Students and church members at Bethel in Redding, California, are participating online in the wake of a coronavirus outbreak in Shasta County, which includes students at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM).
Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency today reports there are 1,267 cases in the county, 131 of them "active." The spike in cases has caused the county to be downgraded from an orange, or moderate, rating, to a red, or substantial rating.
BSSM currently has 68 active positive cases of COVID-19 among the students.
All students and staff who have been in close contact with these individuals have been instructed to quarantine in their homes as well, according to Bethel Church. As of Wednesday, the total number of positive cases among BSSM students and staff is 137 since school started in early September, which are included in Shasta County's confirmed case total.
The school is using its own contact tracing system, which shows a primary source of transmission as off-campus living situations and social interactions outside of school hours—a trend being experienced at colleges and universities around the nation.
A survey of more than 1,600 American colleges and universities by The New York Times shows at least 130,000 cases and at least 70 deaths since the pandemic began. Most of the cases have been announced since the fall term began. Most of the deaths, however, were reported in the spring and involve college employees, not students.
"More than 35 colleges have reported at least 1,000 cases over the course of the pandemic, none of them in California. Nationally, metro areas like La Crosse, Wisconsin; State College, Pennsylvania; and Gainesville, Florida have had sizable outbreaks at universities," according to the Times. San Diego State University System has recorded the highest number of COVID cases at a California university at 870.
BSSM does not offer housing. Students live throughout the surrounding communities, often with roommates.
"Our school culture values community," said Kris Vallotton, director of BSSM. "In this unprecedented year, our strength in building community presents challenges and a temporary need for change. We deeply care about the health of our students and have strongly communicated to them the importance of protecting our local community in Shasta County by wearing masks, social distancing and staying home when sick. We're increasing both our communication and education to students about the importance of practicing these same safety measures both inside and outside the classroom."
Due to the recent rise in cases, BSSM began a time of shelter-in-place on Oct. 2. All school meetings are being held online only. The temporary shift to distance learning is being implemented to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the student body and Redding community.
Prior to opening, the school followed strict guidelines, which included students arriving early and quarantining for 14 days and being tested.
In addition, Bethel Church canceled its outdoor services for its 11,500 attendees for Oct. 4 and 11.
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