The University of Maine System is prohibiting all nonessential, university-sponsored air travel and is encouraging students, faculty and staff to stay away from areas with known cases of the coronavirus, but currently has no plans to close campuses.

Chancellor Dannel Malloy and other university leaders also are encouraging students to stay on campus during spring break next week to help reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. Residence and dining halls will be open for students, who will not be charged for additional room and board costs, the university announced Tuesday.

The directive also prohibits international travel to countries with level 3 or 4 advisories.

“We want to encourage students, faculty and staff to stay here in Maine to limit their potential exposure to coronavirus and to do our part to help halt the spread of this terrible disease,” Malloy said in a statement. “I am personally very grateful for the dedication of our resident life, facilities, and dining service teams who are making it possible for us to accommodate our students here on campus over spring break.”

The announcement by the University of Maine System comes as colleges and universities across the country close dorms and cancel in-person classes because of coronavirus.

In New York and New Jersey, where the virus has spread quickly, Columbia, Fordham, Hofstra, Princeton and Yeshiva universities are among the schools that have canceled classes or moved them online. The University of Washington is moving to online classes for its 50,000 students. In Boston, Harvard University has told students to move out of their dorms as soon as possible and to expect to do classwork remotely until further notice.


In Maine, Bowdoin College will allow students who are not able to travel because of coronavirus to stay on campus during spring break. The college also has canceled school-sponsored travel and told students who recently returned from a study abroad program in Italy not to return to campus. The school on Tuesday also announced that fans will not be allowed to attend the NCAA Division III women’s basketball sectional tournament games the school is hosting at Morrell Gymnasium on Friday and Saturday.

The University of New England has suspended all university-sponsored international travel, but is not recalling any students who are currently traveling abroad.

There have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Maine. The state said Tuesday that 20 people have tested negative at state or federal labs, with fewer than 20 others awaiting test results. The coronavirus strain first reported in Wuhan, China, has swept the globe, with 113,702 people having tested positive and 4,012 people having died, the World Health Organization reported Tuesday.

Malloy and university presidents are working to provide accommodations to University of Maine faculty and staff at a higher risk of serious illness from coronavirus disease 2019, which is being abbreviated as COVID-19. High-risk faculty may be able to transition to online and distance instruction. Staff members at high risk will be given preference for telecommuting, university officials said.

University of Southern Maine junior Isabelle Collins walks past the student center on the Gorham campus Tuesday. Collins, whose family lives in Australia, said she plans to stay on campus during spring break as a precaution against COVID-19 exposure. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The university system set a March 23 deadline for planning that would transition academic programs to distance and online models if the spread of COVID-19 forces a disruption of campus operations. While there are no plans to close campuses, the deadline is meant to ensure that the university system will have the capacity to fulfill its academic mission, university officials said.

There are about 24,000 students enrolled in the University of Maine System for the spring semester. Roughly 6,000 of those students live on campus, a university spokesman said. The system employees 4,803 people across the state.


Students at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham were notified about the university’s directives by email Tuesday and the news had spread around campus by midday. A few students said they plan to take advantage of the opportunity to stay in their dorms, but others think most students will head home for spring break next week.

Kevin Stasalovich, a 20-year-old sophomore, had planned to travel to Rome for spring break, but found out Tuesday morning his plane tickets had been canceled. He now plans to head home to New Hampshire, but thinks it’s a good idea the university is keeping residence halls open.

“If people were planning to go to a spot that’s contagious, it’s best to stay,” he said.

Peter Del Gallo was uncertain Tuesday about his spring break travel plans. The 22-year-old senior is supposed to travel with another wrestler to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for a national competition but isn’t sure if that will happen because the university canceled non-essential travel. If he loses the opportunity to compete at nationals for the last time, he’ll probably head home to Gardiner for the week.

Isabelle Collins, 21, had planned to go to Canada for spring break, but instead will stay in her dorm in Gorham.

“I decided to just stay here even though there’s not a huge number of cases,” she said. “I didn’t want to be in huge transit areas.”


Collins, a nursing student, said the move by the university system to keep residence halls open is “really considerate,” especially for students from other states or countries who may not be able to travel because of the coronavirus.

“If their family is anxious, it’s nice to know they have a place to stay here,” she said.

Angela Garcelon, 20, had planned to go home to Vermont for spring break, but is now considering staying on campus for at least part of the week. The voice major said she’s heard a lot of talk among students and professors about the possibility of moving classes online. That would be especially difficult for her because of her music classes.

“For most majors it should be fine, but it won’t work for mine,” Garcelon said.

Alexandria Lecrone, an 18-year-old freshman from Waterville, believes the university it taking “smart steps” to address concerns about coronavirus without overreacting.

“The university is doing a good job showing they have a game plan and keeping that panic at bay,” said Lecrone, who plans to go home during spring break instead of staying in her residence hall.

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