Like the one that came before it, this coming school year will not be completely conventional. But as we have done in the past, our Baylor community will undoubtedly persevere through whatever challenges may lie ahead.
In the past few months, the emergence of the Delta variant has reversed the “downward trajectory” of COVID-19 cases in the United States, as described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Now the predominant strain of SARS-CoV-2 in the United States, the Delta variant has become a top focus of the CDC in its efforts to inform the public about COVID-19.
So what exactly is the Delta variant? Here’s what you need to know (according to the CDC):
The Delta variant is over two times as contagious as previous variants of COVID-19, meaning that it is more easily transmissible.
Some data suggest that contracting the Delta variant may cause more severe illness in unvaccinated people, including a higher risk for hospitalization.
Unvaccinated people are most at risk for becoming infected with and transmitting the Delta variant to other people.
COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States remain highly effective against COVID-19, including against the Delta variant.
While no vaccine is 100% effective, close to 0% of breakthrough infections have led to hospitalization, according to CDC data.
So what does this mean for us? Due to the surging spread of the Delta variant, along with its increased transmissibility, the CDC has recommended mask-wearing indoors in order to help reduce infection and decrease the risk of more potentially harmful variants emerging in the future. On August 13, 2021, Head of School Chris Angel ‘89 released a statement regarding Baylor’s COVID-19 protocols for the 2021-22 school year, including changes in classrooms, the dining hall, and more.
The message reads that "[m]asks will be required in classrooms where social distancing is less than six feet" and that "[i]n classrooms where social distancing is at least six feet, our students will have the option, once seated, to remove their masks at the direction of their teacher." In general, masks will be required for Baylor students, faculty, and employees in “hallways and all indoor spaces when six-foot social distancing is not possible," including on school transportation.
Similar to last school year, "universal masking indoors [is required] for all classroom teachers when around students." However, remote learning over Zoom will only be offered for "students isolated due to a positive COVID test result or quarantined due to a confirmed close contact while unvaccinated."
One exciting update revolves around lunch protocols: "[s]tudents, faculty, and other employees have the option to eat indoors or outside," as the dining hall has been rearranged to accommodate for physical distancing.
Because seating within the Chapel has been “marked off for three-foot social distancing,” seniors and boarding students will attend Upper School Chapel and Assembly in person and masked.
With regards to vaccines, Angel states that "more than 96% of our teaching faculty have been vaccinated" and that Baylor strongly encourages families to “consult with their physicians about the decision to vaccinate for COVID-19." The same as last year, Baylor "will continue to host vaccination events on campus for students, employees, and employee dependents."
As a whole, Baylor will “continue to follow local and national health guidelines and re-evaluate these procedures as we approach the Labor Day holiday.” The school also plans to “utilize [its] COVID testing capabilities early in the school year” to gather additional information when making decisions about school-wide protocols.
While these can definitely be trying times, it is imperative that we all abide by guidelines created by our school and stay informed about current COVID-19 developments, not just for our own sakes, but for the sakes of others as well.