ORONO — The University of Maine System is extending planned asymptomatic COVID-19 testing through the Thanksgiving holiday end of in-person instruction, with plans to sample approximately 2,000 students, staff and faculty members at least every 10 days.
All community members who work, study or participate in campus-based activities will be subject to the random sampling to monitor and limit the spread of COVID-19, according to a news release.
Online university students who do not visit campuses will not participate in the screening.
In-person instruction will end and the residence halls will be mostly vacant at the start of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Wastewater testing also will be used to monitor public health conditions throughout the semester on campuses that are home to 78% of the System’s resident hall student population. Campuses with the infrastructure necessary to support wastewater testing include UMaine, UMaine at Fort Kent and Southern Maine.
“Student and community health is our top priority,” said Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “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.”
Phases one and two of the screening strategy involves asymptomatic testing of all University of Maine System residence hall students, every out-of-state student, and special populations like student-athletes and students participating in off-campus clinical experiences. Phases one and two of the testing involve approximately 12,500 individual tests, making the University of Maine System one of the region’s largest asymptomatic test providers through a partnership with The Jackson Laboratory and ConvenientMD.
Phase One Arrival Screening Underway
Phase one arrival screening is now underway as part of safe return to campus plans to identify and isolate asymptomatic cases of infection.
Nearly 1,400 tests results have been received to date, with one positive result at the University of Maine.
The University of Maine System is maintaining a dashboard of asymptomatic screening results at Together.Maine.edu.
As previously reported, UMaine is coordinating with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to support three active COVID-19 cases — the one infected student identified through asymptomatic screening and two other students with positive results that were identified through testing venues not associated with the asymptomatic screening strategy.
Four Known Active Cases in the University of Maine System
The University of Maine School of Law learned Monday a student returning from out-of-state travel received a positive test for COVID-19 in a venue not associated with the University's asymptomatic screening strategy.
The results were received before any contact with Maine Law students, faculty, or staff.
The student is now isolating with support from Maine Law and is doing well.
The four known active cases of COVID-19 across the University of Maine System include the three previously reported cases at UMaine and the one case reported Monday involving a Maine Law student.
Phase Two Screening and Phase Three Sampling
Shortly after classes begin on Aug. 31, phase two asymptomatic screening will retest all students tested in phase one arrival screening.
Phase three sampling of approximately 2,000 students and employees at least every 10 days will begin in September, soon after the completion of phase two screening.
The precise number of tests conducted in the phase three sampling will be determined by an analysis of the incidence rates in phases one and two, and the statistical modeling employed by university scientists.
“Our screening strategy is working as intended, identifying and isolating a case of COVID-19 that might otherwise have gone undetected and possibly spread infection on our campus and in our classrooms,” said UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy. “More than 5,000 Black Bears have already committed themselves to being leaders in our science-based public health campaign this fall. With everyone doing their best, we can stay safe and together throughout the semester.”
Last week the University of Maine System released student guidance targeting parties prohibited by state group-size limitations.
“Throughout our planning, we have focused on screening asymptomatic members of our community to identify infection, isolate it and slow or prevent COVID-19 transmission,” said Melissa Maginnis, a UMaine virologist and assistant professor in microbiology leading the UMS Scientific Advisory Board. “Our team of scientists will use asymptomatic sampling data to build predictive models that assess the prevalence of disease, and inform campus-based containment and health strategies.”
The Scientific Advisory Board was formed by Chancellor Dannel Malloy to advise university leaders and state partners on the latest developments in COVID-19 research and treatments. The board is chaired by University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy.
In June, the University of Maine System announced a partnership with The Jackson Laboratory and ConvenientMD to provide testing and testing support services.