Five UMaine Employees in Administrative Roles in Facilities Management Test Positive, Wastewater Monitoring Detects Low Levels of COVID Virus

University works with Maine CDC on contract tracing and to support employees isolating off campus. Thirty-eight facilities employees take part in free COVID-19 testing to identify asymptomatic cases of infection and to inform containment strategies

Orono, Maine — Five University of Maine employees who work in administrative roles in the offices of Facilities Management have tested positive for COVID-19.  Some of the employees are experiencing symptoms while isolating at home with the support of the University and Maine CDC.  

In today’s Together for Maine update the University will also report two active cases involving students who reside off campus.  There are no active cases of COVID-19 requiring isolation among UMaine’s residence hall student population.

The University of Maine has responded quickly to the news of infection among its administrative employees in facilities management with contact tracing, remote work options, deep cleaning of offices and vehicles used by the employees, and coordination with the Maine CDC.  

Free testing was also made available to employees in facilities management with 38 staff and administrators voluntarily participating in the screening.  The results will be used to identify asymptomatic cases of infection and to inform containment strategies.  

The random and required rounds of asymptomatic testing of students and employees engaged in campus-based activities are also continuing as planned through the Thanksgiving-break end of in-person instruction this semester.  The University of Maine System has conducted nearly 30,000 tests for COVID-19 since the start of the semester.  

UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy and Vice President for Student Life Robert Dana convened a meeting of the UMaine Emergency Operations Center and officials from the Town of Orono today to discuss the cases and the University response.  Since July the University of Maine has successfully isolated and managed 28 known cases of COVID-19 infection. 

In a message to the Black Bear community President Ferrini-Mundy committed to providing support to students and colleagues currently adhering to an isolation order from the Maine CDC and urged even greater diligence to safety practices.

“We have great concern for our students and colleagues currently in isolation, and hope for their quick and complete recovery,” said President Ferrini-Mundy.  “We have successfully managed cases of infection and limited the spread of the virus in our community and throughout the region because of our science-based strategies and our commitment to safety practices. 

“COVID-19 cases are on the rise across Maine and we must all be even more diligent now in our handwashing, safe distancing and wearing of face coverings to keep each other safe,” continued Ferrini-Mundy.  

“The public health partnership between the University of Maine and the Town of Orono could not be stronger,” said Sophie Wilson, Orono Town Manager.  “The University keeps us informed and has been using its resources throughout the pandemic to support the greater community.  We will get through this together, but there has never been a more important time for us all to do our part to protect one another.”  

COVID Virus Detected in Wastewater at UMaine Campus

For the first time since sampling began in August, a detectable level of SARS-CoV-2 has been identified in the University of Maine’s wastewater.   The sample collection point includes wastewater flowing from the University Facilities Management offices.

The collection from Tuesday November 3 was tested November 4 and found to have low but clearly detectable levels of virus, quantified as 9600 virus equivalents per liter (vE/L). This positive result is low but above the limit of detection (5000 vE/L). 

Wastewater sampling is part of the University of Maine System’s multifaceted approach to identifying COVID-19 infection and limiting spread on university campuses and in Maine communities.  Testing occurs at UMaine, UMFK, and the Gorham campus of USM.  All prior results to date, which are reported at the Together for Maine dashboard and shared with the media, have been negative.

University testing conducted in partnership with the Town of Orono identified a low but detectable level of the virus in a sample collected on October 28 at the Orono Water Pollution Control Facility.  A follow up sample collected October 30 indicated virus levels were in the low to undetectable range.