A sign at the entrance of campus tells University of Maine students and visitors to wear face coverings on campus. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

The University of Maine System plans to keep its masking requirements in place until at least March 14, which marks the start of spring break.

The Maine Community College System has not yet made a decision to alter its current masking policy — which requires masks in all public space — for now, the Portland Press Herald reported.

The announcement comes after the community transmission rates in all 16 Maine counties dropped to a moderate risk, based on data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Under federal guidelines, healthy people in areas where coronavirus transmission has significantly decreased can forgo wearing masks.

Federal data show that about 90 percent of the country classifies as having medium or low risk of COVID-19 transmission, and hospitals across the nation are seeing fewer people admitted with coronavirus. In Maine, 163 people were hospitalized with the virus on Friday, down from a pandemic high of 436 on Jan. 13.

“We have to take time to assess changes in public health guidance as we work across our universities to assess appropriate changes.” UMS spokesperson Dan Demeritt told the Portland newspaper.

Bowdoin College also plans to leave its mask mandate in place until at least April 4, the Press Herald reported.

However, the University of New England is planning to make masking optional for indoor spaces by next Monday.

Colby College, Bates College and Saint Joseph’s College has not announced whether their mask policy will be changing.

On March 2, Gov. Janet Mills announced that schools and day care facilities would drop masking recommendations, and on Thursday, the Maine Legislature dropped its mask requirement.

On Friday, the Maine Catholic diocese announced that it would no longer recommend mask wearing in its churches.

There were 998 more COVID-19 cases reported by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, along with 30 more deaths. However, preliminary wastewater data collected between Jan. 31 and Feb. 28 show that coronavirus concentrations appear to be on the decline in communities across the state.

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Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.