The University of Maine System is relaxing its guidelines and exempting fully vaccinated students and staff who come in close contact with someone with COVID-19 and, are asymptomatic, from having to quarantine.

An individual is considered fully vaccinated 14 days after receiving a Johnson & Johnson shot or 14 days after their second Pfizer or Moderna shot.

The change in policy comes as a growing number of colleges and universities nationwide are making vaccinations a requirement for the fall, including Bowdoin and the College of the Atlantic in Maine. The UMaine System is not currently requiring the vaccine for the fall, but is strongly encouraging students and staff to get inoculated.

University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel P. Malloy. Photo courtesy UMaine

“We are adding one more reason to the list of why it is smart to protect yourself, your family and our community through vaccination,” said UMaine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy in a news release. “Fully vaccinated students, faculty and staff who come in contact with someone with COVID-19 do not have to quarantine and interrupt day-to-day activities. It’s an important step in our march to normalcy.”

The system is continuing weekly asymptomatic testing for COVID-19 for all students, faculty and staff participating in on-campus activities this semester. To date more than 550 people have tested positive through the university system’s testing program.

As of Monday, there were 71 known, active cases of COVID-19 out of more than 30,000 staff, students and faculty system-wide, 31 of them in university isolation spaces. There were another 29 in university quarantine spaces. The number of UMaine System members quarantining in private residences was not available.

While some colleges and universities around the county are requiring students to get vaccinated for the fall, the UMaine System is not doing so while the vaccines are in emergency use authorization by the FDA. Bowdoin College announced Friday it would require vaccinations for all staff and students this fall and the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor said Monday it will do the same.

The college cited broad benefits of vaccinations on campus, including the ability to hold gatherings, share meals, resume regular transportation protocols and return to a more normal academic setting. “Having a fully vaccinated community should allow us to teach, learn and practice human ecology as it is meant to be done,” said College of the Atlantic President Darron Collins in a news release.

Nearly 75 percent of respondents to a survey conducted by the University of Maine System and its Vaccine Planning and Partnership Task Force, including 75 percent of responding students, indicated they have been or plan to get vaccinated. About 4,200 people have responded to the survey and the system is continuing to collect responses.

Some students who spent time in quarantine this year reflected on the experience and said in a news conference Monday that they support the new guidance.

Mackenzie Bumpus, a second year graduate student at the University of Maine, learned she was a close contact of someone she worked with who tested positive around Thanksgiving. “It was really hard to be in quarantine, especially around that time of year,” Bumpus said.

Bumpus, who also works as a graduate assistant for campus activities in the Center for Student Involvement, said during her two-week quarantine some activities had to be moved to a virtual setting.

“I really missed that face-to-face interaction, even if it was physically distant,” she said.

Emily Colby, a junior on the track and field team at the University of Southern Maine, was quarantined this spring after being deemed a close contact of someone with COVID-19.

“It was very isolating and it was hard to not be able to go to work, go to my in-person classes or practice with my team,” said Colby, who is receiving her second dose of the vaccine this week.

She said her training suffered during quarantine and she lost income from her part-time job.

“You’re stuck in your room, having to still do classes via Zoom and tailoring your space to try and be productive and it was really tough,” Colby said. “I’m really happy to get this news that because I’m getting vaccinated I will no longer have to quarantine if I’m a close contact. I think that’s really exciting and hopefully it will motivate students to choose on their own to get vaccinated.”


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