New face covering guidance follows latest vaccine protocols requiring students to be up to date with COVID-19 and state-mandated immunizations to study in-person in the summer and fall
Orono, Maine — The University of Maine System is making face coverings optional for students, faculty, staff and visitors in its non-classroom facilities on campuses and in UMS facilities statewide, both indoors and out, regardless of vaccination status, starting March 26.
Face coverings continue to be required in all classrooms, research spaces and instructional areas unless the requirement is waived by a faculty member. UMS also will require face coverings for public events in its facilities that welcome 75 or more persons, unless proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result is required.
All UMS event organizers have the option to require face coverings.
Anyone exposed to or recovering from COVID-19 will be required to wear face coverings, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance (External site). All are welcome to choose to wear face coverings as a personal choice, and it is recommended that all UMS community members carry a mask at all times while on the university campuses and in System facilities to use as needed.
More information about the latest face covering protocols is on the Together for Maine website. The guidance will be reviewed on an ongoing basis, with any updates determined no later than April 29.
“I applaud our students and employees for helping make this change possible through their dedication to public health and community well-being,” said Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “As we have throughout the pandemic, we will continue to monitor the status of COVID-19, including the highly transmissible Omicron BA.2 subvariant. We’ll consider pivoting back to face coverings if pandemic conditions worsen, but at present, we feel confident that we can be together in-person in more of our settings without face coverings so long as we continue testing, and stay up to date on our vaccinations and boosters.”
University of Maine System students have achieved a more than 96% fully vaccinated rate for COVID-19 and most students also have reported they are “up-to-date” with their vaccinations. These face covering changes also result from recent face covering guidance from the CDC (External site), and improving pandemic conditions across the System.
UMS has been monitoring COVID-19 at the university- and county-specific levels through case reports, regular individual testing, and wastewater testing. The System currently has approximately a 1% COVID-19 positivity rate among everyone it tests following spring break that ended March 20, which is a lower positivity than prior to spring break despite the travel and gatherings which are often associated with the break.
“These are welcomed changes in our health and safety protocols for our university communities in this, the last half of the spring semester,” said University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy, chair of the UMS Science Advisory Board. “While we relax face covering mandates, we will continue to be vigilant and follow the science as we have throughout the pandemic. We will be ever-mindful of our individual and collective contributions to helping maintain community well-being to ensure that we finish the semester strong, and of the potential need to adjust, depending on the path of the pandemic.”
On March 18, the System announced that students studying or participating in in-person activities at UMS universities this summer and fall will be required to be up to date with their state-mandated immunizations (PDF) and COVID-19 vaccinations, as defined by the CDC. Students may request a narrowly defined exemption from the vaccination policy in keeping with UMS guidance posted on the Together for Maine website.
Being up-to-date according to the CDC includes receiving a booster when eligible. Proof of vaccination must be uploaded to the UMS PointnClick portal.
About the University of Maine System
Established in 1968, the University of Maine System (UMS) unites seven Maine’s distinctive public universities, comprising 10 campuses and numerous centers, in the common purpose of providing quality higher education while delivering on its traditional tripartite mission of teaching, research, and public service.
In 2020 UMS became the first and only statewide enterprise of public higher education in the country to transition to a unified accreditation for the system. Much different than a merger or consolidation, unified accreditation is a new operating model for the University of Maine System that removes the primary barrier to inter-institutional collaboration.
A comprehensive public institution of higher education, UMS serves more than 30,000 students annually and is supported by the efforts of more than 2,000 full-time and part-time faculty, more than 3,000 regular full-time and part-time staff, and a complement of part-time temporary (adjunct) faculty.
Reaching more than 500,000 people annually through educational and cultural offerings, the University of Maine System also benefits from more than two-thirds of its alumni population residing within the state; more than 123,000 individuals.
The System consists of seven main campuses: The University of Maine (UMaine), including its regional campus the University of Maine at Machias (UMM); the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA); the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF); the University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK), the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI); and the University of Southern Maine (USM). The System also includes a UMA campus in Bangor, USM campuses in Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn, the University of Maine School of Law, and the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center.