With spring semester beginning, students reflect on latest COVID-19 procedures

As Baylor starts the spring semester, its COVID-19 testing centers experience a surge of students. Photo courtesy of TIME

By Rachel Royster | News Editor

Tuesday marked the first day with the full student body back on campus after President Linda Livingstone announced COVID-19 protocols on Jan. 3. This semester’s guidelines parallel those of fall 2021, although they required all students living on campus to get tested within 24 hours of arriving to Baylor.

Baylor spokesperson Lori Fogleman said the university expects to see a spike in cases due to the influx of students with campus reopening, but they expect to be revisiting the protocols after the first couple of weeks to determine if they can be adapted.

“We are seeing the predicted and anticipated spike in cases on our campus, but it appears that the infections tend to be mild and short-lived,” Fogleman said. “We hope to start seeing a decline in the impact of the latest variant as we enter February and at that time determine if we can adjust protocols.”

Omaha, Neb., freshman Isaac Marsh said he’s hopeful the university will alleviate its guidelines after the number of cases goes down.

“Personally, I think there’s a little too much restriction, but it’s better than a lot of schools in my opinion,” Marsh said. “I think it’s good what they’re doing at the beginning, but eventually I’d like to get rid of masks and have everything open again too.”

Boerne freshman Riley Tippett said she found Baylor’s protocols to help her feel more protected than she would feel at other college campuses.

“Compared to other schools, I think Baylor has been handling COVID-19 pretty well,” Tippett said. “For example, I know A&M doesn’t have any testing or mask mandates or anything like that. It’s nice to have at least some control over COVID here at Baylor.”

Tippett said her only worry is the attendance policies in some of her classes.

“I think most of the protocols have been fine, but I think the attendance policy will be interesting this semester because there are people still dealing with quarantine,” Tippet said.

Though it depends on the particular college, such as the College of Arts & Sciences where students must attend 75% of class meetings or get an “F” in the class, many attendance policies have been reinstated. Quarantining because of COVID-19 is no longer counted as an excused absence.

Rachel Medina, a Colleyville sophomore who is in quarantine this week, said her professors have made her feel at ease even though she can’t attend class in person yet.

“My professors have been very helpful,” Medina said. “They all had a great response time — within 24 hours of my email — to work with me so I could keep current in their class. They were all very understanding and made themselves readily accessible to help me should I need it.”

For those feeling sick or who may have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, Baylor offers free testing centers at North Village Community Center and the Cashion Academic Center lobby during regular hours.

Cypress sophomore Max Diehl said he is glad Baylor has accessible testing for anyone who might need it on campus.

“I really like having testing centers on campus because it makes it really easy for anyone having symptoms,” Diehl said. “It makes it feasible to have safe regulations in place. I’ve had three classes today, and everybody in my classes wore all their masks, and I went and got tested today. We’re living in it now; it’s kind of the new normal, but I hope to see that change soon.”

Last week, Panhellenic recruitment took place, which Dr. Sharra Hynes, associate vice president and dean of students, said allowed them to perceive how the protocols helped keep a more normal semester possible.

“Panhellenic recruitment provided an excellent opportunity for us to test a large number of students in advance of the spring 2022 semester,” Hynes said. “We were grateful for not only the participation of both the active and new members but also for the many university entities who supported students along the way — both those who tested negative and could participate in person and those who tested positive and were required to pivot to a virtual platform for a few days of the experience.”

Tippett, who was participating as a new member, said she appreciated having the testing centers open for the women who were a part of recruitment to utilize.

“For recruitment, we got tested twice: once when we moved in and then again before we started school,” Tippett said. “When I got tested, there were a lot of girls, but we still were able to get in and out pretty easily. It’s really nice having the testing centers even if you’re not required to get tested. I know sometimes it can be a lot to pay to go somewhere else, but having them here makes it easy to get tested if you feel sick.”

Fogleman said that through the months of COVID-19 protocols the Baylor community has seen, the university feels it has been successful overall.

“It’s important to note that over 80% of the Baylor campus is fully vaccinated, far ahead of the county where only 52% of residents are fully vaccinated,” Fogleman said. “So we feel that our proven ‘Swiss cheese’ model that layers protection, including the availability of testing and following public health protocols, will continue to make our campus a safe place to be as we monitor the variant’s impact over the next two weeks.”

Fogleman also said the university encourages all students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated and boosted when eligible, as “full vaccination with a booster is the best protection against serious infection.” She said everyone should also continue to monitor any symptoms they may be experiencing and get tested or isolate when necessary.