AMHERST, Mass. — Most students weren’t allowed to live in the dorms last semester during the pandemic, so it wasn’t until a lot of students returned to campus this month that the town started seeing a big uptick in COVID-19 cases.
“Many of the students coming back were freshmen, they had not lived in town before, they had not lived in a dorm before. This is a wake up call for everybody I think,” said Amherst town manager Paul Bockelman.
A wake up call for the town of Amherst as COVID-19 cases skyrocket in just five days.
UMass Amherst says there’s 448 active cases on campus and 431 of them were just confirmed over the last week.
Bockelman says it’s a challenge to tell students to stay away from each other.
“It’s going to be tough, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s what’s really required, and the university is very strict about that. You can have no gatherings larger than two, and there will be disciplinary actions for students who violate that policy,” said Bockelman.
The UMass campus is now designated as a ‘high risk’ for COVID-19. That means all in-person classes are now remote, and students are required to quarantine in their dorms and apartments unless they’re getting food, have a medical reason, or they’re getting their twice weekly COVID-19 test.
The Mullins Center has transformed into a COVID-19 testing site for students.
“It’s just kind of weird. We used to go there to watch games and stuff like that, and now we’re going there fully masked up and everything and taking COVID tests there,” said Terry Ward, a senior at UMass Amherst.
He says it’s pretty frustrating not being able to go out and see friends right now. While they follow the new rules, they try to keep their social circle small.
“We kind of have the same group of houses we kind of hang out with, and if someone feels kind of sick, we’ll all get COVID tests and make sure we contain it,” said Ward.
Bockelman says every student needs to take this virus very seriously, since this outbreak affects the entire town.
“We all shop in the same stores, we go to the same grocery stores, we take food out from the same restaurants, so we are living in the same fish tank basically and so what happens on campus matters to the town,” said Bockelman.
Because of this increase in cases the Amherst board of health just issued an order to keep all businesses at 25 percent capacity.
Plus there will be a 9:30 p.m. curfew that will remain in effect instead of moving forward with the rest of the state.
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