Spring semester to start in-person, related protocols
Baylor Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents:
Happy New Year, Baylor Family! As I reflect on all that we accomplished together last year, I cannot be more excited for what 2022 holds for our great University – in academics, research, student life, athletics and so much more.
Today I would like to follow up on my message from Dec. 23, 2021, regarding the spread of the Omicron variant and offer a preview of what the spring semester will look like for the next several weeks. I appreciate the diligent work of our Health Management Team, external experts and President’s Council over the holidays as I believe we have put together a prudent, responsible plan for Spring 2022 that prioritizes the health and overall well-being of our entire campus community and continued University operations.
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. Thus, we will begin the spring semester in-person with face-to-face instruction and student activities.
The COVID-19 vaccines, especially with a booster, remain the best protection available against serious reactions to the Omicron variant. 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. With that said, we will begin the semester by continuing our COVID-19 precautionary measures from the fall through at least the end of January as we closely follow the spike and projected decline of this latest variant.
Re-opening of campus
Baylor will resume operations from the holiday break beginning tomorrow, Jan. 4, as originally planned. The University will be fully open with all offices functioning this week. However, remote work will be provided as an option for staff through the remainder of the week in consultation with their supervisors. Free COVID-19 testing will be provided for staff and their dependents this Wednesday-Friday at the North Village Community Center (NVCC) from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day. Health Center staff will resume giving COVID vaccines, booster doses and flu shots on Jan. 12 at the NVCC vaccination clinic. All staff who are not currently in a hybrid or permanent telework arrangement will be expected to return to work on campus in-person Jan. 10, unless they are taking sick or vacation leave.
Start of the semester
Classes will start Tuesday, Jan. 18 in-person and on-campus as originally planned.
Baylor will begin Panhellenic recruitment as originally scheduled next week under a heightened testing protocol and a face covering requirement for all indoor events during recruitment. Participants will be provided additional information directly via email in the days ahead.
Required COVID-19 testing
Every student – vaccinated and unvaccinated – living on campus during the spring semester will be required to take a free Baylor-provided COVID-19 test within 24 hours of moving into the residence halls.
COVID-19 testing will be required twice weekly for unvaccinated faculty, staff and students. This requirement will begin next week, Jan. 10, for unvaccinated faculty, staff and student employees. Unvaccinated students will be required to test beginning the week of Jan. 17, with the first test having been completed by Jan. 18.
You can use the form at www.baylor.edu/vaccine to upload your completed vaccination card, including a booster dose, or your positive COVID test within the past 180 days.
Initial testing availability is as follows:
- Jan. 5-7: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., North Village Community Center (NVCC). Dependent testing available.
- Jan. 10-14: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., NVCC and Cashion Academic Center Lobby. Faculty and staff are encouraged to use NVCC due to projected high volume at Cashion.
- Jan. 15: 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m., NVCC and Cashion Academic Center Lobby
- Jan. 16: Noon-10 p.m., NVCC and Cashion Academic Center Lobby
- Jan. 17: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., NVCC and Cashion Academic Center Lobby
Testing times and locations following Jan. 17 will be updated at www.baylor.edu/coronavirus in the days ahead.
In continuation of our successful approach that helped navigate COVID-19 in the fall, face coverings will be required for at least the first two weeks of the spring semester for all classrooms and labs when used for academic instruction, in addition to some indoor locations where appropriate social distancing may not be possible, private faculty and staff offices when requested, and other areas designated by posted signage. However, we strongly encourage the use of face coverings in all indoor spaces on campus – including hallways and corridors – as well as out in the Waco community given the region’s continued low vaccination rate.
The University will make available free N95 masks to employees who would like an added level of precaution. If your department or office would like a box of these masks, please email the Office of Environmental Health & Safety at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information regarding a distribution for interested students will be provided prior to the semester’s start.
Please note that under the Biden Administration’s OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) guidelines, all unvaccinated faculty, staff and student employees will be required to wear face coverings indoors beginning Jan. 10.
As we work to identify and manage the spread of the virus within our campus community, we will begin the spring semester with robust contact tracing of positive COVID-19 cases based on the most recent CDC guidelines revisions, which include a reduced five-day isolation/quarantine timeline. We will continue to supportive care for students with extraordinary health needs; however, all students should have a plan in place should they become COVID-19 positive.
Specialized academic programs
We are continuing with the January online and professional and education programs as initially planned. Baylor Law School should monitor ongoing communications from their Dean regarding any potential changes to current operations.
Let me reiterate that these precautionary measures are through the end of January as we continue to closely monitor the Omicron variant over the days and weeks ahead. These measures are based on our proven “swiss cheese” model that provides layers of protection against COVID-19 as we strive for an in-person semester that includes the normal, robust array of rich academic and extra-curricular activities that we all desire. We will provide any revised guidance to you by Monday, Jan. 31.
As I mentioned last week, we strongly encourage you to get a COVID-19 vaccination or booster at your home location prior to the start of the spring semester if you have not done so already. Again, 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.
Our Call Center continues to be available for your questions at 888-283-2158 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. We encourage you to explore the many Frequently Asked Questions that have been developed. You also can email email@example.com.
Thank you for your continued prayers and encouragement as we work through this rapidly changing health environment. We will continue to safeguard the health and well-being of our faculty, staff and students as we deliver on our mission and provide academic instruction, residential life, dining and custodial services, student activities and staff support functions.
I hope to see you on campus in the days and weeks ahead!
Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.