back to school

This School's Thorough Testing Regimen Could Be a Model in Mass.

With more than 10,000 tests performed, UMass Medical School has had fewer than 10 positive cases

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As all colleges and universities continue to tweak their fall plans, UMass Medical School in Worcester has become a model for successfully bringing its roughly 2,200 students back on campus for the past month.

UMass Medical School Chancellor Michael Collins credits weekly testing with turnaround times of 24-36 hours.

And with more than 10,000 tests performed, they’ve had fewer than 10 positive cases.

“Mask-wearing, social distancing, hand washing. We use an app now where we report our symptoms on a daily basis,” Collins said.

But a commitment from the entire school community is imperative to making the system work safely, he said..

“One size does not fit all,” said Collins, “and I recognize that a medical school community full of doctors and nurses and scientists without residence halls is very different than a big university.”

The College of the Holy Cross and Assumption College unveiled their reopening plans for the fall semester - both will start the school year with all remote classes.

Assumption University in Worcester has about the same size student population, but it does have residence halls – and it’s one of many schools that has announced a change to its hybrid reopening plans.

Classes will still start Monday, but they will be fully remote for at least the first two weeks.

Assumption University President Francesco Cesareo said that’s being done “to be able to give us some more time to analyze the trends, but also the fact that, from the Department of Public Health perspective, the contact tracing system is not fully in place.”

As Assumption waits for the state to fully integrate contract tracing, they’re hopeful the infection rates that have ticked up to as high as 4.9% recently in Worcester will begin to flatten back out.

A study by The Hechinger Report found that many colleges and universities were already facing downturns in enrollment, retention, tuition revenue and state appropriations before the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the school year. Senior editor Sarah Butrymowicz joined LX news to discuss how this added financial stress could change higher education post-pandemic.

“If the positivity rate goes to 5% or more, that becomes a red flag,” Cesareo said.

Meanwhile across town, Holy Cross announced Monday it decided to change course and will be fully remote for the fall semester.

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