Baylor implements surge testing

Dr. Deborah Birx from the White House advisory staff discusses Baylor's protocols for COIVD-19 at Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation. Dr. Birx came to Waco, TX on Monday, September 21 to participate in a roundtable with university officials. Brittney Matthews | Photo Editor

By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer

Baylor has allocated 5,000 COVID-19 tests from the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District surge testing program for off-campus students.

The school said in an email Tuesday that tests will be distributed to students throughout the next two weeks, beginning on Oct. 19 and continuing through Oct. 30.

“Baylor will continue its weekly surveillance testing program during surge testing. The HHS surge testing will focus on off-campus students, while regular surveillance testing will include only on-campus students,” the email said.

Each week, 2,500 off-campus students will be randomly chosen to test. On Wednesday, students will start being notified if they’ve been selected to test next week, and those chosen for the following week will be notified Oct. 21.

The school was allocated these tests from a total of 40,000 COVID-19 tests given to the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the state of Texas as part of the surge testing effort.

Surge testing is attributable to the recommendation of Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, after her visit to campus in September, Jason Cook, vice president for Marketing & Communication and chief marketing officer, said.

“Dr. Birx, as part of her visit a couple of weeks ago, indicated that Baylor should be testing a higher percentage of off-campus students, given the higher frequency in which they interact with the greater Waco community,” Cook said.

Following her visit, Birx said Waco would benefit from the federal resource, the Public Health District Preparedness & MRC Coordinator, Stephanie Alvey, said.

Birx made the recommendation for more testing to the governor, Alvey said, and then McLennan County Judge, Scott Felton, received the offer via the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

“We currently have potential testing dates lined up through mid-November,” Alvey said, but the city is not expecting any additional test allocations.

Cook asked that students bear with them for continued testing for the last days of the fall semester.

“It’s important for students to understand that we are in the midst of a pandemic, and the incidence rates of COVID-19 are beginning to creep back up within our community, in the state and across the country,” Cook said. “Testing is vitally important for the university to have a handle on the prevalence of the virus on the Baylor campus, particularly as we head into the start of flu season. Our goal is to make it to the Thanksgiving break on-campus, and a robust testing program is key for our success.”