UMS Community Members,
I’m writing to talk candidly about our COVID testing effort. Hundreds of our colleagues around the University of Maine System have worked tirelessly to increase our testing by as much as ten times over from what we did last fall. It’s a gargantuan effort. The work is impressive, and I’m deeply grateful for it.
Unfortunately, there were some technology problems with testing yesterday that we are working to immediately fix.
Returning safely to our campuses to start the Spring semester has required more discipline, resilience, and patience than ever before. With COVID spreading far more now than last fall, our need to stay safe together with significantly more testing, strict compliance with face masking, social distancing, group gathering limitations, and personal hygiene requirements has never been greater.
We conducted more tests in January than in any other month of the pandemic so far. Thank you for your participation and cooperation in helping us reach that milestone. Along with your compliance with our now familiar COVID pandemic health and safety protocols, our testing is making a real difference in helping us be as safe as possible and to work and learn together in person as much as possible.
Your own efforts to stay healthy and protect the health of others makes a real difference too. Our COVID positivity rate over the last two weeks of testing is just 0.76 percent – fewer than one positive result for every one hundred tests, and much lower than in the general population positivity rate at present.
We hope you’ll be patient as we scale up our testing even more.
Yesterday we began our “Phase 6” testing period – everyone who comes to our campuses to learn, work, or conduct research in person is expected to be tested every week. With our new Shield T3 testing partner, we’ll be able to conduct far more tests, and report results far sooner. Indeed, we’re expecting our first T3 results within 24 hours of the first tests.
But the first day of Shield T3 testing – conducted primarily at USM and UM yesterday – did not go as well as we planned. Our scanners had difficulty reading some of the collection tube “QR” codes. The check-in process was too slow because we did not have an automated process ready for accepting testing consent forms. Together, these problems made yesterday’s testing a frustrating experience for some, and it took too long for nearly everyone. Our university leaders will be following up with you if we are unable to process your test results because of the “QR” code problems.
We have to keep testing to stay safe. Even with yesterday’s problems, we are on track to do more testing than on any previous day in the pandemic so far. And now we’re going to immediately improve the process and make the testing experience better for everyone.
Thank you for the perseverance, patience, resilience, and commitment to public health you’ve demonstrated through the pandemic so far.
Let’s keep it up together. And while we’re at it, I hope you’ll take every opportunity to thank our testing staff for their hard work to keep us safe.