University of Maine System commits to start the second half of the in-person portion of the fall semester safely with amplified plans to test all residential students for infection
Orono, Maine — The University of Maine System begins its fourth round of asymptomatic screening this week with plans to test again all residential students for COVID-19. The amplified screening comes as the in-person portion of the fall semester reached the halfway point over the Indigenous Peoples’ Day holiday weekend.
“With just six weeks of in-person instruction to go, we are going to do all we can to finish what we started,” said Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “Our students have been showing up for COVID screenings and adhering to our safety practices. We are proud of their commitment to public health and will be testing all residence hall students to make sure the second half of the semester gets off to a strong and safe start.”
The University of Maine System has conducted nearly 21,000 asymptomatic tests for COVID-19 since students began returning to campus in late summer. The arrival and immediate follow-up testing at the start of the semester and three rounds of required, random sampling to monitor for infection identified 18 cases of COVID-19 that otherwise may have gone undetected.
The University of Maine System Scientific Advisory Board chaired by President Joan Ferrini-Mundy reviews the results of each round of random sampling. The analysis issued on Oct. 9 following the second round of sampling found that the testing of randomly selected individuals supports an inference with 95% confidence that the University System’s in-person population has a prevalence rate of at most approximately 0.3%.
According to the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the current positivity rate in Maine overall is approximately 0.5% and the current national positivity rate is estimated at a much higher rate of approximately 5.0%. The University’s testing positivity rate overall so far is approximately 0.1%, or 18 positive tests of more than 20,000 tests completed.
Travel Limitations and Wastewater Monitoring
The University of Maine System canceled the fall break to reduce travel during the semester. In a message to students before the holiday weekend, Chancellor Malloy encouraged students to minimize travel and be sure to comply with university travel guidance anytime they travel outside of Maine.
The University of Maine System’s multifaceted approach to identifying COVID-19 infection and limiting spread on university campuses and in Maine communities includes weekly wastewater sampling for the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Samples collected over several weeks at UMaine, UMFK and the Gorham campus of USM have all been negative.
UMS faculty scientists and students, working in conjunction with the lab of Scientific Advisory Board member Robert Wheeler at the University of Maine, are now monitoring campus wastewater streams at three campuses statewide, producing rapid findings to help inform the ongoing response to the pandemic and consulting with others to assist them with their own response.
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