University of Maine System on Track for Spring Return with More COVID-19 Testing

Mills Administration commits $8.15 million in CARES Act funding to reimburse UMS for fall semester testing and PPE expense, aiding efforts to fund enhanced screening in support of a safe return to campus for spring semester beginning Jan. 25 2021

Orono, Maine — The University of Maine System is extending its highly successful Together for Maine return to campus public health campaign into the spring semester.  Resident halls will open and students will be welcomed back to campus with arrival screening the week of January 19 and a planned mix of in-persion, hybrid, and on-line classes beginning January 25.  The individual universities will be distributing campus-specific details to students, faculty, and staff over the first few weeks of winter break.  

The University of Maine System successfully conducted nearly 40,000 asymptomatic PCR tests for COVID-19 to support the fall semester.  The University of Maine System, campus-based testing leaders, existing testing partners and other stakeholders are working on plans to expand testing and adapt screening and tracing strategies to increasing case counts.  

The testing expansion will be supported in part by a commitment of the Mills Administration to devote $8.15 million in federal CARES Act funds to reimburse UMS for fall semester testing and PPE expenses incurred to limit the spread of infection among students, employees, and Maine communities.

“Shared commitment to our Together for Maine public health campaign and our screening strategies allowed us to fulfill our educational and research missions this fall without being a source of outbreak or significant spread of COVID-19.” said Chancellor Malloy.  “There is reason for optimism with the deployment of a safe and effective vaccine, but we expect to confront higher case counts in January than we did in August.  We will respond with increased testing capacity.”  

“Governor Mills’ commitment to reimburse the universities for first semester testing and PPE expenses helps provide Maine’s public universities with the resources we need to expand testing in the spring and stay on track for our students and for Maine,” continued Malloy.   

Essential Mission Backed By More Testing Capacity

The education, research, and service missions of public higher education are essential. Academic innovation, technology, and administrative accommodations have created significant learning and remote work flexibility in response to the pandemic but many elements of public higher education’s mission still must occur in person.  This can include nursing clinical experiences, access to research facilities and laboratories, and providing residences and support to students who prefer or require on-campus living.  

The University of Maine System is working with testing leaders, existing partners and other vendors to develop additional testing capacity, logistical support, and update strategies for the spring semester.  Agreements are already in place to provide the safe arrival screening and support the monitoring strategies that successfully limited the spread of infection in the fall. Students returning to campus for the spring semester will learn more about arrival screening from university leaders over winter break.  

Chancellor’s Task Force on Vaccine Partnership and Planning

Support for Maine’s vaccine distribution is another example of essential university service.  Chancellor Malloy appointed a Task Force on Vaccine Partnership and Planning to expand and facilitate the use of university resources to assist with vaccine distribution, recommend needed changes to UMS immunization requirements, and contribute to student and public awareness about the efficacy and safety of FDA-approved vaccines.

Fall Semester Success Includes Student Persistence Rate of 97.8%

On the Aug. 31 start of the Fall 2020 semester 30,015 students were enrolled in classes across the University of Maine System.  As of the Dec.11 last day of classes 97.8% of these students — 29,348 early college, undergraduate, graduate, and law students — were still enrolled.

In a message to the University community today Chancellor Malloy pointed to the success of the Together for Maine public health campaign as a contributing factor in the decision to continue with in-person instruction and a residential experience for students in the spring.  Noteworthy elements and successes include:

  • 97.8% of students, backed by success focus, persisted through fall semester 
  • Near universal adherence to mask wearing, distancing, and group-size limitations
  • Successfully administering nearly 40,000 asymptomatic PCR tests for COVID-19
  • Meeting the testing targets of the UMS random, required monitoring strategy
  • Academic innovation effectively providing learning across multiple-modalities
  • UMS Scientific Advisory Board providing expert analysis of pandemic developments
  • Wastewater sampling effectively monitoring 78% of UMS resident hall population
  • 90% or better available capacity in the nearly 650 isolation and quarantine spaces set aside and available to UMS universities throughout the fall semester
  • Reduction in the required quarantine period from 14 to 10 days per Maine CDC.  
  • Demonstrated resilience and flexibility to temporarily pause or adapt programs to pandemic conditions in accordance with civil and System guidance