East Texas Baptist University students returned to campus this weekend ahead of the start of the 2022 spring semester on Monday.

As the students returned, the university has announced some COVID-19 protocols as the state of Texas recognized its highest number of positive COVID-19 tested individuals last week.

The new university protocols, announced by ETBU President J. Blair Blackburn, will remain in effect for the first two weeks of the semester.

“From the onset of the pandemic, East Texas Baptist University has stood strong, remained stable and persevered with resilience to fulfill our Christ-centered calling and to provide our students with an engaging and exciting on-campus experience,” Blackburn said in a statement. “This commitment to active university life has not changed and will not change regardless of the ongoing health challenges in our country. Coronavirus may be a part of society for now, but we adjust, we flex, we go — whatever it takes. Together, we resolve to enjoy the abundant life God has granted us through our faith. Without fear, informed by truth and wisdom, we will persevere.”

Blackburn said the university’s mask requirement will remain in place as students return to campus on Monday. The mask requirement is for all on campus, regardless of vaccination status.

The mask requirement states all on campus must wear a mask inside campus buildings and offices through Jan. 21.

“All faculty and students will wear face coverings in classrooms,” the announcement stated. “All campus members will wear masks in campus buildings, offices, and institutional vehicles, unless actively eating/drinking, regardless of vaccination status. Face coverings will not be required in a campus resident’s room/unit.”

Blackburn said the campus will reassess the situation on Jan. 21 and based on the local number of cases, provide updated COVID-19 protocols as needed.

“Since the beginning of this national health crisis, ETBU has been committed to the health and safety of our campus community while providing an on-campus, in-person educational experience,” Blackburn said. “By being proactive and cautious, we have kept infection rates within our ETBU family very low, and we have been able to maintain vibrant connections with one another and active campus life. We remain steadfast to this commitment. I appreciate your support and diligence in keeping our campus community and loved ones safe by wearing a mask.”

The university is also hosting a free concert open to the public on Jan. 12. The concert will feature a night of worship led by The Voice contestant Blessing Offor. The concert will be held at 7 p.m. in Baker Chapel of the Rogers Spiritual Life Center. Offor will also be featured in the university’s chapel services the same morning for ETBU faculty, staff and students.

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