Informational COVID-19 response update livestreams held Monday and Tuesday answered questions about Bethel’s academics, student life and future plans.
By Rachel Blood | News Editor
Student and employee livestreams regarding Bethel’s COVID-19 status were live Monday and Tuesday. Director of COVID-19 Operations Kristi Moline opened with the news that Bethel’s positive COVID-19 test rate has steadily remained under 1% recently, echoing the overall decrease of cases in Minnesota. The COVID-19 Alert Level remains at one.
“This is good news for our community,” Moline said. “But it doesn’t mean that we can let our foot off the gas.”
Minnesota Department of Health projections expect an increase in cases in the near future, and students are encouraged to remain vigilant and continue to abide by community health guidelines.
Bethel has maintained routine testing of student athletes since early January to meet NCAA and MIAC competition requirements, and the positive test rate remains low. Quarantine increases may be easily explained by team quarantines if a positive test result of an opposing team is revealed within 48 hours of play.
Upon returning from spring break March 19, residential CAS students are required to submit a test result by March 26. Testing is encouraged before and after the Easter break April 2-5. Navigating a COVID-19 environment in the midst of two major breaks may result in an increase in cases, Moline said, as has been seen directly following previous school breaks.
“Let’s be honest. COVID fatigue – it’s real, on our campus,” Associate Vice President of Student Life Miranda Powers said. “But so is COVID. So are the variants. And so is spring break… this is a critical time for our campus as we navigate these two breaks coming up.”
International travel is strongly discouraged. Recent regulations do not permit international travelers to return to the U.S. without a negative test result. Students, faculty and staff alike are encouraged to limit group exposure, including carpooling.
According to Moline, the current COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed under an emergency use authorization and are not FDA approved, therefore cannot be required. She encourages Bethel community members to do their research on the vaccine and notes that due to the governor mandate, even those with the vaccination must continue to wear masks.
Higher education does not fall into a priority group for the vaccine. Information about vaccine status can be found here. The vaccine is expected to be available to all adults by the end of May.
Bethel recently applied to be a vaccination site through the Minnesota Department of Health and was rejected along with several other MIAC schools. The institution is now offering itself up as a vaccination site through Ramsey County Public Health and the status of said offer is pending.
Associate Provost of Academic Affairs Julie Finnern praised Bethel groups reaching from BUILD staff to Facilities Management, claiming that the result of their hard work “has been the continuation of student learning and academic pursuits.”
“This is what Bethel is about,” Finnern said. “We are about learning.”
Spring classes are largely online for CAPS, Seminary and GS students. Face-to-face classes may occur over the summer, but may also be moved online. Summer 2021 courses will be offered online with the exception of a few classes involving on-campus components.
As Bethel prepares for the possibility of ongoing COVID-19 precautions, many classes will appear synchronously or asynchronously online. If COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, synchronous online classes may be moved to a face-to-face format. Asynchronous classes will remain online.
Vice President of People and Organizational Development Cara Wald informed faculty and staff that current remote work arrangements will continue through spring and summer 2021. She called the two semesters the “last stretch” of remote instruction.
A remote work team with representatives from across the university will release an official remote work policy by late April to be implemented in fall 2021, detailing equipment provisions, remote work location options and childcare expectations.
Powers touched on the accomplishments of the institution as a whole, praising those who have stepped into new roles and the overall adaptation to new technological challenges and class formats. Powers said Student Activities has put on an average of two on-campus events weekly, including Testify, One Body and Women’s History Month celebrations. Upcoming events include a lantern release, escape rooms and potentially off-campus activities.
“Thank you to all of you for making this possible at Bethel this year,” said Powers. “While I don’t have hard statistics, I can tell you that what Bethel is doing is unique, even amongst Minnesota private colleges.”
Powers told viewers to expect an email from President Ross Allen the week of March 22 regarding spring commencement details. The ability for students to walk across the stage, take photos and celebrate their accomplishments is being prioritized.
Questions regarding COVID-19 can be directed to email@example.com or the COVID-19 hotline at 651-635-8500.