WACO, Texas — Baylor University announced over its winter break it will be testing students once a week in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. After the first week, the university has seen mixed results.
According to a university spokesperson, the decision comes in response to student requests for more in-person activities and a return to normalcy.
"We have heard very clearly from our students that they want to be together in more traditional ways," Lori Fogleman, Vice President of Media and Public Relations, said. "The only way we can do that during a pandemic is to test weekly and follow other safety measures."
To help meet the demand, Baylor started an on-campus lab dedicated to processing student COVID-19 tests. That lab will be able to process more than 150,000 tests during the spring semester.
"We also have greater additional capacity for processing non-Baylor community tests," Fogleman said.
You can read more about the lab here.
Under the university's new protocols, all students must be tested weekly at different assigned times. Around 3,000 students must be tested every day to keep up.
However, the turnaround is not as quick as leaders would hope.
According to the university's COVID-19 dashboard, fewer than 2,500 of Monday's tests have been returned. Only 163 results from Wednesday's test had been returned by 3 p.m. on Friday.
"That is really improving as the lab begins to process test and report out the results," Fogleman said.
Baylor hopes to shorten the turnaround time for results to 24 hours.
Students are given personal kits every week for a mid-nasal swab test. They then report to one of several testing tents to administer the test and turn it in for a report.
"It's really not that big a deal," freshman Isabelle Terry said. "It only takes a few minutes to do it, so it's not like it's taking a large part of my day."
Baylor students can face ramifications if they do not participate in the weekly tests. If a student misses two straight tests, they will no longer be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities. After missing an additional test, the university will revoke Wi-Fi privileges. Additional absences could result in suspension.
"They're doing everything possible and that makes me hopeful that we're gonna have some more fun this year and be able to do more in-person things, because we had fun the first semester but want to meet more people," Terry said.
While testing for students started this week, weekly testing for teachers and other faculty begins next week.