Bethel practices shut down after positive COVID-19 tests

Mark Schnabel
After starting fall sports practices Saturday, Bethel College has had to suspend them due to 43 confirmed COVID-19 cases among students, about half of whom are athletes. No timetable has been given for the resumption of practice. Competition is scheduled to begin in September.

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Bethel College opened its fall sports practices Saturday.

By Monday, due to COVID-19, those practices had been shut down.

The college reported Monday that there were 50 positive cases of COVID-19 on campus — 43 from students and seven faculty and staff. That was out of 493 tests given over the past couple of weeks as students arrived on campus.

According to BC President John Goering at a news conference Monday afternoon at the Harvey County Courthouse meeting room, about half of the positive cases involved athletes.

“We’ve stopped all fall sports practices,” Goering said. “They did start. There was great enthusiasm that I saw. I saw the soccer teams practicing. I heard the volleyball team was practicing. I heard the football team was practicing. I know our student-athletes were wanting to do that for a long time. We have been in constant touch with the (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics), our national athletic governing body; and on a weekly — and sometimes twice a week — the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference — for understanding when it’s safe to return to practice.”

In recent weeks, the NAIA decided to move the fall sports championships to the spring, while allowing individual conferences to proceed with regular-season competition in the fall. The KCAC presidents council decided to allow fall regular-season competition with a modified schedule that eliminated most nonconference competition, including all nonconference football games.

The schedule also allowed for make-up dates for schools that had to suspend athletics, as well as allowed competition in the spring, if needed.

Goering did not give a timetable for the resumption of competition. Competition is expected to begin Sept. 5 for all sports except football, and Sept. 12 for football.

“We’re going to pause on practices until we find more information,” Goering said. “In particular, we’re going to watch symptom tracking and secondary cases when they start showing up.”

Goering said he didn’t have the information about where the infected students normally reside, but he said they were spread about evenly between in-state and out-of-state students.