Bates College students enjoy a warm Wednesday at the Lewiston campus. Steve Collins/Sun Journal

LEWISTON – Bates College is taking new steps to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks that could derail a solid start to the fall semester.

Officials told students this week that they’ll need to undergo weekly testing for the virus through at least the end of September.

“This ongoing testing is critical to understand the transmission of COVID-19 on campus, particularly among individuals who are asymptomatic, and will provide the data we need to determine whether additional public health measures are necessary to protect the health of the community,” Joshua McIntosh, vice president for campus life, told students in a Tuesday email.

Seven students and two staff members have COVID-19. Students are required to be vaccinated, while faculty and staff have been encouraged to do so.

McIntosh said 98% of the campus community is fully vaccinated.

“We remain optimistic that compliance with current public health protocols and ongoing testing will allow us to continue our successful in-person learning and living and avoid the surges in COVID-19 transmission that we are seeing at other institutions across the country,” he said.

In a similar note to college employees, Bates’ vice president for finance and administration, Geoffrey Swift, thanked college staff for their “patience and commitment to keeping each other healthy and safe as we navigate this semester together.”

College officials said they are also extending a requirement for everyone at Bates to wear masks indoors,  except for eating or when people are alone. The requirement does not, though, include dorms.

Bates is also barring guests and visitors from entering its buildings except for guest speakers, performers and athletes hosted by the college.

McIntosh said if COVID-19 rates go up, the college, “will consider measures such as increased testing frequency, suspending student universal access to residence halls, expanded masking requirements, changes to the dining program, restrictions on the size, scale, type of activity/program, and location of campus events, as well as restrictions on off-campus travel.”

“These measures may be necessary to avoid disruptions to the in-person classroom experience,” he said.

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