Return to normal . . . or not?

Baylor students return to wearing masks indoors due to rising Covid-19 cases. Grace Fortier | Photographer

By Clay Thompson | Intern

After reinstating mask requirements regardless of vaccination status this fall, Baylor University continues to adapt to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in McLennan County.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently stated on July 20, that the delta variant of the virus accounts for 83% of U.S. COVID-19 cases.

Baylor’s response included additional testing requirements for those who are unvaccinated and a temporary reinstatement of required face masks for students, faculty and staff. Face coverings are to be worn inside classes, labs and certain buildings where social distancing cannot be reached, as well as areas where there are signs or requests to be masked.

However, in other indoor and outdoor areas where masks are not required, students, faculty and staff are given the choice to wear a mask based on their health status. They are asked to keep a mask with them at all times to “respect others who might have personal or family health considerations,” according to the update.

Hewitt sophomore Chris Sultan said he wished Baylor would have informed students sooner about the new guidelines but that he believes everyone at Baylor can work together to help pave the way for more relaxed guidelines in the future.

“I was a bit agitated and disappointed. I mean I was going into Baylor expecting a normal semester. I wish their timing was a bit better,” Sultan said. “We’re more than capable of having relaxed guidelines in the future.”

The additional weekly COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated or not-yet exempt students, faculty and staff has been increased from one to two tests per week for at least the first four weeks of the fall semester.

“To me, I feel like it’s unfair for only unvaccinated students [to] have to get tested for COVID and not vaccinated students,” Sultan said. “Vaccinated people can still get COVID.”

Because of the limitations of housing due to the large increase of students this semester, Baylor’s COVID-19 team also asks for students to have personal quarantine/isolation plans should they test positive during the semester.

Irving sophomore Gerardo Martinez Jr. said this might be a problem for a lot of students and that it’s sure to cause stress, but he said he understood the reasons behind this decision by Baylor.

“I’d be more surprised if they lifted [guidelines] entirely,” Martinez said. “It’s necessary. It makes people feel comfortable. That’s pretty important. Its not too much of a hassle for me.”

The email alert also stated that these guidelines are subject to change once local conditions improve or deteriorate. Although these new guidelines are in place, the given reasoning was so Baylor can continue to have in-person classes, full student activities and traditions, as well as 100% capacity at athletic and academic events.

“I think Baylor handled this pretty well. It could have been better, but it could have been a lot worse too,” Martinez said. “I’m not too angry about it to be honest, it’s more annoying, but I understand the reasoning behind it.”

On a July 29th Facebook Live, President Livingstone addressed the CDC’s July 20 guidelines on wearing face masks.

“We are going to continue to monitor that guidance,” Livingstone said. “The guidance that came out this week is fairly nuanced based on where you are and what the COVID virus is doing in the location that you’re in, so we are going to be monitoring over the next couple of weeks and evaluating what’s going to be the best for the fall semester for our students and for our community to ensure their safety and health.”

The Baylor COVID-19 and health team highly recommend students, faculty and staff receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which they can do on campus. In the update, the team said Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines are all available for all students, faculty and staff, as well as their spouses and dependents.

For more information about the vaccine or to schedule an appointment, go to Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information | Baylor University.