By Meredith Pratt | Staff Writer
Baylor will be conducting ongoing COVID-19 surveillance testing each week until Nov. 20, beginning Monday. The university has made significant financial investments, such as COVID-19 testing, to increase the likelihood of a successful on-campus experience this fall.
An announcement was made Tuesday outlining the new initiative the university will be implementing to help monitor and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Those to be tested include 300 contractors, 175 faculty and staff members, 250 on-campus students and 480 off-campus and online-only students in Waco. Failure to comply will result in disciplinary action.
“The first round of mail-in testing before the start of the fall semester through Everlywell provided a baseline, or a point of reference for the campus COVID-19 positivity rate,” the Baylor COVID-19 Testing Team said in the announcement. “Ongoing surveillance testing throughout the semester will allow us to continually monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 and to respond quickly, as needed.”
Dr. Jim Marsh, dean for student health and wellness and executive director for counseling services, said the weekly testing will give Baylor a better picture of the potential hotspots on campus, therefore allowing the university to dedicate attention to the specific areas that need it most.
The testing will be a combination of internal testing through Baylor Health Services and a third party, My Labs Direct (MLD).
Marsh said that while he realizes getting a swab test isn’t considered fun, the university will be using incentives to encourage student participation. Prizes will be awarded to those who complete their testing by the weekly deadline.
“We’ve tried to make it as fun as it can get,” Marsh said.
Marsh also said that the university will be partnering with local businesses for some of the prizes.
“It’s Baylor’s way of investing back into a community,” Marsh said. “A lot of these businesses have been hit pretty hard by the virus.”
Prizes will consist of restaurant gift certificates, football tickets, a free parking pass for the semester, a designated parking spot and textbook reimbursement. Students will also be entered in grand-prize drawings for larger prizes, including a $5,000 tuition scholarship, a free meal plan or Dining Dollars.
San Antonio senior Nic Diaz said he understands the need for weekly testing because the university relies on data to make informed decisions about whether or not to continue in-person classes.
“I think the routine testing, while it could be inconvenient for some, is the best way for Baylor to obtain data and assess the effectiveness of their Family First plan,” Diaz said.
The Family First Plan is a layered strategy Baylor has developed to help keep campus as safe and healthy as possible. Healthy behaviors recommended for students on and off campus are wearing masks, social distancing, not congregating in large gatherings, washing their hands and staying home if they’re sick.