Robert Dana has been helping students settle onto the University of Maine campus in Orono for 35 years, but the dean of students has never overseen a return to the system’s flagship campus like this one.
Instead of having first-year students move in on the Friday before classes begin and upperclassmen move back over the following weekend, students will begin returning to campus Monday and arrive over a six-day period as part of the University of Maine System’s coronavirus precautions, Dana said Saturday.
The first thing students will do is stop at the parking lot of the Emera Center, where the planetarium is located, to be tested for COVID-19. Once tested, they will receive a wristband and head to their dorms. Everyone will be required to wear masks when in public areas on campus.
One of the programs that will be missing due to the coronavirus pandemic is the traditional “Maine Hello,” where alumni and older students help first year students carry totes and boxes into dorm rooms. Each student may be accompanied by two people to help them get settled, Dana said.
About 3,000 students are expected to live on campus this fall but 330 beds are being left empty to be used as isolation beds if students need to be isolated due to exposure to the virus, according to Dan Demeritt, executive director of public affairs for UMS. In non-pandemic years, close to 3,500 students live on campus.
Fall enrollment at UMaine is 11,101, he said. That is up 175 students from 11 days before classes started in 2019.
The university system has begun testing students, including athletes, who returned to campus early. As of Saturday, 1,366 of asymptomatic screening tests for COVID-19 have been administered and one has been positive, according to Demeritt. That person was living in a fraternity house in Orono.
Two other students who are roommates and live off campus in Orono also have tested positive. They were not tested by the university but by a primary care physician after the student developed symptoms. The third student went to the testing site at Bass Park in Bangor.
The students continue to be in isolation and people with whom they came in close contact are self-quarantining, UMaine said Saturday. The students who tested positive are showing mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating the cases in Orono, according to UMaine. The cases do not seem to be related, and did not occur as a result of any student gatherings, Dana said Friday.
Dana said Saturday that more than 5,000 students, faculty, staff and community members have signed the Black Bear Pact, a pledge to wear masks, abide by social distancing guidelines and avoid large gatherings. He said he expects more people to sign it as students return to campus next week.