The University of Maine System is extending its planned COVID-19 testing to include a second round of screening for some students and staff, officials announced Tuesday.
The Phase II follow-up screening will occur 7-10 days after arrival testing and is part of a three-phase surveillance strategy recommended by the UMS Scientific Advisory Board to lower the risk of disease transmission on campus from asymptomatic carriers, officials said in a statement released on Tuesday.
“Our plans to bring students back to campus and limit the spread of COVID-19 will continue to evolve to reflect the best available science and safety practices,” Chancellor Dannel Malloy said in the statement. “Our Scientific Advisory Board recommended a second phase of screening and we are responding immediately with a plan to make that testing a reality.”
The goal of the second round of baseline screening is to identify infections that might have been undetectable or might have arisen during the initial return to campus and testing period. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can shed from an infected individual during a two- to 14-day asymptomatic or presymptomatic incubation period, officials said.
The second screening “will allow us to identify infection, isolate it, and slow or prevent COVID-19 transmission,” said Melissa Maginnis, a UMaine virologist and assistant professor in microbiology leading the UMS Scientific Advisory Board. “The science tells us that a second round of screening is essential due to [the] incubation period. Retesting our students shortly after arrival provides an additional layer of safety to limit viral transmission at the outset of the semester.”
The testing involves about 12,500 students ― out-of-state arrivals, residence hall students, and special populations. Students and staff required to take Phase I arrival testing can forgo being tested on-campus for that phase if they take an approved COVID-19 PCR diagnostic test within 72 hours of their arrival on campus, officials said.
University officials will be further monitoring the disease following the completion of initial baseline screening at the start of the semester. Monitoring will include additional COVID-19 testing surveillance and symptom tracking well into the semester.
The University of Maine System serves more than 30,000 students annually at six public universities of 10 campuses. It employs more than 2,000 full-time and part-time faculty, more than 3,000 regular full-time and part-time staff, and a complement of part-time temporary faculty.