Baylor Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents:
As we reach the end of the second week of the fall semester, I want to commend all of you for your continued wearing of facemasks, practicing social distancing and following University guidelines and policies during this unique time of COVID-19. As Provost Brickhouse wrote in a message to faculty and staff yesterday: “This is a marathon, not a sprint. We must practice resilience, discipline and stay the course. The University has a plan in place, and we are executing the plan.”
A few COVID-related notes for you:
- For students, we strongly encourage you to utilize the COVID-19 testing resources provided by the University and not seek testing within the Waco community. This is important for two reasons: first, local citizens – many of whom are in high-risk groups for the virus – should have priority access to community healthcare testing resources; and second, on-campus testing provides critical data as we track the prevalence of COVID-19 on our campus and within the Baylor Family. I can assure you that Baylor’s COVID-19 tests are extremely fast in comparison to others, and we uphold the strictest standards of your medical privacy. Also, McLennan County will conduct contact tracing for any positive tests taken off-campus and share this information with the University.
- The current positivity rate posted on Baylor’s COVID-19 dashboard is a clinical positivity rate based on testing symptomatic individuals. To obtain a true positivity rate, it is essential to have a random sample of both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, which we began on Monday. Moving forward, we believe we should have a true positivity rate that will be reported on the dashboard tomorrow.
- A reminder that reviewing the metrics on the dashboard must be done with context. For example, the 520 active cases reported on the dashboard this morning represent about 2% of all students, faculty and staff. Also, we are not aware of any cases occurring via classroom exposure; in fact, the large majority of COVID-19 cases have been contracted off-campus.
- At 6 a.m. today we “released the Men of Martin” from their four-day reside-in-place directive in response to a growing number of COVID-19 cases within Martin Hall last week. The First Gent and I shared in their excitement last night as we extended our appreciation for their understanding and patience, as many Martin residents continue in either isolation or quarantine. Our sewage monitoring of the residence halls identified traces of the virus in Collins Hall, and yesterday we initiated a target testing initiative of 15% of the residents, in addition to the 5% weekly random sample. This testing data will help determine our next steps as we closely monitor Collins.
Some other news to share this week …
- I'm happy to share some great news that we announced earlier today: a $5 million gift from William E. (Ed), BBA ’73, and Denise Crenshaw of Lakeland, Fla., in support of the Give Light Campaign, which undergirds our Illuminate strategic plan. The Crenshaws’ gift will create two endowed faculty positions in the Hankamer School of Business as part of the Baylor Academic Challenge matching program, while also providing support for the Dean and establishing an endowed scholarship fund within Baylor’s Student Foundation. Now retired as CEO of Publix Super Markets, Ed’s reputation as an ethical, Christian business leader continues to inspire our faculty and our students and serves as an example of the impact our alumni can have in the world. We are grateful for their generous support of Baylor’s growth and progress.
- I am looking forward to virtually visiting with our faculty later today as part of the annual Fall Faculty Forum at 3:30 p.m. and then with our staff on Friday at 10 a.m. We have much to cover, and good news to share.
- Last week I shared an update on Judge Lady and her recent operation to remove a mass that had developed around her spinal column and impacted her mobility. We received the test results earlier this week, and the mass was thankfully benign. Lady continues to recover comfortably within her private quarters at the Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat under the first-class care of our bear trainers. We truly appreciate their love and dedication for both Lady and Joy, as well as the expert medical care provided by the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.
- You should have received an email invitation earlier this week to participate in Baylor’s 2020 Campus Climate Survey. We strongly encourage you to participate in this University-wide survey. Our last climate survey in 2017 led to many of our current diversity-related initiatives as we fulfill our mission of providing a caring community.
- With the new semester underway and many new members of our campus community, Baylor will conduct its required test of the Baylor Alert emergency notification systems at 10 a.m. Friday. Baylor Alert shares important information in the event of an emergency, so this test will include sending Baylor Alert “test” messages via text and email to all students, faculty and staff, as well as testing communications on official University social media and homepage. The weather forecast includes possible inclement weather tomorrow, so we will test our outdoor/indoor notification systems and outdoor emergency sirens on another date. Remember this is only a test, but a very important one. You can find more information about emergency preparedness and Baylor Alert at www.baylor.edu/emergency.
- This Friday, I encourage every member of the Baylor Family to join the nationwide celebration of College Colors Day. While this event typically marks the start of the competition calendar for intercollegiate athletics, the excitement and energy across our campus community surrounding weekends in the fall continues with our first Spirit Friday of the academic year. Wear your green and gold each and every Friday to show the power of being connected through our love for Baylor, even during times we may be physically apart. As an extra incentive, for every purchase of apparel or accessories from Baylor’s official online store, Wells Fargo will donate 100 meals to the Central Texas Food Bank.
Unfortunately, I am ending this week’s message on a not-so-positive note. A reminder that classes will be in session and the University open on Monday over Labor Day. This schedule change will allow us to end in-person course instruction by the Thanksgiving Break.
Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.