Baylor prepared to manage potential outbreaks

Populous counties throughout Texas experienced surges of COVID-19 cases at the start of the year. Sarah Pinkerton | Photographer

With McLennan County cases high, a recent Baylor graduate student death due to COVID-19 and hotspots across Texas in areas around Dallas, Houston, and Austin, Baylor officials made the decision to bring students back to campus for an in-person semester.

Because of those risks, they have a strategy in place to handle an anticipated spike from mass amounts of people moving into Waco over the next few weeks.

The CDC released a college analysis report showing that counties with colleges that held in-person classes last semester had a large spike in COVID-19 cases that the counties wouldn’t have experienced if the colleges were remote.

However, a team of Baylor health officials looked at the CDC numbers and the numbers from Baylor, Waco and Texas and found no link between Baylor University reopening and a “significant” surge of cases in the Waco community.

Baylor University and McLennan County suffered a spike in cases in the fall semester with Baylor University at one point having 475 active cases. The Baylor COVID-19 dashboard showed a similar increase in cases this spring semester with 286 cases last Friday, as expected by the university.

“As the semester nears and campus activity returns, we anticipate a similar situation that we experienced in the fall with a large initial spike in COVID-19 cases,” Baylor President Dr. Linda Livingstone wrote to students, staff, and faculty early January. “We’ve learned quite a bit about the virus over the past several months, and our Health Management Team and President’s Council are confident in the protection, mitigation and response measures that we have in place for a successful start and completion of the spring semester.”

Baylor implemented a new step in its Family First campaign for weekly testing of all students, staff and faculty in order to help track numbers for the spring semester along with continuing with the existing preventative measures of mask mandates, social distancing, and hand sanitizing stations.

As of Tuesday night McLennan County had a cumulative total of 22,292 cases. An estimated 1,106 of these cases are active with 137 people currently hospitalized. With Waco already being a hotspot, health professionals are preparing for their numbers to go up with the start of the spring semester.

Kelly Craine, the Waco-McLennan County public health district communications lead, said that she is confident in Baylor’s efforts to quickly target their current COVID cases in a possible spike.

“It’s just a part of life, people moving back in. We know from the fall semester that Baylor responds very quickly to any risks that they might have,” Craine said. “They work with the students to make sure they are protected and they know if they have been exposed to COVID. Having Baylor responding so quickly makes a huge difference.”