About one-third of University of Maine System students and staff arriving on campuses this week will have to undergo COVID-19 testing and quarantine because they haven’t verified their vaccination status with the system.

As of Monday, the system had verified the vaccination status of 16,646, or 65.8 percent, of the 25,300 students, faculty and staff who are expected to be in-person this fall. The deadline for students and staff to register their vaccination status with the system in order to be exempt from arrival protocols was 5 p.m. Friday.

Meanwhile, several private colleges in Maine, which adopted mandatory vaccination requirements much earlier than the UMaine System, reported vaccination rates above 95 percent.

Anyone who did not meet the UMaine System deadline will be asked to participate in arrival testing, though students who arrive with a vaccination card or upload their card to the university system’s portal may be exempt from quarantining while awaiting test results.

“We’re very hopeful people are getting their first shots if they haven’t … or that they’re still getting organized and getting their information uploaded,” said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, president of the University of Maine at Orono and chair of the UMaine System Science Advisory Board, which is charged with tracking and responding to COVID developments.

“We know there’s still some of that happening and as students are coming on to campus we’re encouraging them to upload it if they have everything. I think that number will keep changing. I will be happier when it’s higher. We are still following the expectation that the more people that are vaccinated the safer we will be as a community.”

The deadline for UMaine System students to get vaccinated is Oct. 15, at which point those who are unvaccinated and attending in person will be asked to study remotely. Unvaccinated, non-exempt students will not be permitted in classrooms, residence halls or other facilities and will not be permitted to participate in on-campus experiences or activities, with the exception of those who have received the first of two vaccine doses and follow through with becoming fully vaccinated in a timely manner, according to university policy.

Asked Monday if a student who is not fully vaccinated by Oct. 15 will be permitted to stay in their dorm and study remotely, or if they will be asked to leave campus completely, Dan Demeritt, a university spokesman, said in an email that students should be prepared for the possibility their housing and education will be disrupted if they remain unvaccinated.

“We will work to support and continue the education of every student, but the universities cannot guarantee that a change in instructional delivery will be an option for someone who chooses not to receive a vaccine against COVID-19 that is now fully approved by the FDA,” Demeritt said.

Some students have already begun to arrive on the Orono campus while most undergraduates will arrive at the end of this week. Other campuses are also preparing to welcome students back this week. Move-in at the University of Southern Maine begins Thursday. The system announced last week it has reinstated a universal masking policy indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

Vaccines are currently only required for in-person students in the UMaine System, though the system has said it would plan to require vaccines for employees following full U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, which happened Monday for the Pfizer shot. Ferrini-Mundy said it is still the system’s plan to require the vaccine for employees, but negotiations with labor unions are ongoing and there is no timeline for when a requirement might be announced.

Asked about the negotiations and whether his union has any specific concerns, Jim McClymer, president of the Associated Faculties of the University of Maine, a union representing full-time faculty, said in an email Monday only that discussions are ongoing about COVID-19 safety issues.

Several private campuses are reporting high vaccination rates among students and employees. Bowdoin College, the first school in Maine to announce a mandate back in April, has a 99 percent vaccination rate, according to spokesman Doug Cook.

Cook said only one student has been granted a medical exemption and the college is currently considering two other student exemption requests. Ten employees were granted a medical or religious exemption and remain unvaccinated. They will be required to wear face coverings and participate in regular COVID-19 testing.

Colby College, which also requires vaccines for both students and employees, is expecting to have a 98 percent vaccination rate among students upon arrival and a similar rate for employees. Some students, such as those arriving from abroad who don’t have access to the vaccine, are not yet vaccinated but are expected to come into compliance by the time they get to campus, said Doug Terp, vice president for administration and chief financial officer.

At Saint Joseph’s College in Standish, there is a 97 percent vaccination rate among faculty, staff and students. Three percent have received exemptions, which are mostly medical with a few religious exemptions.

“Our vaccination rate is the best inoculation we have against delta,” said Oliver Griswold, chief brand and marketing officer for the college. “We feel confident that even if there is transmission it will be limited and the sickness will be kept to a much lower level. That having been said, we’re learning new things about delta almost every day and it’s hard to predict the next variant and where it will come from. We’re optimistic about the protocols we have in place and that they will keep us healthy and safe, but we’re also remaining flexible.”

The University of New England has a 98.42 percent compliance rate for all employees and a 97.2 percent vaccination rate for students with 2.2 percent receiving medical or religious exemptions. A small number of students have arrived on campus without having uploaded their vaccine card to the student health portal or requesting an exemption and are currently going through the process.

UNE President James Herbert said that while he did receive some pushback, mostly from outside the university community, to the vaccine mandate when he initially made the announcement last May, for the most part employees and staff have complied willingly without too many seeking exemptions.

“We are feeling really good about the level of compliance with the vaccine because the vaccine still offers the best protection against illness from COVID,” Herbert said. “We know with breakthrough cases it doesn’t totally protect you from contracting the virus but it does help and more importantly, it protects you from getting really sick.”

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