This week, students in the University of Maine System are returning to campuses across the state, and they're being tested for COVID-19, symptoms or not.
At the University of Maine in Orono, approximately 3,000 students were expected to be tested by Wednesday at an onsite drive-through location.
While three UMaine students had been found to be COVID-19 positive prior to this week’s larger effort, only one student was confirmed to have had the virus as part of this new contactless, drive-through operation.
“We’re up over 1,300 tests and we have one positive case...we’ve exceeded our expectations,” said UMS Chancellor Dannel Malloy, adding, “if you told me we were going to 1,300 tests and only have one positive, I’d be questioning your sanity.”
In Orono, the testing tent had six bays to process waves of students set to arrive on campus at a pre-ordained time set by the school.
While awaiting results, students are required to isolate in dorm rooms.
“It’s meeting the vision I had,” said John Nabreski, an incoming freshman who said the virus was not as much of a worry for him, though the test process went smoothly.
“I came in, they tested me and everyone’s been really nice,” he said.
Other students, like Alyssa Ciasullo, transferring into UMaine from Assumption College this fall, have presented a negative test result to the school before arriving.
She was encouraged by the robust testing program and hoped it would prevent UMaine from seeing an outbreak that could jeopardize the school year.
“I’m hoping we get to stay for the full semester, I know some schools have been sent back and I hope that doesn’t happen here,” Ciasullo explained.
In addition to numerous precautions, like mask requirements and physical distancing on campus, UMaine in Orono will be one of the locations in UMS that will test wastewater for COVID-19.
The school will also conduct subsequent rounds of testing within two weeks of move in and then later in the semester to monitor spread among the student population.
“My biggest hope is that learning keeps going,” said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, president of the University of Maine.
“We’re a university, we’re about bringing people together in campus settings and communities so my biggest hope is that when we start classes next week, it will be going smoothly,” she said.
To that end, the school is also asking students to avoid partying and large gatherings.
“Don’t party,” said Malloy, adding, “I know it’s part of growing up, I know it’s hard...wear your masks, wash your hands, don’t get into large groups.”
The fall semester for the University of Maine is scheduled to end on Thanksgiving with students not returning after that until spring.