Public Health Update for the Spring Semester
Dear UMass Amherst Community,
We are excited to welcome everyone back to campus from winter break. Our campus public health preparations and protocols for the spring semester remain the same as our approach during the fall semester.
Throughout the pandemic, the university’s policies and protocols are based on federal CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidance, and that practice will continue as we monitor local conditions and circumstances this spring. Below are the key aspects for the spring semester.
- We strongly encourage you to take a COVID-19 test before you return to campus. If you test positive before returning to campus, you must isolate per Massachusetts DPH guidelines finish your isolation at home and notify the UMass public health team at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you test positive after arriving on campus, you will be required to isolate. Please see details in the Isolation Management section below.
- Please be aware that in most circumstances when using at-home COVID-19 rapid antigen tests, the FDA recommends repeating the test in 48 hours following a negative result, whether or not you have COVID-19 symptoms.
Masking and Antigen (At-Home) Tests
- UMass is a mask welcome campus, and we encourage everyone to respect the choices that individuals make about their own masking. Mask welcome signs are available for download. Please note that individuals and departments cannot create mask requirements separate from or more restrictive than university requirements.
- Free masks and antigen (at-home) tests are available in vending machines located on the lower level of the Campus Center. In addition, every home in the U.S. is eligible to order free antigen at-home tests through the federal government. We encourage students to bring these at-home tests with them to campus.
- The university highly recommends that all faculty, staff and students get vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna Bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine as soon as they are eligible. The Pfizer and Moderna Bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccines are readily available on campus at the Public Health Promotion Center vaccine clinic located on the lower level of the Campus Center.
- Individuals who test positive are required to stay home and isolate for at least the first five days. If your symptoms are improving and you are fever-free for 24 hours, you may end your isolation on day six and wear a mask around others for another five days. You may remove your mask prior to day 11 if you have had two negative antigen tests taken 48 hours apart. Testing is not required to leave isolation on day six if you continue to wear a mask and symptoms are improved.
- The campus does not maintain isolation space for individuals who test positive or have been exposed to or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. On-campus students who test positive for COVID-19 are expected to isolate in an off-campus location, such as their permanent residence, if they are able to travel there by private vehicle. On-campus students who are unable to leave campus to isolate due to distance or having high-risk household members, regardless of on-campus living situation, will need to isolate in place at their assigned campus residence. For more information, refer to the guidance on isolation and precautions for individuals with COVID-19 or exposed to COVID-19.
- We strongly advise that every student prepare a self-isolation kit before their arrival. It should include acetaminophen (Tylenol) ibuprofen (Advil) a thermometer, snacks, prescription medication, personal care items (cough drops, contact lens fluid, tissues), masks, disinfectant wipes, alcohol-based hand sanitizer and antigen test kits.
Influenza (Flu) and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
- We are still in cold and flu season, and the best way to prevent flu is getting a flu shot each year. Flu shots are readily available at the PHPC vaccine clinics as well. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and other cold viruses have also been in circulation in the United States. RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. For more information on Flu and RSV, please follow these links.
- Everyone should continue to monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms each day before coming to campus. If you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms take a test, use caution and wear a mask around others.
- The campus continues to have a process for requests for COVID-19-related medical accommodations. These requests will be reviewed under the regular ADA process that is administered by the Accessible Workplace Office in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access. Faculty and staff who are seeking medical accommodations should email email@example.com. Students seeking accommodations (including students with on-campus employment such as a graduate assistantship) should visit the Disability Services website for more information.
Our collective wellbeing is crucial to a successful spring semester at UMass. The journey to wellness looks different for each of us, and UMass has many resources to help you find your way. Check out resources on student wellness and faculty and staff wellness.
We thank everyone for their continuing support and wishing you all a healthy spring semester.
Co-Directors of the Public Health Promotion Center (PHPC)
Ann Becker, Public Health Director
Jeffrey Hescock, Executive Director of Environmental Health and Safety