Presidential Perspective - January 14, 2021

January 14, 2021

Baylor Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents:

I am looking forward to Tuesday and welcoming all of you back for the spring semester! First Gent Brad and I (and our dog BU!) have missed the energy and enthusiasm all of you bring to campus. Please know that we are praying for you as you make your way safely home to Baylor.

As we continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in Waco and across Texas, I first want to extend my deepest thanks for completing your return-to-campus testing for the virus. As I noted last week, we also will begin weekly testing for all students, faculty and staff during the spring semester. You should have received specific information about weekly testing in your Baylor email, with additional testing information and FAQs available on our COVID-19 website.

Why are we conducting weekly testing? We all yearn for more normalcy, but we also want to keep our campus – and community – safe, healthy and open. Our health experts believe that weekly testing will increase the potential for more in-person events and activities in combination with the comprehensive Swiss Cheese model of preventive measures – continued mask wearing, physical distancing and hand-sanitizing.

Our commitment to you is to make weekly testing as easy and convenient as possible, with a streamlined registration process, self-administered tests and testing sites on campus and additional locations off site, such as Robinson Tower, Baylor Law and the School of Social Work in downtown Waco. To our students, in appreciation for your cooperation, we will provide weekly incentives, such as food vouchers to local restaurants, and wrap up the semester with a drawing for tuition, housing and bookstore credits. In addition, if our COVID-19 case numbers are low and testing compliance is more than 95 percent, we plan to provide students a “wellness day” in which there will be no classes on Tuesday, March 9.

At Baylor, we put our Family First, and I ask that you join me in our ongoing efforts to #SicCOVID!

Some additional information to share:

  • If you are a student who has not yet returned your Everlywell COVID-19 test kit, now is the time to do so. A reminder that you must submit a negative COVID-19 test prior to returning to campus. If you are unable to meet the deadline before the start of the semester, you should secure outside testing at your own expense and submit your test results showing the date of the test to along with your name and Baylor ID number.
  • For students, faculty and staff who are already in Waco, Baylor Health Services' Respiratory Clinic in North Village will be open on Saturday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. to test individuals who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus. Also, the My Labs Direct tents on campus will be operational on Monday, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, for regular testing during normal business hours.
  • We continue to receive many inquiries regarding the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine for our campus community. We have not received any additional doses since my Thursday update last week. We continue to develop our plans, however, for Phase 1B in the event the University receives additional vaccines in accordance with state guidelines, which will include people 65 years of age or older or people 16 years of age and older with at least one chronic medical condition that places them at increased risk for severe illness. Look for a screening survey in your email in the coming days. Also, visit the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District’s site for more information, or you may consider contacting your personal healthcare provider, as many have begun the process of offering the vaccine to Phase 1B patients as available.
  • In last week’s message, I mentioned participation by the Baylor Family in the annual MLK Day of Service, which celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Many of our departments across the campus have come together to plan a host of activities over the next couple of weeks in connection with Monday’s celebration. I encourage you to review these opportunities here. As Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”
  • I am happy to report that the recovery and rehabilitation of Lady, one of Baylor’s two beloved American black bears, is going amazingly well. If you recall, Lady underwent surgery in the fall to remove a cyst that had developed around her spinal column. The next phase in the 18-year-old’s recovery will be a gradual return to the public portion of the Bill & Eva Williams Bear Habitat, which will allow her caregivers to monitor her health and mitigate any potential stress. We hope to fully reopen the habitat soon so everyone can express their love to Lady, as well as her sister Joy.

I enjoyed seeing all of the social media posts of the Baylor campus blanketed with snow last Sunday. It was beautiful and a reminder of God’s creation and goodness. One of our local pastors, Jonathan Pokluda (“JP”) of Harris Creek Baptist Church, posted an Instastory that included a great paraphrase of Job 37:6-7 – “He directs the snow to fall on the earth and tells the rain to pour down. Then everyone stops working so they can watch his power.”

Here’s to a great start of the semester,

Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.

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