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With practices shut down after just two days because of positive tests for COVID-19, Bethel College on Wednesday afternoon announced a plan to return to action on Friday.


According to the release from the college, the plan "allows ’socially-distanced conditioning’ beginning at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 19. Socially-distanced conditioning will be mandated through 4:59 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21. Beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, Bethel athletic programs will be allowed to begin holding practices with safety measures in place."


The school still intends to start fall sports competition beginning Sept. 5, with football starting Sept. 12.


At a news briefing Monday held with the Harvey County Health Department, Bethel reported 43 positive tests from students returning to campus. According to school president John Goering, about half of the positive tests involved athletes.


Students were tested as they came back to campus. The return to campus was held in stages over several weeks.


"We have had daily consultation with our team physician, Dr. Koontz, our athletic training staff, the Bethel College Emergency Response Team, and the Harvey County Health Department," Bethel athletic director Tony Hoops said. "With their support, we are moving forward with a plan to return to sport starting today."


During the conditioning period, athletes will be required to maintain a 6-foot distance from each other. Athletes and coaches will be required to wear face coverings "where possible as to not impede the act of exercising."


Athletes will be dismissed to locker rooms in stages to keep them distanced.


When practices resume, the safety protocols will remain in place.


The timeline for the return to practice was to allow the county health department to complete contact tracing.


Safety regulations for the campus as a whole include:


• The mandate of wearing masks in all buildings and outside spaces on campus.


• Social distancing.


• On-campus weight rooms being closed.


• Daily health and symptom screening through the #CampusClear mobile app.


"The campus is a safer place today as a result of testing and knowing many asymptomatic students were on our campus," Hoops said. "I want to thank our coaches and student-athletes for handling this situation so professionally. We are blessed to have such amazing people here that care about the safety of our community. I'm excited to see them in action for an exciting year of Thresher Athletics."