MISHAWAKA—On Tuesday, April 6, Governor Holcomb lifted the statewide mask mandate, prompting Bethel to issue a COVID-19 campus update on April 7. In an email sent to students, the COVID Response Team announced that Bethel would be following guidelines from St. Joseph County Health Department, which extended the mask mandate to May 27.
This email also informed students that vaccinations are now available to Indiana residents age 16 and over and stated that vaccinations are “encouraged but not required for our community members.”
Julie Beam, dean of students and a member of the COVID Response Team, said they have been encouraged by the minimal number of cases this semester.
“Right now, our levels continue to be quite low, so as far as we can tell it looks like we will continue at the blue level, we hope, through the end of the semester,” Beam said. “There’s been a bit of Covid this semester, but much, much, much lower than what we dealt with in the fall.”
Bethel has adapted guidelines throughout the semester as more discoveries were found concerning COVID-19 and more changes toward a greater normalcy could be made. This included shorten quarantine periods under certain circumstances and minimization of space required between students in classroom settings (from six feet to three feet).
“I’m just grateful that we have a few final weeks left together, and it’s sunny, and we can be outside, so hopefully that will help us all be healthy,” Beam said.
As the semester winds down, plans are also continuing to be made for the graduation ceremonies, one for the class of 2020 on April 30 and two for the class of 2021 on May 1, one at 10 a.m. for adult and graduate students and one at 5 p.m. for traditional students.
The choir will not be able to sing as it would traditionally. Instead, Michaela Love ‘20, will sing at the Friday ceremony, and McKenna Liebenow ‘21 will play a marimba solo at the 5 p.m. Saturday ceremony.
Except for department deans and professors who have children or grandchildren graduating, the faculty members will remain outdoors to participate in the visitation time following the ceremony, unless this time is canceled due to weather. This allows the event to follow current COVID-19 indoor occupancy guidelines.
Other changes were made to accommodate these guidelines as well, including the decision to have students sit with their families following the walk into the gym. Originally, they were going to be allowed to sit with their friends maintaining a distance of three feet apart, as is currently required in the classrooms. However, St. Joseph County intervened and said that if students were going to sit together, they would need to be spaced six feet apart. This would have cut down on the already limited number of guests students could invite to the ceremony and may not have allowed space for any guests at all, so Bethel decided to arrange the seating into family pods instead.
“That was the only way we could get all the traditional students in there, and their guests,” Registrar Jeanne Fox said. “We’re pushing back all the bleachers, so it’ll be all on the floor, and using assigned seats.”
There are 199 traditional students in Bethel's class of 2021.