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August 25, 2020

UMaine System will step up COVID testing for next three months

As students return to its 10 campuses — heightening concerns about the spread of COVID-19 — the University of Maine System said Monday it will extend regular testing for the novel coronavirus over the next three months.

The UMaine System plans to test a sample pool of about 2,000 randomly selected students, staff and faculty every 10 days beginning next month, once two initial rounds of testing are completed, according to a news release.

The public university system has an enrollment of about 30,000 and employs over 5,000 faculty and staff members.

The sampling will continue until Nov. 25, when academic recess begins for the Thanksgiving holiday — and when in-person classes end for the fall semester, under a schedule revised in response to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the first round of asymptomatic testing is now underway for residential students, those from outside Maine, student-athletes and others within the UMS community. Working with Bar Harbor-based Jackson Laboratory and urgent care chain ConvenientMD, the university system will conduct a second round soon after classes begin on Aug. 31.

Roughly 12,500 tests will be conducted in the first two rounds, according to the news release. On Monday, UMS said it had completed 1,400 tests, with one positive result for the presence of COVID-19 in a student at the Orono campus. Three other students across the UMS system have also been exposed to the coronavirus, according to other tests.

UMS also plans to monitor wastewater to detect COVID-19 on campuses that house most of the student population, including the flagship university in Orono, the University of Maine at Fort Kent and the University of Southern Maine.

“Student and community health is our top priority,” UMS Chancellor Dannel Malloy said in the release. “Our Scientific Advisory Board has developed a sampling strategy for asymptomatic individuals that will give us actionable, up-to-date information throughout the semester about our efforts to limit the spread of infection and to protect our students, employees and communities.”

In addition to testing for COVID-19, the university system last week released student guidance targeting parties prohibited by state group-size limitations.

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