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'Stark Reminder': Amherst Issues Curfew After UMass Students Blamed For Spike In COVID Cases

AMHERST (CBS) – One Massachusetts community where COVID cases are spiking quickly is Amherst, and administrators at the University of Massachusetts said it is because students are breaking coronavirus safety rules.

Both the University of Massachusetts and the town of Amherst are now under a curfew. UMass has had nearly 500 cases in the past week.

UMass Amherst started its spring semester a week ago and already there are hundreds of new cases that are now impacting the entire town.

A UMass spokesman said students who "disregard or violate public health guidance and university policy" will be referred to the Student Conduct and Community Standards office. Between January 25 and February 4, the office issued behavioral notices to 183 students and 82 students were put into the conduct process.

Many Amherst businesses closed because of COVID and the trend appears to be heading in the wrong direction.

"I think there's no doubt it's been hard on the community," said one resident.

The town's Board of Health issued an emergency order that will extend a 9:30 p.m. closing time and keep capacity limits down at 25% indefinitely.

It comes as capacity limits and other restrictions are being lifted in most cities across the state.

"Yeah I think it's probably pretty directly connected to college student behavior," said Steven Lee-Davis.

Over the weekend the risk level on the UMass campus was raised to high and all classes were shifted to remote learning after the latest test results show 398 active cases.

Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy issued a statement to students.

"Let this moment be a stark reminder to any of you who may have been cavalier about COVID-19 that your individual behavior has a profound impact on everyone in your community," the statement read in part.

Tayonna Tucker is a UMass student upset with her classmates for not taking the pandemic seriously.

"I feel like most of the kids at UMass aren't really caring they're just trying to continue with their partying and things like that," Tucker said.

"It isn't like you know some game this is kind of people's lives that we're playing with especially residents of Amherst."

Dawn Eichhorn has owned a downtown salon for 37 years.

"That's right it's our lives," said Eichhorn.

The past year has been a struggle. This added delay in getting back to normal is not the news she wanted to hear.

"Well it's frustrating for one thing just because it's moving so slowly," she said. "It impacts our business therefore it makes it a little bit harder financially."

The latest shutdown on campus will remain in place until at least February 21. Officials say it will only change if the public health situation improves significantly

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