University of Maine System COVID-19 testing plan

School plans to test more than 12,000 students by early September.
School officials discuss plan for weeks ahead.
School officials discuss plan for weeks ahead.(WABI)
Published: Aug. 10, 2020 at 4:07 PM EDT
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ORONO, Maine (WABI) - Officials with the University of Maine System laid out their plans Monday for testing for coronavirus cases on their various campuses as students and staff return the next few weeks.

“It begins with obtaining evidence of a negative PCR test or of actually testing about 12,500 students across the University of Maine System between July 22nd and September 4th,” explained Joan Ferrini-Mundy, president of the Orono and Machias campuses. “So, it has started already.”

As of Monday, school officials said 186 students and staff members on the Orono campus have alreayd been tested, all negative.

The bulk of the testing takes place later this month.

“Setting up a testing site up here by the Emera Center,” said Associate Executive Director of Auxillary Services Dick Young. “It will be a drive-through tent set up. We will have a six bay tent that will be arranged on 24 August, and we will have on campus residence hall students go through in the morning and off-campus out of state students scheduled to go through in the afternoon. That gets repeated through the next six days until we get to the 29th. When we’ve completed that process, we’ve done a little over six thousand students that are in those two cohorts of testing.”

A third group of students includes those involved in things like athletics and nursing students where physical distancing is difficult.

That accounts for many of the tests already administered.

“Convenient MD takes the sample and administers the tests and Jackson Lab performed the testing work, the laboratory work,” said Ferrini-Mundy.

Results are expected within 36 hours. There needs to be a negative test result before a person is allowed full access to campus. That includes those returning with a test from their doctor.

“Those testing results, the PCR tests from afar, have to be validated, and we have the medical team of Convenient MD that will look through each one of those to make sure that it is the right test and get the medical eyes on that,” explained Young. “They will then validate the test. If it is valid and accepted under the guidelines that we’ve provided them, the student will go through and get their band. If it is not, they will then test the student there on site for COVID, so they will be tested either way. Hopefully most will come with a valid test result.”

After the initial wave there will be more testing.

“The plan would be to follow up with students,” said Melissa Maginnis, the leader of the Science Advisory Board. “So, after they arrive on campus and they’ve gone through the testing, they will need to be retested at some frequency, and then it will be continual testing throughout the semester. We are still confirming the details of how many students will be tested and at which frequency.”

Ferrinni-Mundy was asked if she was confident it would be successful.

“This virus is unpredictable,” she said. “That is the only thing for sure in all of this. I am confident that we have planned as carefully as we possibly can. That we are being prudent and that we are keeping our students well-being first and foremost in our minds, but we also have to be very flexible and listen to what the data tells us. Listen to the direction that this virus takes and adjust as we need to. I’m kind of dodging your question because my confidence is in our planning, not in what will happen because we just can’t know.”

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