NORTH NEWTON, Kan. (KSNW) – Health officials say they have found a cluster of coronavirus cases at the Bethel College campus in North Newton.
The Harvey County Health Department says 482 people have been tested. Of those, 50 from Bethel College have been confirmed as having COVID-19, including 43 students and seven faculty members. School officials say 22 student-athletes tested positive and only two showed minimal symptoms while the other 20 were asymptomatic.
The college requires all students, faculty, staff and administrators to be tested as a precaution. That is when the cluster was identified. It means the school is moving to Code Orange which means students are asked to stay on campus and avoid bringing visitors.
“We would rather not have community members on campus right now and we have told students who are there to stay on campus. So we are trying to form the proverbial bubble and any movement in and off-campus we want to reduce that as much as possible,” says President Jon Gering.
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.
“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 Gering. “And one of the reasons we did the testing was we wanted to understand the prevalence of COVID-19 in the population and address it before the start of the fall semester, which is Wednesday, August 19th.”
The people who have tested positive are self-isolating, either at their on-campus housing or their permanent residence. The Bethel Emergency Response Team and the Harvey County Health Department will monitor them regularly and will follow up on all their close contacts.
“If you are called for contact tracing or as a case a potential case, please respond and talk to the individual. We need to get some information,” said Lynnette Redington, Director of the Harvey County Health Department.
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.
It has some people wondering about the process of starting school, tracking, and recording the numbers.
“I am an advocate for online learning right away remote until we see cases die down in Kansas and Harvey County,” says Harvey County resident Avery Gatz.
“It is contained there. That is what I feel,” adds another resident Phil Stallings. “I do not agree with the way it is being recorded.”
Students are also using an application called #CampusClear to report anonymous self-screening information.
Those who want more information can visit BethelKS.edu.