Maine Memo — Community health and safety update August 19

Dear University of Maine and University of Maine at Machias students, faculty and staff,

How wonderful it is to see our beautiful campuses returning rapidly to new levels of vibrancy, with many of you already back and preparing for the beginning of the fall semester. This Sunday at UMaine we will welcome several hundred first-year students to participate in bridge week for our Research Learning Experience program. Our athletic teams are training — our first home soccer game is this Thursday at 7 p.m. at Mahaney Diamond — and our labs, rehearsal venues, Student Life offices, and so much more are busy with the work of a university. Yesterday, Provost Volin and I welcomed 59 new faculty, who will be wonderful members of our community.  And I was able to assure them that this community that they are joining is a kind, caring, supportive one, as all of you have demonstrated so well in the past 18 months of our success with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today, our opportunity to take our level of caring to new levels comes with our latest COVID-19 health and safety guidance requiring the use of face coverings by all members of the UMaine and UMaine Machias communities. On our campuses and in our facilities statewide, as on the other University of Maine System campuses, we will all wear face coverings indoors through Sept. 30, regardless of our vaccination status. In addition to testing and being vaccinated, this is what we need to do for the well-being of our communities. As Chancellor Malloy noted in his community message yesterday, this is the latest health and safety guidance to help ensure we can have a successful in-person, on-campus experience this fall for all of you — our students, faculty, staff and visitors.

This science-based protocol is in response to the rise in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant. Face coverings will remain optional outside, but we strongly encourage you to use them at large group gatherings or in crowded circumstances where physical distance is difficult to maintain. We hope that this will be a temporary safety measure; its extension or end will depend on the status of the pandemic at the end of next month. On this page you will find the full UMS guidance on face coverings.

Since the Aug. 4 announcement of mandated vaccinations for students with in-person campus experiences this fall, we have seen a significant increase in vaccination documentation of students, faculty and staff uploaded to the secure UMS portal, and we’ve heard from many who are planning to pursue full vaccination with the help of our campus clinics at UMaine and UMaine Machias. If you haven’t uploaded your information, please do so today!

I remind you that, for the safety of our community, all students coming to campus under an exemption granted for a documented medical contraindication or sincerely held religious belief, or while working toward fully vaccinated status, will be required to participate in COVID-19 testing and wear face coverings. You will be hearing from the testing team soon if you fall in these categories. Anyone interested in being tested, no matter your vaccination status, can participate in on-campus COVID-19 testing.

The University of Maine System is in discussions with labor partners about extending the vaccination requirement to all employees. Currently, and as it has been throughout the summer, all employees on campus who have not verified their fully vaccinated status are required to participate in weekly COVID testing on campus.

As we have throughout this pandemic, we remain vigilant, monitoring civil and state health and safety guidance. We will share updates on our UMaine and UMaine Machias websites whenever they are available, and welcome your questions to for any additional information or guidance we can provide.

I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on campus in two weeks or even before.  Welcome home to the University of Maine and our regional campus in Machias!

Joan Ferrini-Mundy