Maine universities start spring semester with more than 200 COVID cases

Maine universities are starting the spring semester with more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than at the start of previous semesters during the pandemic.

More than 200 students and staff in the University of Maine system are infected with COVID-19 amid the rapid spread of the omicron variant in the state, according to the system’s daily virus updates.

Some 244 of 5,323 coronavirus tests taken by students and staff to start the semester came back positive in the 14 days to Tuesday, resulting in a positivity rate of 4.6%.

The number of cases is far beyond what the system has seen at the start of previous semesters during the pandemic. The university system recorded 44 employees and students infected after the start of the fall 2021 semester on September 20, 2021. Sixty cases were recorded shortly after the start of the spring semester last year.

While COVID-19 has been less prevalent on college campuses in previous semesters, the omicron variant has raised concerns that it will pose a greater challenge for colleges in Maine as they try to avoid the disturbances. Classes began Tuesday across the university system. Most are in person, although some departments and faculty will start remotely after receiving administrative clearance to do so.

Despite the higher number of cases, the university system’s positivity rate is still well below the statewide rate recorded in recent weeks.

This could be due to the university system’s coronavirus prevention measures. Universities require students on campus to be fully immunized. The system also requires all eligible students who did not receive a COVID-19 reminder by Feb. 1 to be tested weekly, among other measures.

Of the 218 active cases among staff and students as of Tuesday, most (121) were at the system’s flagship university in Orono, which also had the highest infection rate among the seven universities – a coronavirus cases per 97 college students, according to federal student data.

The University of Maine at Farmington pace followed closely behind, while the University of Maine at Machias was the only campus to report no active coronavirus cases. Machias is in Washington County, which also reported the lowest case rate during the omicron surge of any county in Maine.

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