The University of Maine System is expanding COVID-19 testing so the state’s public universities are testing students throughout the time students are on campus this fall.
The testing expansion came as the university system said Monday that a fourth student tested positive for COVID-19, after three University of Maine undergraduate students tested positive last week. The fourth student is a University of Maine School of Law student who was returning from out of state.
That student, who wasn’t tested as part of the university system’s testing program, is quarantining, according to the university system.
As part of the expanded testing regimen, the seven universities will test random samples of about 2,000 students and employees every 10 days through Thanksgiving, when students are expected to leave campus and finish the semester remotely. All students who spend time on campus will be subject to the testing. Only students studying remotely won’t be subject to testing.
The university system initially planned two phases of testing, only for students living in residence halls, out-of-state students, student-athletes and students participating in clinical experiences off campus. The university system is conducting those tests in a partnership with The Jackson Laboratory, which is testing the samples, and ConvenientMD, which is collecting the samples.
So far, the university system has conducted nearly 1,400 tests — with the vast majority conducted in the last two weeks — with only one positive result, because three of the four students who have tested positive so far weren’t tested at their universities. The universities expect to test 12,500 people as part of the first two rounds of tests.
In addition to the expanded testing, wastewater will be tested at UMaine, the University of Maine at Fort Kent and the University of Southern Maine to monitor conditions throughout the semester. Since people can shed the virus in their stool before they show symptoms, wastewater could show signs of a virus outbreak one to two weeks in advance of clinical diagnoses, researchers have found.
Students at the flagship University of Maine campus in Orono began moving in on Monday.