COVID-19 update: How is Butler doing halfway through the fall semester?

Butler University is continuing the management of its COVID-19 caseload. Collegian File Photo.

KATIE DEAN | STAFF REPORTER | kldean@butler.edu

Since Butler’s shelter-in-place the first two weeks of the semester, COVID-19 cases on campus have continued to decrease — until this past week, according to the weekly COVID-19 dashboard update

As of Oct. 5, 17 additional students tested positive. 6,404 tests have been conducted on students with a total of 130 cumulative positive cases so far this semester.

Despite the rise, Chris Roman, the department chair and program director of the physician assistant studies program, has been impressed with where Butler stands half way through the semester. He was initially hesitant about how realistic a semester with in-person classes would look, but said he now believes the standing of COVID-19 cases are solid.

“I feel like we’ve plateaued out in a way that’s been pretty decent,” Roman said. “I had a lot of apprehensions early. I would have bet fairly heavily against it working out as it has.”

Due to the many unforeseen challenges this pandemic has presented, the university has had to establish a number of health safety initiatives. Roman said he believes Butler’s implementation of surveillance testing is one more way the university is making sure campus stays safe. Additionally, Roman said the modified arrangements for classrooms are sufficient.

“Given the balancing act of significant and real and important concerns about safety, [and students] also really wanting a lot of the face to face instruction as part of the college experience both in the classroom and living around campus, I feel like it’s balanced pretty well on the whole,” Roman said.

Roman also attributed the state of Butler’s COVID-19 status to the students, who he feels have taken this unprecedented time in stride.

“I think overall, the students have been really open to rolling with things in a way that maybe I didn’t totally expect,” Roman said. 

As campus has not experienced a massive outbreak, Butler has started allowing some in-person events to commence on campus. Butler’s Dance Marathon, Campus Crusade for Christ, Changing Health, Attitudes, and Actions To Recreate Girls, Black Student Union and Meditation Club are some of the organizations that have hosted in-person gatherings and events outdoors.

Butler requires all events to be approved by the Student of Office Activities through the Engage platform. Organizations must have documentation of what the event is for and how the organizations will conduct the operation safely. 

While events need the university’s approval, the actual implementation of an adequate safety plan is left mostly up to the club or organization. 

Cru, a Christian ministry club, held its first in-person gathering a few weeks ago. This outdoor event allowed members to reconnect with one another, rather than talking through a screen, as has become the norm in recent months. Open to all Butler students, the club included a live student band along with icebreaker games and giveaways. 

Maddy Jensen, a junior youth and community development major, is a co-chair for Cru’s weekly meeting team and helped organize the event. To better accommodate social distancing, the event took place outside behind star fountain. Jensen also noted that Cru purchased ID scanners in order to keep track of who was attending. 

Once students checked in, they could find a spot by the garden and sit socially distanced from other groups. Jensen said all students were required to wear a mask and stand six feet apart from one another when checking in as well as when they were enjoying the concert. 

While it is still unlike the normal meetings that Cru typically puts on, Jensen said she was happy to finally have an in-person gathering after so many months away from the other members. It was important to her and the other event planners that these extra precautions were implemented so no one on Butler’s campus felt unsafe. 

“We really wanted to make sure that we followed every rule we needed to because we didn’t want there to be a situation where we got in trouble or anything happened with our organization,” Jensen said. “We didn’t want to offend or upset any students for the ways we were working but we’ve had all positive feedback.” 

BUDM also held an in-person event on campus earlier in September. Usually, BUDM hosts FTKolor Wars, which included yard games and a color throw. Since gathering all participants to be doused in colored powder would not be COVID-friendly, BUDM transformed FTKolor Wars into FTKarnival to still provide the same exciting experience. 

Trent Thompson, a senior marketing major and president of BUDM, has been working since summer to make this event possible. Thompson said he was eager to find a safe way to make this event happen. 

Thompson said in order to hold the event, BUDM had to get it approved two weeks in advance and fill out a form explaining the safety measures they were implementing and estimated attendance. 

To limit student crowds and comply with Butler’s safety guidelines, the event was broken up into two time slots, one from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. and another from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. When students registered for the event, they got a sidewalk square to decorate with chalk and a shirt to tie dye. 

“I think the Butler community as a whole was taking this very seriously and the vast majority of the students were smart about following the rules and staying six feet apart,” Thompson said. “We never had any issues about people not wearing masks, which I was very pleased to see.”

CHAARG, a student fitness organization, has also had to adjust the operation of their club. Normally, students travel to various fitness studios in the Indy area, but they now exercise outdoors by Holcomb Gardens.

Junior marketing major Bridget Burke is the vice president of media within CHAARG and has seen the different changes that the club has had to make. 

“We’ve had to measure out space so everyone’s six feet apart and have everyone check in and make sure they do their health screening before they come,” Burke said. 

While students were unable to travel to fitness studios, they still benefited from classes taught by instructors from Pure Barre, The Daily Method and Broad Ripple Fit Club

“We had 30 or 40 girls there at both of our events, which is nice to be able to have such a big group thing at a time like this,” Burke said. “We are all wearing masks and we’re at least six feet apart at all times.”

While this semester continues to change and adapt, Roman believes the containment of COVID on campus is a testament to the Butler community’s commitment of ensuring campus continues to operate safely.

“I’ve been really impressed with their willingness to put their shoulder to the situation,” Roman said. “That’s been really awesome to see people that are in the Butler community stand up and take responsibility.”

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