As students return to campus for interim classes, Bethel’s COVID-19 Alert Level increases.
By Sarah Bakeman
Bethel University sent out an email last night alerting students and staff that the COVID-19 alert level has been increased. All classes have been moved to virtual learning through Jan. 26, unless in-person instruction is necessary for the course. With 117 positive cases in the past 14 days, level three, which indicates that “campus resources are becoming seriously depleted or exhausted and processes are ineffective in mitigating the spread of COVID-19,” has been put into effect. Level four, which calls for the shutdown of all campus-based operations, is the final alert level.
On Friday, Bethel’s COVID-19 team presented Bethel President Ross Allen with recommendations in response to campus data as well as data from the CDC and MDH. Last night, those recommendations were sent to students and staff.
“This decision was focused on the learning experience and the insight we’ve gained throughout the past 2 years,” Allen said. “We’ve seen trying to combine virtual and in-person is challenging for both students and faculty. Given interim’s condensed time, each day an isolated or quarantined person misses class has a greater impact than during a normal semester.”
This announcement comes five days after students were invited back to campus for interim after Christmas break. Sunday saw one positive case, which was followed by 10 positive cases on Monday and about 30 positive cases on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Among these cases, 93 are CAS students, six are adult, seminary and graduate students and 18 are employees.
The surge of cases has filled up quarantine spaces, meaning some students may be asked to go home, if possible, for their isolation. In addition to this, on-campus rapid tests will not be administered until Monday and will be primarily given to those showing symptoms.
After an initial email detailing the heightened alert level and virtual learning, Bethel sent a follow-up informing students and staff of the broader impact the alert would have. As of right now, campus operations such as the library, Wellness Center and residence halls will operate as usual. Some campus activities may be modified to protect against the spread of the Omicron variant, although further details have yet to be released.
Students are also urged to limit travel, gather in smaller groups, be aware of close contacts and stay at home if not feeling well.
“The COVID-19 team… will provide us the information necessary to plan for the spring semester,” Allen said. “I’m grateful for their work and the work of our students and employees to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our community”
The Office of Student Life asserted that many Omicron cases have been mild, but students are still urged to make choices that will keep the Bethel community safe and healthy.