LEWISTON – After two years of testing students as often as twice a week for COVID-19, Bates College plans to cease testing students who don’t have any symptoms of the disease.

Instead of mandating regular testing paid for by the college, as it has done since the fall of 2020, Bates told employees and students who want testing that they will need to arrange it themselves with local pharmacies and urgent care centers or buy rapid test kits.

“For students who experience symptoms of COVID-19 once on campus,” the college said, “testing will be available at Bates Health Services. This testing will be conducted at the discretion of medical staff based on clinical presentation of symptoms.”

The 2,000-student college will continue to require that every student be fully vaccinated and boosted before the start of the fall semester after Labor Day, and it is mandating pre-arrival tests to show incoming and returning students are healthy. Employees are not required to get vaccines.

In a letter to students published Tuesday, the college said it is also dropping its isolation housing for students who come down with COVID-19 after they arrive.

The new rules instead require students who test positive to stay away from class and programs for at least five days and to remain in their rooms except to get grab-and-go meals from the dining hall, access bathrooms or seek medical care.


That includes students who share a room with someone who may not have the disease.

The college’s vice president for finance and administration, Geoffrey Swift, said in a note to college employees that Bates “will adjust our policies and protocols in response to public health conditions” as it has since the pandemic hit early in 2020.

“This will require all of us to continue to be flexible and adaptable, as you have so generously been throughout the pandemic,” Swift said in his note.

The letter to students from Blake Reilly, associate dean of students, and Brenna Callahan, student health support and outreach specialist at Bates Health Services, outlines the college’s mask policy that makes masking optional both indoors and outdoors except in health care facilities.

It notes, though, that faculty members, some of whom have health issues, may require students in their classroom to wear masks.

Reilly and Callahan also told students that “someone you interact with on campus may request that you wear a face mask when indoors with them, and we hope that you will honor this request.”

The college said it is keeping a close eye on the growing problem with the MPX virus, usually referred to as monkeypox, which it said is “primarily spread through very close contact with a symptomatic person, including skin-to-skin contact and sexual intimacy.”

Since it is not a respiratory illness, Bates said, it “does not present the same risk of broad contagion typical of COVID-19 or influenza” and there is no plan in place to deal with it. However, the college is working with advisers from the Mayo Clinic and its medical director to develop plans and protocols if monkeypox becomes a problem at Bates.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.