Baylor to maintain COVID-19 protocols after Abbott lifts mask mandate

Governor Greg Abbott announced he will lift the mask mandate and allow businesses to operate at full capacity in Texas beginning March 10. Christina Cannady | Photographer

By Annaleise Parsons | Staff Writer

Baylor will not be immediately changing COVID-19 protocols and the City of Waco will continue to monitor case counts after Gov. Greg Abbott lifted Texas’ statewide mask mandate and opened businesses to 100% capacity Tuesday.

The changes to Texas’ COVID-19 restrictions will go into effect Wednesday of next week.

“It is now time to open Texas 100%,” Abbott said in a press conference Tuesday in Lubbock. “It is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed.”

Only about 6.8% of the population in Texas has received both doses of the vaccine. No children have been vaccinated due to the Texas Department of Health Service’s vaccine distribution.

Baylor University has not changed any COVID-19 protocols on campus.

“Baylor and our Health Management Team will take today’s announcement under advisement and will do what is best for the health and well-being of our campus community and guests,” Baylor wrote in a statement to students, faculty and staff.

Baylor currently has 382 active cases, the highest number Baylor has seen since early September, due to Winter Storm Uri delaying testing two weeks ago.

Local government authorities have limited abilities to put into effect mask mandates of their own, according to the press release put out by the state summarizing Abbott’s executive order.

“If COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas get above 15% of the hospital bed capacity in that region for seven straight days, a County Judge in that region may use COVID-19 mitigation strategies,” the press release said. “If restrictions are imposed at a County level, those restrictions may not include reducing capacity to less than 50% for any type of entity.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky warned states not to lift restrictions too early. The CDC also recently began advising the public to “double mask” (wear a cloth mask over a medical mask) after studies showed that method to be more effective.

“I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19,” Walensky said in White House briefing Monday.

Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi also announced Tuesday the state would lift its mask mandate, effective Wednesday of this week.

Kelly Craine, the communications lead for Waco’s Health District, said the City of Waco will continue to do the work it’s been doing centered around COVID-19 even with the state mandates lifting.

“We never know what’s going to happen with COVID. We’re always watching for any kind of unexpected case number,” Craine said. “We still do daily case counts and will continue to do that because that’s how we’re going to know if we suddenly see a rise in cases.”

McLennan County has had a total of 25,192 coronavirus cases and 411 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

“When your cases are so high and we’re coming in a slower, downward trajectory, which is good. In times like November, December, January and even February, numbers were so high that all of McLennan County was a hotspot.” said Craine. “Now that mandates are changing, we’ll just have to monitor and see what happens.”