University of Maine System students who have not received COVID-19 boosters will be tested weekly when the spring semester begins in two weeks.

The announcement brings UMaine system policies closer to those implemented by other Maine universities and colleges. Bates, Bowdoin and Colby colleges and the University of New England announced last week that they will require students to receive COVID boosters. Bates is also starting the semester with remote classes.

The UMaine system expects to follow guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and could at some point make booster shots mandatory, Chancellor Dannel Malloy said in a message to the system.

But for the time being, the system will require weekly testing for non-boostered students and will stick with in-person learning when the semester begins on Jan. 18. Malloy urged everyone to get a COVID booster.

The weekly testing requirement, which takes effect Feb. 1, will apply to all in-person students who have not received a booster. Under current CDC guidelines, weekly testing only applies to in-person students who are not fully vaccinated, a definition that doesn’t currently require boosters.

“While all of our vaccination, exemption and testing protocols continue from last semester, the pandemic’s evolution with the fast spreading omicron variant demands that we take greater advantage of the extra protection the booster shots give us,” Malloy said. “Even though booster shots have not yet been mandated by governmental authorities, the strong consensus of the medical, public health and scientific communities is that booster shots significantly increase our protection against COVID-19 and its spread.”

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UMaine faculty and staff will be discussing possible testing and booster rules with their respective bargaining units, UMaine said in a statement.

UMaine also said it will be updating its quarantine and isolation requirements. When the semester begins Jan. 18, in-person students who test positive for COVID-19 will have to limit activities until they provide proof of a negative test, unless they have received a booster shot. Anyone who has not received a booster and who has come into close contact with an infected person will have to quarantine for five days. Anyone infected with COVID-19 must isolate for five days.

In addition, members of the university community who plan to travel outside Maine for university-related business or activities must receive the booster. That rule goes into effect Feb. 1.

The University of Maine System had already implemented other pandemic policies. Face coverings must be worn at all indoor venues through March, and are recommended at outdoors gatherings. In addition, students are required to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated, unless they have an exemption, before they attend in-person classes. That requirement will remain in effect through May, according to the policy posted on the Together for Maine webpage.


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