UMS announces guidelines for students' return on Aug. 31

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The University of Maine System has adopted a set of principles to guide campuses in welcoming back students on Aug. 31, officials said Wednesday.

The UMS chancellor, seven campus presidents and the dean of Maine Law adopted the principles that call for screening strategies to identify and isolate infections. Students will complete the final two weeks of the semester at home after the Thanksgiving break.

“Staying together and staying safe means we all have to do our part. Until there is a medical breakthrough ending the pandemic, we will all have to prioritize personal health and public safety,” said Chancellor Dannel Malloy.

The announcement came on the day the state began its third phase of reopening, including movie theaters, bowling alleys, and other venues. Bars, tasting rooms and breweries, however, will not be allowed to reopen for indoor service, and a 50-person limit remained on shared spaces.

Malloy credited the state's efforts to reduce the coronavirus' impact for making administrators more comfortable with the decision.

“Because our state leaders and public health authorities have kept the coronavirus from spreading unchecked, we have an opportunity to come together for Maine and our students this fall with science-informed plans to protect student health and limit the spread of infection on campus and in our communities," Malloy said in a statement.

The University of Maine System is partnering with Jackson Laboratory and ConvenientMD to provide coronavirus testing at its seven campuses.

In other coronavirus-related news:

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MORE REOPENING, MORE MASKS

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said the state will exempt residents of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York from its “testing or quarantine” mandate starting July 3. Residents of other states, except for Vermont and New Hampshire, must obtain a negative coronavirus test or quarantine for two weeks upon arriving in Maine.

Mills said she made the decision because the prevalence of the virus in those states is trending downward.

Mills also issued an executive order requiring large retail stores, lodging establishments, restaurants and outdoor bars in coastal and densely populated parts of the state to enforce Maine's mask requirement. Her office said in a statement that “with more people coming to Maine's coastal towns and cities, the use of face coverings will become even more important.”

Businesses in the state also entered a new phase of reopening on Wednesday. Spas, skincare establishments, outdoor amusements and water parks and indoor amusements such as movie theaters and bowling alleys are able to reopen.

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THE NUMBERS

Maine officials reported 41 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday. That brought the state's reported total to 3,294. There have also been 105 deaths. The number of deaths stayed static on Wednesday, officials said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with health problems, it can cause severe symptoms like pneumonia.

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HOSPITALITY WOES

Maine's hospitality industry could lose one-third of its revenue and shed tens of thousands of jobs this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, University of Maine economists say.

The report issued Tuesday compares the likely performance of restaurants and lodging businesses this year with how they fared in 2018, the most recent year analyzed by economists for the HospitalityMaine trade group, the Portland Press Herald reported.

The study predicts the Maine hospitality industry’s economic contribution for the full year will be $4.6 billion, about 33% less than two years ago, It also projects a 42% drop in employment.

Nationwide, leisure and hospitality businesses shed more than 7 million jobs between March and May, according to the most recent jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Reopening Maine’s K-12 schools could cost at least $328 million to deal with the coronavirus, Maine's top education official said.

Education Commissioner Pender Makin said additional costs for reopening include more staffing, buses, protective gear and other changes.

She emphasized that the figure is an estimate. The Maine Department of Education has said that officials in Augusta, not local school boards, will make the call about reopening schools.

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UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

The Maine Department of Labor said Wednesday that residents receiving unemployment benefits in the state are now eligible to receive 13 additional weeks of payments if they run through their initial 26-week benefit period.

The extension is the result of Maine implementing the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, the department said.