UMass Amherst returning to in-person classes after surge eases

AMHERST, Mass. (AP) — The University of Massachusetts is planning to return to in-person classes Monday after a previous surge in COVID-19 cases led the school to pause campus instruction for two weeks.

University officials say recent restrictions have helped reduce the spread of COVID-19, allowing the school to decrease its risk level from “high” to “elevated.” The decision was made with input from the state’s Department of Public Health, according to a Friday message from Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy.

Students will be allowed to attend classes on campus as long as they comply with requirements to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week. Sports teams will be allowed to resume practices and away competitions, but there will be no home games until mid-March.

Subbaswamy warned that students will be barred from holding unauthorized gatherings of any size, adding that small gatherings without masks and social distancing were “a significant cause” of the recent surge.

The university saw a sharp increase in infections starting in February, with more than 700 cases reported in the first two weeks of the month. Since then, the infection rate has decreased, according to university data.

The chancellor said nearly 580 students had been referred to the school’s conduct office since Jan. 1, and some students have been suspended or removed from school housing for violating restrictions.

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