WACO, TX — Baylor University has asked students in two floors of Martin Residence Hall to "reside in place" after a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases.
"We wanted to inform the campus community that we have identified an increase in positive COVID-19 cases among residents on the 3rd and 4th floors of Martin Hall," the University said in a statement Saturday.
"Since Thursday, we have seen an increase from five positive COVID-19 cases to 21 positives on these two floors as of Saturday."
The 21 students who tested positive are in the isolation dorms currently, not in Martin Hall, according to Baylor.
The University has notified all Martin Hall residents about next steps, which include requiring residents on the 3rd and 4th floors to reside in place and not leave their respective floors for the next four days.
"They will be tested every morning of those four days in the morning," Baylor VP of Student Life Dr. Kevin Jackson said. "Then they will do an assessment of their health at the end of each day to monitor for any symptoms."
Students on those floors will take their classes online during the quarantine. Baylor will deliver food to the students' doors.
"We recognize that our students are whole people, and we want to respond to them as whole people," Baylor's Dean of Students Sharra Hynes said.
This action will do two things: (1) allow the University to complete contact tracing and institute daily COVID-19 rapid testing and rigorous assessment of any virus symptoms, and (2) enable the University to tailor its response to the specific situation in Martin Hall without an immediate full quarantine.
Martin Hall has 252 residents, so this affects 55 students on those two floors (21 positive, 34 in quarantine), according to a Baylor spokesperson. More than 4,600 of 18,000 students live on campus, so this is a very small percentage, which is why the university is taking this action.
"We will evaluate the need for stricter quarantine if evidence suggests that such action is necessary," Baylor said.
"Close contact” for COVID-19 is defined as being within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes, either with or without a facemask.
Martin Hall residents on the 1st and 2nd floors have been instructed to stay only on their floors and not visit the upper floors for any reason.
"I think we only had one or two students in quarantine on the first and second floor, so that's what caused us to act with precision to test the third and fourth floor only," Hynes said.
They also have been instructed to contact Baylor Health Services on Monday morning to schedule a COVID-19 test.
"As we continue to move forward into the second week of classes, we ask the campus community be extra vigilant with wearing your facemask, maintaining social distance, using proper hand sanitization and monitoring your daily COVID-19 symptoms. If you are a student and feel ill, especially if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, please contact Baylor Health Services at 254-710-1010 for testing. Please remember that even mild symptoms matter."
The recent developments in Martin Hall do not impact Baylor's current plans for on-campus academic instruction and other activities, according to the statement.