A biomedical engineering graduate student holds a swab and specimen vial in the new COVID-19, on-campus testing lab at Boston University in Boston in this July 23, 2020, file photo. Credit: Charles Krupa / AP

Three University of New England students attending classes on the Biddeford campus have tested positive for COVID-19 and 22 are in quarantine after attending a gathering without wearing masks and being exposed to the virus, the Portland Press Herald reported.

The Press Herald reported that most of the 22 students chose to disregard the simplest safety measures — opting to not wear masks or to practice social distancing — and got exposed to one of the positive cases, according to an email sent to the community Monday by Dean of Students and Assistant Provost for Student Affairs Jen DeBurro.

The cases come as schools nationwide try to safely return to in-person services amid the pandemic and as several colleges — including the University of Alabama, where more than 1,000 cases have been reported — have confronted outbreaks.

Many of Maine’s colleges and universities have already had COVID-19 outbreaks. A student and employee at UNE’s Portland campus tested positive for the virus on Friday, as did a Bates College student. The University of Maine in Orono suspended one student and disciplined seven others for failure to follow social-distancing rules, although none of UMaine’s four positive COVID-19 cases were linked to those eight students.

UNE students who violated the policies that safeguard the campus against COVID-19 could be suspended, the Press Herald reported.

“The easiest of [coronavirus safety] practices were completely disregarded, and the consequence of that choice is now playing out,” DeBurro said. “Perhaps more disturbing is that some of the students under quarantine did not participate in that gathering. The carelessness of some community members has had a direct impact on others.”