Baylor health officials, administration aim to regain normalcy with weekly COVID-19 tests

During the spring semester, students, staff and faculty will be required to take a self-administered COVID-19 test once a week. Kristen DeHaven | Photo Editor

By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer

Before the start of the spring 2021 semester, Baylor announced all students, faculty and staff would have to test weekly for COVID-19. Testing began on Monday.

This is an increase in testing from the fall 2020 semester. Those in the campus community are assigned a testing day, time and location to be administered their test.

Dean for student health and wellness, Dr. Jim Marsh, said that testing 10% of students each week didn’t allow students to do as much as they want to do. He said that more testing will be important in eventually returning to the pre-pandemic Baylor experience.

“Our team of health experts believe that weekly testing will be key, along with the current preventive health measures, to really unlock some normalcy this semester and open the potential for more in-person events and activities,” Marsh said.

In November, Baylor issued a moratorium on all events until Feb. 7 in order to limit the spread of the virus.

“Please note that this date is subject to change based on COVID-19 conditions at the time but represents our best planning based on our return to campus this fall,” the Baylor COVID-19 Health Management Team said along with the announcement.

At this time, the moratorium is still expected to be lifted on that date, Marsh said, but weekly testing will hopefully ensure that more in-person events can safely be held thereafter.

“The reason for that is we expect that when everyone returns to campus, we might have a surge in the number of positive cases, similar to when we came back in the fall,” Marsh said. “Really what we want to do is get past that surge, which we did last time, and we believe our weekly testing will help us do that very quickly. February 7th is a good target being that’s about how long that happened last time, so we believe we’ll be in a place to do a lot more after that date.”

Weekly testing is likely to continue through the semester, but the health experts are constantly reviewing the COVID-19 procedures on campus.

“Usually at certain time points, we take a step back and say the same thing as we did back in the fall: Are we on the right path? Is this what we need to be doing? Is this creating results that we want?” Marsh said.

Regular appointments in the testing locations are for ease and convenience to everyone, he said, so it becomes a part of students, faculty and staff’s weekly routine.

During the quarterly Board of Regents meeting in November, Baylor President Dr. Linda Livingstone said spending on COVID-19 measures throughout the Fall 2020 semester had been higher than expected. However, Tonya Hudson, director of strategic communications, said that internal funds have been reallocated and the CARES Act passed by Congress has provided for additional spending on weekly testing this spring.

“Given we continue to be in the midst of a pandemic, we believe these investments are warranted for the ongoing health and wellness of our campus community,” Hudson said.

Additional information regarding weekly testing appointment times and consequences for noncompliance can be found on the COVID-19 FAQ page.