Presidential Perspective - August 20, 2020
Baylor Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents:
From my early career as an assistant professor at Baylor to now as the University's President, the start of a new semester always brings much joy and excitement as I reflect on our students and the promise of the future. Of course, this fall semester brings added significance as Monday culminates hours upon hours of planning and preparation by our administration, faculty and staff to welcome students back to campus in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The model Baylor has adopted for the prevention and mitigation of COVID-19 is based on the layering of several strategies -- as I've mentioned before, the "Swiss Cheese Model." Each layer of prevention is necessary to coordinate with other layers of prevention. The University has invested heavily in areas such as testing, tents and infrastructure, signage and health information, cleaning and disinfecting, academic preparation and much more.
Our success, however, ultimately depends on each one of us completing all the layers -- in other words, the holes in swiss cheese are filled when all of the slices are in place. That means the strict adherence to wearing face coverings, maintaining social distancing -- both on- and off-campus -- practicing good hand hygiene, monitoring daily symptoms and staying at home if you feel ill.
Last evening students and parents received an important communication regarding potential consequences of non-compliance with the University's COVID-19 policies, as well as the directives from state and local officials. As we have seen at other universities, it only takes the misguided actions of a few to disrupt the best plans and an entire semester.
Please join me in keeping our Family First beginning today and every day until the Thanksgiving Break.
More on Baylor's fall preparations ...
- Thank you to everyone for your patience and assistance with our pre-semester COVID-19 testing program. Although it's still in process, we are seeing around a 1% positivity rate, which is consistent with other universities that have conducted similar baseline testing programs in advance of the fall semester. Please note that we will be testing approximately 10% of our campus community on a weekly basis throughout the semester to monitor the on-going prevalence of COVID-19 and to respond quickly, as needed.
- On Monday we will launch an enhanced COVID-19 dashboard at baylor.edu/coronavirus, which will be updated daily at 3 p.m. The dashboard will include daily reported new cases, total active cases, positivity rate and cumulative cases, as well as several other important data points. A reminder that this website includes a wealth of COVID-19 information and frequently asked questions for students, faculty, staff and parents.
- Based on new research out of Duke University and guidance from the CDC, neck gaiters, bandanas, scarves and valve masks have been found not effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and as a result, we have updated our face coverings policy to exclude them from campus buildings. Gaiters are only permitted for outdoor use. We encourage you to wear one of the two Baylor-branded masks that have been provided to you, or face coverings of similar style and materials. This is an example of how Baylor's COVID-19 policies and practices may change throughout the semester based on the latest scientific information and health guidance.
- If you live off-campus in the vicinity of Baylor, you will notice an increased law enforcement presence in the evenings ahead as we support the City of Waco's directive limiting social gatherings to 10 or fewer people. Students, we know you have missed your friends and you want to connect and have fun, but you must do so safely in this COVID-19 environment in which we now live, study and work. As members of the Baylor Family, we have a responsibility to our Waco community, as we all come into contact with individuals from high-risk groups on a daily basis. If you see any activity that does not support Baylor's COVID-19 prevention or mitigation efforts, please visit www.baylor.edu/reportit.
- As our faculty and staff return to on-campus work, it is important that we understand Baylor's specific requirements and expectations. To help support the transition back to on-campus work, there is a short online course in the Ignite Learning Catalog titled "Baylor Faculty & Staff Return to On-Campus Work." Simply log in to Ignite and look for the news popup. This course includes a video providing an overview of the guidelines and expectations as well as an accompanying PDF with greater detail and explanation.
Monday -- 8.24 -- is almost here, and I cannot wait! Know that you are in my thoughts and prayers as we all join together for a successful semester on campus this fall. I am so glad you are part of the Baylor Family.
Let's #SicCOVID Together,
Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.