UMS Community –
I am committed to reaching out to you as often as necessary in these challenging times to keep you informed of what we are doing to protect the public health of our universities and Maine communities in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic. Since we first began closely monitoring the coronavirus situation in late January, our plan has been to prepare responsibly and prudently, but without over-reacting. Our two goals have been to protect both public health and our students’ ability to continue their academic progress. Our prudent actions so far balance and advance both.
Yesterday we announced unprecedented plans to transition academic instruction to online and other distance modalities and significantly reduce residence hall occupancy starting March 23 — all in order to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread in Maine following Spring Break. And in just the last 24 hours, new developments require more responsible and proactive steps from UMS, and I want you to know about them immediately.
Last night, the President of the United States announced sweeping travel restrictions to attempt to reduce the spread of the virus in our country. Earlier today, Maine Governor Janet Mills announced Maine’s first presumptive case of COVID-19 in Androscoggin County. And as USM’s student newspaper has reported, a student on the Gorham campus presented herself to university officials with symptoms that led health professionals to conduct a test for the coronavirus. I’m grateful for the student’s responsible action and the university’s quick response to her health concerns with appropriate measures given the heightened concerns around COVID-19. We expect the results of the test tomorrow, but I am sharing this news now because you deserve to be fully informed. If the student’s test is positive, the Maine CDC will immediately begin work to reach out to anyone known to have been in contact with the student with the full support of the University of Maine System and the University of Southern Maine.
Pass/Fail Option for Students
We are very conscious of supporting our students through the academic transition coming up. To mitigate the impact of COVID-19 disruptions through the transition, a pass/fail option is being considered for students enrolled in spring classes. Our universities will provide more information for students when these options are finalized.
In addition to our previous public health directives, effective Friday, March 13, at 5:00 p.m. and through Sunday, April 12, UMS will follow Governor Mills’s recommendation to postpone all gatherings expected to or actually involving 250 attendees or more. This restriction includes any events on University property, events being hosted by the University in a non-University location, and official participation by university students, staff and faculty in such events regardless of location.
Practice Social Distancing
UMS strongly encourages all members of its community to learn about and practice social distancing, such as avoiding large crowds, staying home if you are sick, and avoiding close contact (nearer than 6 feet) to other people. Please review the CDC’s guidance regarding keeping yourself safe here.
Understand Risk Factors
According to the CDC, older Americans and individuals with certain pre-existing health conditions are at higher risk for Covid-19. Please take time to review information about those risk factors and actions which individuals at higher risk can take is available here.
These are unprecedented times, and we will manage best by honestly confronting these public health challenges together. Thank you for the work you are doing every day to help our students and each other carry on our important mission in Maine.
Dannel P. Malloy