Hindsight is 20/20: Outgoing seniors reflect on COVID-19

In 2020, all students at Baylor were required to wear a mask due to COVID-19, and as time progressed, guidelines and recommendations evolved. Lilly Yablon | Photographer

By Jacob Boone | Staff Writer

The last time the class of 2024 readied for a graduation, COVID-19 forced them to change their plans. Now, seniors take with them firsthand experience of Baylor’s pandemic response.

In March 2020, students were sent home from colleges across the nation. McLennan County fielded the pandemic over the summer, calling on students to do their part and wear masks. By August, Baylor had implemented stringent health measures to prepare for students’ return. Face coverings became mandatory, and over 550 hand-sanitizing stations were installed across campus. Drinking fountains weren’t used, hand dryers were turned off and class sizes were reduced.

“I wish I had a Welcome Week or the chance to go to Line Camp,” Chicago senior Owen Eldersveld said. “Seeing my brother go through his freshman year and do everything now after [COVID-19], I saw how much I missed.”

Christmas on Fifth was canceled, and after Thanksgiving, students did not return to campus until the spring semester.

Less than two months away from graduation, Chicago senior Will Casto looks back on his pandemic-dampened Baylor experience. Casto said his first thought was how antisocial his freshman year felt.

“They didn’t want you hanging out with people around campus, and you got tested every week,” Casto said. “The mask police were a bit much. You had to wear them outside, which kind of sucked. The only way out of it was if you had a chill CL.”

Baylor designated certain hotels for on-campus students to isolate in the event of a positive COVID-19 test, and it provided meals for them. Off-campus students relied on their parents and delivery services for food.

“I got sent to the COVID hotel for 10 days in isolation,” Casto said. “They had security guards that made sure we couldn’t leave the room. You could open the door a crack to grab the food that you DoorDashed, but that was about it.”

As the pandemic progressed, guidelines and recommendations evolved. COVID-19 vaccines became available in the Health Center. As of January 2022, weekly testing was no longer required. That same year, the mask policy was lifted on campus.

On March 1, 2024, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines for COVID-19: Remain at home until symptoms improve for 24 hours — a fraction of the time Casto spent in the quarantine hotel in 2020.

Time has turned many accounts similar to Casto’s from close encounters into distant memories. The pandemic may have left a collective scar on the senior class, but from 2020 to 2024, a lot has changed.

Today, students can find old recordings of lectures and masks for sale in the Baylor bookstore. These remnants live as a reminder to imagine what classes, clubs and communities looked like under pandemic restrictions — and how to make the most of the Baylor experience in their absence.