ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine System plans to require COVID-19 testing upon arrival for all unvaccinated students and employees returning to campus in-person for the fall 2021 semester.
In a release Friday, Dan Demeritt, executive director of public affairs for the UMaine System, said unvaccinated students and employees will also be required to quarantine while awaiting their test results and wear face coverings while inside university buildings.
Fall classes begin at the UMaine System's universities on Aug. 30.
Students and employees who verify their fully vaccinated status on the secure UMS Portal by Aug. 20 will be exempt from the testing and quarantine requirements, according to Demeritt.
Effective July 26, Demeritt said the UMaine System will align with changes in state of Maine practices and no longer require vaccinated students and employees to wear masks inside university buildings.
Students who verify they are vaccinated will also be eligible to be selected for a $1,000 "Shot Clock Scholarship" according to Demeritt. Weekly selections start Friday, July 16.
Employees who have registered their vaccination status will also be eligible for prizes, according to Demeritt.
More than 5,000 students and staff throughout the UMaine System have already registered their status by using the voluntary tracking portal to upload an image of their vaccination card, according to Demeritt.
Demeritt said the delta COVID-19 variant's increasing presence is a big reason why the UMaine System is remaining vigilant about identifying positive cases of the virus. According to the Maine CDC, five total cases of the delta variant have been confirmed in Maine.
The UMaine system plans to require unvaccinated members of the in-person population to participate in regular rounds of asymptomatic screening during the semester and to continue to wear face coverings inside university buildings, Demeritt said.
The UMaine System anticipates requiring vaccination against COVID-19 once any of the vaccines that have been issued to hundreds of millions of Americans under emergency use authorization receive regular FDA approval, according to Demeritt. However, he said the policy will recognize and respect that some individuals are not able to be vaccinated.
“The Delta variant is a real threat, hospitalizing many young, unvaccinated individuals with severe COVID-19 symptoms,” UMaine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy said in Friday's release.
“Vaccination is our best defense against the threat of COVID and makes life easier and safer,” Malloy continued. “We have no more urgent task in our return to normalcy than to get our vaccination rates as high as possible while also maintaining safety protocols for those who have not or cannot get vaccinated.”
Vaccination clinics are also being planned on university campuses for the start of the fall semester, including a weekly series of clinics at the University of Maine in August and September.
“We have relied on science throughout the pandemic to protect our communities,” UMaine System President Joanne Ferrini-Mundy said in Friday's release. “We are incredibly proud of the public health commitment of our students, faculty and staff, and know that our return to campus this fall is made possible because of their leadership.”