University of Maine officials on Saturday said they had a “robust” plan to combat the coronavirus as students return to the Orono campus Monday, just days after the university announced that three students had tested positive for COVID-19.

All three students are quarantined in Orono, officials said Saturday, and all three are either asymptomatic or experiencing only mild symptoms. Two of the students share an off-campus apartment, and the third lives in a fraternity house.

Contact tracing is underway for those who may have encountered the students while they were infected. Another 15 students have been identified as possible exposures and are being tested, until results arrive, they’re in isolation, officials said.

“COVID is among us, and it’s a powerful reminder that we have to live with its unpredictability while putting in place all of the measures we can,” University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy said of the new cases on Saturday, speaking during a virtual news conference with other university officials.

UMaine is welcoming its students back to campus starting Monday, and Ferrini-Mundy said the school had implemented a “very robust public health campaign” with precautions that are “science-based” and “mandatory.” Before joining UMaine in 2018, Ferrini-Mundy, whose academic background is in mathematics, was the chief operating officer of the National Science Foundation.

This fall, 2,982 students are expected to live in UMaine residence halls, compared to 3,480 students on average in pre-pandemic years, according to Executive Director of Public Affairs Dan Demeritt. Three hundred thirty beds have been left empty for use as isolation or quarantine spaces.


On arriving at campus, students will go to a screening tent where they’ll be swabbed and receive wristbands indicating they’ve been tested for COVID-19, university officials said Saturday. Face masks will be mandatory for faculty, staff and students on campus – except at home – and more than 5,000 community members have signed a “Black Bear pact” to follow safety guidelines during the pandemic, Ferrini-Mundy said.

Fall plans vary widely among Maine’s institutions of higher education. Colby College in June announced plans to bring students back to campus, as well, with an aggressive testing regime and the option to take classes remotely for students who want to. Bowdoin College, however, said the same month that it would keep about two-thirds of students home and hold most classes remotely.

The University of New England plans to bring students back, with the requirement that they provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their arrival on campus.

Bates College also will reopen to students in the fall, though the plan has sparked opposition from community members, including more than two dozen faculty members, who believe coming back to campus “poses a risk of serious injury or death,” according to an online petition signed by more than 200 people.

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