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The University of Massachusetts Amherst announced it will lower it COVID-19 risk level from "high" to "elevated" after a surge of coronavirus cases on campus triggered the school to implement severe restrictions.
A spike in COVID-19 cases at UMass Amherst left students stuck in place after the university ordered a two-week lockdown. It required students to shelter in their dorms except when getting food or attending essential appointments. The restrictions also banned all student gatherings and outdoor exercise.
"Consequently, severe restrictions were imposed to reduce the spread of the virus," wrote UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy in a letter to the campus community. "These restrictions have moderated the initial surge. This improved public health outlook provides us the opportunity—anchored in a commitment to continue to strictly follow public health protocols—to lower our operational posture from High to Elevated."
The risk level is expected to be lowered on Monday as well as some of the current restrictions, according to the letter.
In-person classes are set to resume, but only for students who are being tested twice a week — a requirement set by the university. Employment restrictions will also be lifted for students complying to the twice-weekly testing.
With the risk level lowered, the school's athletic programs will resume. Home games, however, will not occur until mid-March, and teams must maintain the assigned social bubbles, according to the chancellor's letter.
"No unauthorized student gatherings of any size permitted," stated the letter. "Our analysis has shown that small gatherings where masking and social distancing were not strictly followed were a significant cause of the recent COVID surge. It is imperative that you restrict your contacts and socialization to your own social bubble."
Despite restrictions loosening, visitors or guests are also no permitted on campus or in residence halls. Students and faculty have been urged to follow masking requirements, social distance, and avoid unauthorized gatherings.
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