Three MA colleges struggle to contain outbreaks, parties

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — More local colleges are seeing outbreaks on campus, forcing schools to quarantine students and swap temporarily to remote learning.

At least two of these three cases at local schools are the results of parties.

Merrimack College in North Andover will now temporarily move to remote learning Sept. 28 through Oct. 2 because nearly 50 more students there tested positive from a cluster that emerged in a freshman dorm last week.

Seventeen students in Monican Hall were initially found to be infected with the virus, triggering the school to quarantine all of the students who live in the dorm, which is more than 250.

What the Monican cluster has taught us is that COVID-19 is very complex and the impact can be swift and large. Although we planned extensively for a temporary move to remote learning, and a potential outbreak of a campus cluster, the mental health of students, faculty and staff, and its impact is very difficult to plan for.

—  Christopher E. Hopey - President, Merrimack College

The college has determined the outbreak does not seem to extend outside of that dorm

UMass Amherst says 13 students tested positive after several attended a party together and health officials are now contact tracing and quarantining students who came into contact with that group.

That school’s policy is to test students who live on campus or who attend in-person classes twice a week.

Some students say they’re being responsible, but they know not everyone is.

“It really does seem kind of stupid to party,” senior Katherine Johnson said. “Like, you kind of know some people are going to do it. But it really does just seem stupid.”

Salem State is now sanctioning students who attended an off-campus party Friday night and urging the students who were there to get tested.

More than 50 people were at the party, it’s not known how many are Salem State students.

Salem State is currently holding a mix of in-person and remote classes.

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