By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer and Matthew Muir | Copy Desk Chief
Baylor University announced a temporary quarantine of Martin Residence Hall’s third and fourth floors Saturday night. From Thursday to Saturday, the number of COVID-19 cases on the two floors jumped from five to 21.
Residents of Martin’s third and fourth floors are required to “reside in place” and not leave their floors through Wednesday. Residents living on the first and second floors are barred from visiting the quarantined floors and were directed to schedule a COVID-19 test with Baylor Health Services.
Students who tested positive will follow Baylor’s established protocols for self-isolation.
The four-day quarantine will “allow the University to complete contact tracing and institute daily COVID-19 rapid testing and rigorous assessment of any virus symptoms,” and “enable the University to tailor its response to the specific situation in Martin hall without an immediate full quarantine.” Stricter quarantine measures are still a possibility as the situation in Martin Hall evolves.
The announcement also said the Martin outbreak “[does] not impact our current plans for on-campus academic instruction and other activities.”
Dr. Kevin Jackson, vice president for student life, said the Baylor Health Management team got together on Aug. 29 and discussed the best way to handle the outbreak. They decided they needed to go beyond the precautions already being taken on campus.
“Beginning tomorrow, they will undergo rapid COVID-19 testing each morning through our Baylor Health Services … Each evening … we’re going to ask our students to conduct a COVID-19 self-assessment and if they’re experiencing any of the symptoms, which includes chills, fever, cough or muscle ache and we will have them immediately contact our residence hall staff who will then be in immediate conversation with our health center staff,” Jackson said. “They will also eat their meals within their rooms, and we will be delivering to our students on the third floor and fourth floor of Martin three meals a day within the normal time frames that we typically eat: 8 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m.”
Houston freshman Michael Morales said he was surprised by the number of positive cases.
“I never would’ve expected to be this close to people that have COVID-19 and now I’m literally across the hall from somebody who tested positive and got moved out,” Morales said.
The students of the third and fourth floors in Martin Hall have to stay in their rooms, but Charlotte, N.C., freshman Nicko Henderson said he and his roommate are keeping a positive attitude.
“If it means we get to stay here until Thanksgiving, I’ll test everyday and quarantine for four days if that will help us and help our situation moving forward. There’s no doubt I’ll do it,” Henderson said.
Even though Baylor students, staff and faculty have tested positive this past week, Jackson said to choose hope over fear.
“It’s going to take all of us exercising personal responsibility and community commitment to put in place the strategies that must be in place to keep this virus at bay,” Jackson said.
As of Sunday afternoon, Baylor’s COVID-19 dashboard listed 456 active cases. Of the 3,270 tests conducted in the prior seven days, 408 came back positive, putting the positivity rate at more than 12%.