REGION — The University of Maine-System announced Tuesday, Jan. 4, that students will return to campus for in-person learning during the spring semester beginning Jan. 18.

Dan Demeritt, UMS’s senior executive director of marking and communications, said that UMaine will be implementing “additional guidance to help improve safety during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and limit the spread of the delta and omicron variants. ”

This guidance includes a change in quarantining exemptions, akin to Regional School Unit 9’s recent policy change. Now, asymptomatic students who are fully vaccinated (including the initial shots and/or a booster, depending on eligibility) that are identified as close contacts are exempt from the 5-day quarantining requirements

The announcement comes amid rising cases of the highly-contagious omicron COVID-19 variant in Maine.

When the Livermore Falls Advertiser reached out to UMF for comment, Associate Director for Media Relations April Mulherin said “a guidance change is pending” and they were waiting to “hear more” on Monday, Jan. 10. No updates were made at the time of publication.

Amid these changes, Sun Journal’s Emily Bader reports that it has become increasingly difficult in rural counties such as Franklin to find tests. In Farmington and county-wide, there is only one pharmacy testing site for all residents. Franklin Memorial Hospital also has a testing center, however patients are required to receive a referral in order to get a test.


At a media briefing Wednesday, Jan. 5, MCDC director Nirav Shah said that the CDC is “working to bring [more testing centers] to all places in Maine, Western Maine included” because testing “has definitely been a desert in some places in the state.”

At UMF and UMaine-System wide, students can schedule appointments for PCR tests within the university.

Students at UMF are required to return to campus for the spring semester with documentation of a negative PCR test within the last 72 hours. Those not yet boostered — either because they haven’t gone to receive it or due to ineligibility — are also required to test weekly for COVID-19 through the 14-day period after they’ve received the booster shot.

On Dec. 16, UMS reported that there were 12 active cases of COVID-19 at UMF, up from just three cases Dec. 13. Daily COVID-19 briefings and data reports will resume once the spring semester begins. In the fall semester UMF saw a fluctuation of cases ranging from zero (in September and early-October) which gradually increased to that high of 12 cases by the end.

It is still unclear what the new guidance from UMS will entail. The announcement states that the System’s COVID-19 guidance “is subject to change in accordance with the evolving circumstances of COVID-19.”

Comments are not available on this story.