Bethel identified as COVID-19 cluster

Chad Frey
Bethel College students used a staggered move-in period last week as they prepared for the first week of class this week. Before classes began, the school was labeled as a COVID-19 cluster.

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Social media was abuzz last week with the moving in of students and athletes at Bethel College. Parents, students and coaches took to Facebook and Twitter to announce the arrival of students for the fall term.

On Aug. 17 came a different announcement — that the college is now designated as a COVID-19 cluster by the Harvey County Health Department.

The first day of classes on the North Newton campus is Aug. 19. The school used a staggered move in.

The cluster includes 46 confirmed cases of COVID-19. There have been 482 individuals tested. Some test results are pending.

“Mandatory testing during reopening is an effective way to assess the prevalence of COVID-19 in our student and employee population at the start of the semester,” said Bethel College president Jon Gering. “Our efforts have provided valuable public health information and revealed important health information for students and their families.”

The cluster was identified through precautionary COVID-19 testing conducted by Bethel College. Bethel requires all students, faculty, staff and administrators to be tested for COVID-19. Bethel also requires daily temperature checks, health status monitoring through a self-screening app, and individuals to wear a face mask indoors and outdoors on the campus.

According to the health department, COVID-19 positive individuals have been able to self-isolate on campus or at their permanent residence. Bethel College’s Emergency Response Team, along with the health department, will regularly monitor the health of the individuals, as well as follow up on all close contacts.

“We appreciate Bethel’s proactive approach to preparing for its in-person fall semester,” said Harvey County Health Department director Lynnette Redington. “We are of course glad that the individuals in these cases are generally in good health and good spirits. Being able to identify these individuals with COVID-19 now helps protect not just the Bethel community, but the communities of Harvey County as a whole.”

Some of the confirmed cases reside out of county or out of state when the college is not in session. However, these individuals will be included in Harvey County’s COVID-19 statistics, as Harvey County is their current place of residence.