Residents of Mass. college towns concerned about potential COVID-19 spike

AMHERST, MASS. (WHDH) - Massachusetts is just weeks away from the yearly onslaught of students moving back onto college campuses — but, this year is different.

The students will be returning in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and this fact has raised some concerns for those living in college towns and neighborhoods.

In a letter to the chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Amherst town manager Paul Bockelman wrote that he has profound concerns about the thousands of students returning to campus.

He also wrote that he wants the university to take responsibility for the health actions of those students who live off-campus.

“I fear that the decision to bring additional students to Town will fuel the conditions for a massive spread of COVID-19 that could overwhelm our local public health infrastructure…”

The university responded to Bockelman’s concerns, writing:

“UMass is using the best science and public health information available to protect the health of our community. We are committed to ongoing collaboration with our neighbors to meet the unprecedented challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has created.”

Community leaders in Allston and Brighton, neighborhoods bordering Harvard, Boston University and Boston College said local businesses will be happy to see their student customers return but that joy will be tempered by concerns for public health.

“There’s a concern that students will be coming from areas of the country that are experiencing high spikes of COVID-19,” Anthony D’Isidoro, President of the Allston Civic Association said. “Our young people, unfortunately, in many cases don’t seem to be interested in following the protocols and it would be a shame to see us spike again.’

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he shares these concerns.

“We’re going to be monitoring this situation very closely, I think I have a call with colleges sometime this week, to talk to them about this and I think they have that concern as well,” he said.

D’Isisoro says he hopes the colleges and universities will hold their off-campus students to the same public health standards as they do their on-campus students.

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