By Paul Burton

AMHERST (CBS) — The first tailgate of the season has been canceled at UMass Amherst. The state’s largest public university, which requires students to get vaccinated, is reporting a surge in breakthrough coronavirus cases.

The school reported nearly 150 cases this week, with most being vaccinated students living off-campus.

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The cases have not lasted long thanks to the vaccines and only result in mild-to-moderate illness. No hospitalizations have been reported.

“The decision has been made to limit tailgating at this Saturday’s home football game only to those with valid game-day parking passes,” UMass said. “Campus organized, student game-day activities in lot 11, next to the stadium, have been cancelled for Saturday’s game to minimize the density of students gathering prior to kick-off.”

University officials attribute the uptick in cases to student parties and downtown bars.

“While there is presently no university prohibition on students gathering to socialize, we want to remind you that the safest place to gather is outdoors with limited contacts, and if you do get together indoors, you should do so wearing a mask,” school health officials said in a letter to students.

Some students interviewed by WBZ-TV said they were disappointed to be missing the tailgate. Senior Cody Roberts said hopefully it’s just one missed tailgate and not a whole season of them.

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“I guess cases are surging so I understand why,” he said. “But it is outside, too, so I don’t know. I’m kind of up in the air on the decision.”

Senior Alex Skourgis said that if football games are at fully capacity, tailgates should be allowed as well.

“Tailgates are an electric atmosphere and a vital part of the student experience,” he said. “I think students will still get together and support the team; we just have to find another place to do it.”

But senior Amanda Campbell said safety should be the top priority.

“I don’t mind not having tailgating. I don’t mind not having anything. This is a pandemic,” she said. “We do what we have to do. . . people are dying worldwide.”

Some understood the university’s decision, but didn’t like the timing, with it coming one day before the game.

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“I completely understand where the university is coming from,” said UMass Amherst senior Joshua Brown. “At the same time, they could have done a better timing on that one.”

Paul Burton