Threshpective: Retesting everyone after breaks
BETHANY POWLS Editor-in-Chief
Over the months of August and September, Bethel College reached a point where all (or nearly all) non-commuting students moved on to campus. While this is certainly something to celebrate, the procedure for reopening campus came with its own set of complications.
Prior to August 16, Bethel College had been providing tests for students, with a two day turnaround for results. The day before I had intended to return to campus, I was sent an email that told me that I would not be able to move-in at my scheduled time due to an overwhelming number of positive tests (around 10% of the student body). This happened within two days of the start of classes. To say that this was a major inconvenience is an understatement.
Additionally, I was told just as the weekend started that I would have to be tested on my own time, locally, and be able to send in a negative test result before I would be allowed to move in. It took a few days to be able to schedule a test at a local clinic and another three days to receive the test results. I was able to move in two Saturdays after I had received the initial email.
The issue that arose with testing on campus was that, once students were tested, they were free to roam campus, interact with others and go about their business without knowing whether or not they were positive or negative. This, I’m sure, made contact tracing incredibly difficult when positive tests were released. In short, it would be better for people to be tested prior to returning to an institution.
For example, regardless of whether or not testing will be an issue come spring semester, the college should establish a plan that requires students to be tested prior to returning to campus. Additionally, if there is now a way to conduct rapid testing, that should be done prior to move in and extra exposure, in order to prevent a situation similar to the start of the semester. As students will be travelling significantly farther outside of the “bubble” than they had for weekends, it is more likely that they will be exposed to the virus.
Retesting during the semester does not seem necessary to me unless someone experiences symptoms. Bethel College is basically a bubble at this point, so it is highly unlikely that an unmanageable spread will occur. The key word here is “unmanageable.” Bethel is well-equipped with both resources, space and staff available to deal with positive cases. In the event that a spread becomes unmanageable, that is what our pre-established color code system is for, in addition to an exorbitant amount of “preventative” safety procedures.
Members of campus that are in charge of implementing status changes for the school should pay special attention to the surrounding area, and collaborate with local health professionals, as they are already doing. In keeping touch with Harvey County, the closest relative outside influence, the school can monitor the likelihood of an outbreak based on information that they receive from the Health Department.
Students need to realize that there are some things that are out of our control… to try to control said things would create a whole new set of conflicts and complications that will likely only make the tension in the situation worse. What the institution can control is the regularity of testing based on internal and locally external happenings.
On a personal level, make decisions according to your needs and the needs of those around you, and trust the institution to deal with the broader implications.