MESSAGE FROM DR. BLAIR BLACKBURN TO ETBU FAMILY

Editors note:

This message was included in Dr. Jim Harris COVID report on  3/5/2021.  I commend Dr. Blackburn for this responsible action.

MESSAGE FROM DR. BLAIR BLACKBURN TO ETBU FAMILY: 

ETBU Family, Given Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s announcement yesterday of a new Executive Order (GA-34), please read this entire Presidential Order regarding East Texas Baptist University’s Mask Mandate and Stay Healthy Operational Plan for the duration of the Spring 2021 semester. 

While I appreciate Governor Abbott’s optimism for having “the tools to protect Texans from the virus,” we still have over 800 currently infected people with COVID-19 in our own Harrison County. More than 200 people in our area are hospitalized with 77 individuals in ICU. Only 38 COVID ICU beds are presently available in our area G of East Texas. Texas remains in Phase 1B of the state’s vaccine rollout plan, with eligibility limited to people 65 years of age and older and those 16 years of age and older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. In Harrison County (Marshall), only 3,079 people have been partially vaccinated. That’s a mere 4.62% of the estimated population. Some 2,295 people have been fully vaccinated, which is only 3.45% of the estimated population in our community. By next Wednesday, about 7 million shots will have been administered in Texas and projections by the Governor’s Office foresee that over half of senior adults in Texas will have received a vaccine shot, yet we are not seeing those numbers among our senior citizens in Marshall or Harrison County. We are hopeful that Governor Abbott’s forecast holds true that “by the end of March, every senior who wants a vaccine should be able to get one.” 

President Joe Biden committed yesterday that with the bolstered vaccine supply coming with the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine on the market, he will direct all states to prioritize the vaccination of all K-12 school teachers. Furthermore, President Biden stated Tuesday that “We’re on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May.” Unfortunately, we do know that college-age students will be down the list among adults who will receive vaccinations, but we can hope that rollouts and supply will enable college students to get vaccinated this summer. ETBU has championed our will to be open and operational as a university, while other colleges and schools have remained virtual and have severely limited or canceled campus life activities. Not so with East Texas Baptist University! We committed to never give in to this pandemic and we never will, as ETBU has kept you in class with your professors, maintained our campus life and residential life opportunities, while doing what it takes to keep you as safe and healthy as possible through mask compliance, social distancing protocols, and on-campus health services. 

COVID-19 has not disappeared, and as Governor Abbott challenged, we cannot “abandon safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year.” ETBU has worked too hard and come too far to give up or give in to what has made us so successful as a campus community with limited infections. Because of your diligent efforts to wear masks, social distance, and wash hands as weapons of defense, today, ETBU only has 4 COVID infections with less than 10 in isolation. We are winning this fight and God has granted us the wisdom to know how to operate and how to conclude this semester with continued success against coronavirus. Thus, ETBU will maintain the campus mask mandate, social distancing, and 50% room/venue capacity limit with strict compliance for the remaining 8 weeks of the Spring 2021 semester. As a NCAA institution and a member of the American Southwest Conference, ETBU is required to maintain mask protocols and 50% or less capacity attendance at all sporting events. 

With the current COVID trends, rollout of vaccines, and the march to herd immunity, ETBU plans to be fully open and operational in the 2021-22 academic year in a full face-to-face modality. These COVID models give us confidence that by the Fall 2021 semester, we will return to normalcy with continued traditional instruction in classrooms, 100% capacity for on-campus activities, and in-room campus residence visitation. Of course, we will continue to make every effort to follow godly wisdom, seek counsel of our health care consultants, abide by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Texas Department of State Health Services guidance, and make data-driven decisions. Keep praying, stay healthy, and carry on!  

JBB 

(Message from Dr. Blair Blackburn received 3/3/2021 and forwarded with his permission.)

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