responsibility to reject any stigmatizing words or actions related to the monkeypox virus (MPV) and instead share accurate information so people can make the best decisions for their health and that of our community.
Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, as it can be transmitted through any direct physical contact between a person’s rash, scabs, bodily fluids and another person. This contact can include sexual activity and also any contact with the lesions/rashes or even contact with the clothes or bedding that an infected person has used. We have published academic advice on monkeypox (MPV) which focuses on topics such as what monkeypox is, how it can be spread, what the symptoms are, what to do if individuals have symptoms and how individuals can reduce their risk and prevent the spread.
As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will continuously monitor public health guidelines and local conditions and make adjustments as needed. The pandemic has taken its toll and, at the same time, we have learned how to lessen the severity of COVID-19 through scientific advances and the daily mitigation efforts of our entire university community. We thank everyone for their continued support in keeping campus safe as we begin a new academic year.
Co-Directors of the Public Health Promotion Center (PHPC)
Ann Becker, Director of Public Health
Jeffrey Hescock, Executive Director of Environment, Health and Safety