9/4/20 | Message from Dr. Elizabeth True and Prof. Mark Coté

Good afternoon MMA Community,

With only a few exceptions, such as students returning late from Cadet Shipping, we have completed our entrance testing program for COVID-19.  The process worked as planned and we identified four positive cases, in asymptomatic people, over the multiple weeks of testing.  The three current active-case individuals, and their close contacts, are currently in or near completion of their isolation/quarantine period and we are working with the Maine CDC to set up their safe return to our community.

Please note that these individuals had no idea that they were infected and, once identified as positive, they have continued to show no symptoms.  This re-emphasizes the importance of our safety practices put into place this fall.  We really should be treating everyone—including ourselves–as if we are infected to best protect the community.

The results of our testing process to this point can be found on the MMA COVID-19 Dashboard. We will continue to update the dashboard as new test results are available.

As we have mentioned many times, we are learning how to operate in this environment and it became clear that, as we dealt with the positive cases and worked to determine their close contacts, in many cases, people were not certain about procedures.  In light of that, we wanted to review the process that occurs when we receive a positive test result.  This process will continue as we move into the surveillance testing portion of our plan for the rest of the fall.

  1. When we receive a report from the lab that we have a positive case, we contact the individual first, share the news, and ask them to isolate – and make arrangements for them to do so if they are a student.
  2. We indicate that an MMA contact tracer will be in touch with them shortly and that someone from the CDC will be in touch, likely the next day.
  3. The MMA contact tracer then works with the positive individual to ascertain who might have been their close contacts from either 2 days before they were tested if they are asymptomatic, or from the day they developed symptoms.  Close contacts are defined as someone with whom they spent more than fifteen minutes (consecutive or cumulative within a couple of hours) within six feet, with or without a mask OR with whom they had physical contact.
  4. MMA then reaches out to the close contacts who are members of the MMA community, to explain that they have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.  We encourage them to consult with their PCP, if an employee, to discuss taking a test and when – this is covered by insurance and should not involve any out-of-pocket expenses due to the CARES Act. Students consult with Health Services regarding next steps.
  5. Close contacts also must quarantine for 14 days, regardless of the outcome of their test.  We explain that the Maine CDC will be in contact with them and will explain the process of quarantine and how they are released to return to work/school.  We explain what quarantine involves and discuss the contacts’ living arrangements.  If a residential student, we will likely move them to an area with limited interaction with others.
  6. Students placed in quarantine or isolation will be assigned a “care coordinator” who will assist with any needs during that period.
  7. Should a contact test positive, they are then placed in isolation by the CDC.
  8. The “contacts” of the close contact do not need to test or quarantine unless the close contact tests positive or develops symptoms.  We do ask the close contact to jot down notes of their contacts just in case.
  9. MMA shares the close contact names and contact info with the Maine CDC.  MMA does not do contact tracing of non-MMA individuals – the CDC will do that.
  10. Health Services or Student Life communicates with Facilities to conduct additional cleaning/disinfection of any area used by the test-positive individual.
  11. The CDC communicates with test-positive individuals and close contacts and advises when they are cleared to end quarantine/isolation and return to work/school.  The documentation of this should be shared with either Health Services (students) or Human Resources (employees).

Additional details on our ongoing/surveillance testing program will be discussed with supervisors in an upcoming training and the medical officer from The Jackson Laboratory will hold an open meeting next week to answer any questions about the disease and our testing plan. More details on those events will be provided in a separate email.

We will continue to emphasize safe operations and ask that you re-commit to the practices in our “12 Ways to 12 Weeks” program.  President Brennan reminded the students of how important their actions are this fall in a recent email, which is quoted here:

Dear MMA Students,

If you have not heard yet, you will hear through the grapevine that this week 3 students have been suspended for the 20/21 academic year, 2 students have been suspended for the semester, 3 students have been suspended for a week, 6 students received deferred suspensions, and several other students have received various disciplinary consequences, all for violations related to our health and safety rules.

I cannot stress enough that I am serious about the need to comply with all rules associated with the protection of this community against the threat of the coronavirus.

In my July 31 and August 27 messages to you, I conveyed the principles that we must adhere to if we are going to have a successful on-campus semester and the consequences for failure to comply. If you have not read those messages, I urge you to do so now.  If you ignore the principles, policies, and guidelines intended to keep you and your shipmates safe, you are disrespecting the Student Honor Code, which has serious consequences.

Please do not be the cause of shutting down in-person classes at MMA. Respect the Anchor, uphold your pledge to the Honor Code, adhere to your commitment to the 12 Ways to 12 Weeks pledge, and keep the MMA community safe.

President Brennan

Finally, just a couple of thoughts on face coverings and their use on campus.  First, thank you for your efforts to adapt to this requirement. We are seeing good compliance around campus and are attempting to address concerns and issues as they arise.  We encourage you to try different options if you find that your initial face covering proves to be bothersome. Public Safety does have several options of face coverings available for employees to try and there are many commercial options available.  Please review our Proper Mask Use Poster for guidance on wearing a face covering and next week we will give updated information on what is considered adequate protection whether you’re wearing a face covering or a face shield.

We understand that these are challenging times and that none of us is comfortable with all the required actions we must attempt to make this work. Please continue to do your best and adapt as needed as we proceed on a forward path. It has taken a lot of outstanding work to get us to this point and we continue to need your support to meet the challenges ahead. If we approach the rest of this term with the dedication, energy, and attention to detail that everyone has demonstrated to this point, we are confident that we can succeed and stay in the current mode of operation through Thanksgiving.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Elizabeth True
VP of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs
Mark Coté
Acting Provost and Academic Dean