WACO, Texas — As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations remain high in McLennan County, Baylor University is extending its masking and testing policies for students and staff.
In an email to students and staff on Thursday, Baylor President Linda Livingstone said testing and masking requirements will continue at least until October 1.
Those policies include twice-weekly COVID-19 testing of unvaccinated, or otherwise non-exempt, students and staff.
Masks are also required to be worn by everyone in classroom and lab settings.
Students who spoke to 25 News said the extension of those policies was the right call.
"I do appreciate that we do have masks on and I would not want to see them go away because that would make me really nervous," said Baylor sophomore Jenna Bernhard.
In the email to students and staff, Livingstone applauded the university for following protocol.
"We are so fortunate to have a normal fall with classes, events and activities at 100% because you have done what we have asked, from getting vaccinated (our overall vaccination rate is above 75%) to faithfully completing twice-weekly testing. Our efforts are working," wrote Livingstone.
But larger concerns remain as COVID cases and hospitalizations in McLennan County remain very high.
"I do think Waco as a whole, it's a little bit scary to see such a high rate of cases," said Baylor senior Anupama Kannan.
Those high cases and hospitalizations make students feel safer on campus than they do off campus.
"It's really hard not to be a little bit fearful of the rising cases and especially for all of the health care workers not really having all of the resources and facilities that they need," said Baylor junior Zak Allen. "So hopefully if Baylor can make that change the rest of Waco can as well."
In her email, President Livingstone said the university is going to continue to re-evaluate its COVID-19 policies in the coming weeks.
That means the Oct. 1 end to the mandates is not set in stone.
According to Baylor's COVID-19 information site, students who fail to follow mask protocol will be referred to the Student Conduct Office.
Students who fail to meet their testing requirements will have their campus WiFi shut off for a week.