By Ava Dunwoody | Editor-in-Chief
Baylor will return to campus in person as scheduled on Jan. 18 for the Spring 2022 semester. Additional protocols such as testing and face coverings for at least the first two weeks will be in place, according to an email sent out by President Linda Livingstone on Jan. 3.
“After reviewing the latest Omicron projections and our internal models, we did not find beginning the spring semester remotely would prevent a substantial number of COVID-19 infections within our campus community,” Livingstone said in the email. “Thus, we will begin the spring semester in-person with face-to-face instruction and student activities.”
Everyone on campus will be required to wear a face mask for at least the first two weeks in classrooms and labs when used for academic instruction, as well as some indoor locations and other areas designated by posted signage.
Starting Jan. 10, all unvaccinated faculty, staff and student employees will be required to wear face coverings indoors under the Biden Administration’s OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) guidelines.
As for testing, all students who live on campus, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to take a COVID-19 test provided for free by the university within 24 hours of moving into the residence halls. Additionally, twice-weekly testing will be required for all unvaccinated faculty, students and staff beginning on Jan. 17.
Panhellenic recruitment will occur next week as originally scheduled with a face covering requirement and heightened testing.
Some schools have chosen to begin the semester online on a temporary basis, such as Texas State University, Harvard, University of Chicago, Michigan State University, Yale, Northwestern University, Rice University and most of the University of California campuses.
Other schools such as the University of Florida and the University of Alabama and have chosen to return in person with some protocols such as face coverings in place.
At Baylor, if a student tests positive for COVID-19 or is contact traced, they will be subject to a 5-day isolation period and are encouraged to have a plan in place should they contract the virus.
This is in accordance with the most recent update to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which has shortened the recommended isolation time for those with COVID-19 to 5 days. Those who have been exposed to COVID-19 and are unvaccinated or have not gotten a booster shot are also advised to quarantine for 5 days. Alternately, those exposed who are vaccinated with a booster shot do not need to isolate but are advised to wear a face mask.
Livingstone said all precautionary measures are in place to allow the university to monitor the spread of the Omicron variant and any revised guidance will be announced on Jan. 31.
In the meantime, Livingstone encouraged everyone to get a COVID-19 vaccination and booster shot before the spring semester.
“Full vaccination with a booster is the best protection against serious infection from Omicron. Additionally, we ask that you monitor your COVID-19 symptoms closely, get tested quickly if you develop any symptoms and stay at home if you do not feel well,” Livingstone said.
Baylor has reopened its call center and is available for questions at 888-283-2158 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday or via email at email firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also a Frequently Asked Questions page online for the return to campus.
“The COVID-19 vaccines, especially with a booster, remain the best protection available against serious reactions to the Omicron variant,” Livingstone said. “The bottom line is that we believe the safest place for our faculty, staff and students from Omicron is on the Baylor campus due to our high vaccination rates, availability of testing and following public health protocols.”