The University of Maine System announced Tuesday that it is making plans to welcome back students in the fall.

The system formed a Fall 2020 Safe Return Planning Committee to develop plans and protocols to safely welcome students, employees and the public back to campus. The panel will prioritize student safety, said Chancellor Dannel Malloy.

Plans will be in place if the system gets the green light for face-to-face instruction by late August.

“Governor Mills and our public health partners are doing an outstanding job leading our state through the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency,” Malloy said in a statement. “If they deem we are ready to begin a return to normalcy by summer’s end, Maine’s public universities will be ready with operational plans and action steps to safely bring students, employees, and the public back to our campuses.”

All schools in Maine are currently closed to in-classroom instruction because of the new coronavirus.

The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

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THE NUMBERS

Another person has died of COVID-19 in Maine, and 13 more people have tested positive for the virus that causes it.

The death toll stood at 36 and nearly 890 people had tested positive as of Tuesday, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported. Nearly 140 people have been hospitalized at some point.

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TESTING CAPACITY

A Trump administration document assessing Maine's testing capacity for the coronavirus contains inaccuracies, the Mills administration said.

Testing has long been a point of friction between states and the Trump administration as the coronavirus has spread.

Maine Sen. Angus King last week called the Trump administration’s failure to develop an adequate plan for testing a “dereliction of duty.”

Several examples of inaccuracies in the document include an assertion that the state lab has testing equipment it doesn't possess along with a failure to list another large lab that conducts testing, Lindsay Crete, spokeswoman for the governor, told the Portland Press Herald.

“This inaccurate document aside, what Maine needs most right now is support from the federal government to expand testing ... including delivery of additional testing supplies,” she said.

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HELP FOR HELPERS

The state has launched a new help line for health care workers and first responders to help manage stress. The service is called FrontLine WarmLine and it will be staffed by volunteers and available seven days a week at 207-221-8196.

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SLOWING THE FLU, TOO

Social distancing rules imposed to protect against the coronavirus also appear to be reducing the incidence of the flu.

The number of flu diagnoses in Maine increased by 184 in the three weeks since late March when most of the social distancing policies began in the state. The number of flu cases grew by 1,812 during that same period a year earlier, the Bangor Daily News reported.

“What those data suggest is that by staying inside and abiding by Gov. Mills’ recommendations and rules, we’ve not only gotten a hold of COVID-19, but we’ve also dropped the number of influenza cases as well,” Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said.

Forty people have died from the flu while 35 deaths were blamed on COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, as of Monday.