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Updated: August 14, 2020

UMaine System to limit travel, charge less for room and board during pandemic

University of Maine campus shot showing building and a flag File photo / University of Maine The University of Maine System has its the flagship campus in Orono, shown here.

The University of Maine System on Thursday announced a 20% cut in room and board rates during the fall semester to account for a shortened in-person semester and post-Thanksgiving break transition to distance learning because of the pandemic.

It also unveiled an updated 2020-21 academic calendar, new travel restrictions for students, faculty and staff and detailed plans for COVID-19 testing and screening.

“Maine has kept the coronavirus under control by adhering to public health guidance and through concern for one another,” said University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy in a news release.  

“College and campus life will have to be different this year because COVID is still in charge, but with our screening strategies and sensible travel and schedule accommodations we can better protect one another and our Maine communities.”    

In a recent "On the Record" interview with Mainebiz, Malloy predicted a "richer mix of experiences" for students returning to campus this fall "as long as everyone maintains social distancing and other precautions.

He also underscored the importance of higher education especially now, saying, "This is a terrible time not to go to school. or to waste the time in a particularly weak economy when you could have been working away at getting your degree, certification or license to practice in whatever field you want to practice in."

Travel restrictions

Under the new guidance issued this week, university-sponsored domestic travel outside of Maine will continue to be prohibited unless special permission is granted for compelling circumstances.

The System said it also "greatly discourages" personal travel by students, faculty and staff outside the state during the fall semester and will require a negative COVID-19 diagnostic test or a 14-day quarantine of any community member upon returning to Maine from a state not exempted from 14-day guidelines per Maine civil authorities.

On top of that, it will prohibit university-sponsored international travel and expects to maintain the prohibition through the end of the 2020 calendar year.

Classes are scheduled to begin on Aug. 31 and transition to remote instruction after the Thanksgiving holiday. Residence halls will be closed as of Wednesday, Nov. 25, with instructions and exams occurring remotely through mid-December a previously scheduled.

Testing and transparency

With regard to COVID-19 testing and screening, the University of Maine System is planning a three-phased asymptomatic screening and public health monitoring strategy that will include the administration of more than 25,000 individual COVID-19 tests through a partnership with Jackson Laboratory, of Bar Harbor, and urgent-care operator ConvenientMD.

“We are using the best available science and proven private sector partners to identify and isolate individual cases of infection to slow or prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, president of the University of Maine and chair of the UMS Scientific Advisory Board. "We have been working hard and are ready to do all we can to keep our students and communities safe this fall.”  

To promote transparency, a testing summary dashboard has been launched online, on the system's "Together for Maine" website, to update the public on an aggregate summary of COVID-19 asymptomatic testing activity.

It will be updated daily, but only to reflect testing activity and results resulting from the system partnership and not through the healthcare system or other providers.

As of Friday morning, the online dashboard shows that out of 282 total tests conducted, zero have been positive.

Testing centers on some campuses will be able to administer as many as 80 tests an hour, and both the University of Maine and University of Southern Maine have plans to provide 1,000 tests per day as students arrive on campus before the August 31 start of classes. Testing results will be available within 48 to 72 hours.  

Individual universities have plans in place to isolate and support infected community members, assist in contact tracking, and communicate with the broader community as needed or advised by health officials.

In keeping with public health protocols, positive test results will be reported to the Maine Center for Disease Control in Augusta.

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