HESSTON — COVID-19 had forced changes at Hesston College, such as all students living on campus having a single room and athletics being moved from fall to spring semesters.


The college also, according to director of marketing Nathan Bartel, instituted a "targeted testing program." Students and staff showing symptoms of the coronavirus will be tested for it.


On Monday, Aug. 31, the Harvey County Health Department, in conjunction with Hesston College, confirmed a cluster of COVID-19 cases on the campus.


The first confirmed cases were found Aug. 25, with others found in the following days.


The cluster includes five confirmed cases of the coronavirus. There have been 17 individuals tested. All of those cases are students.


"Of those COVID-positive students, three have completed their isolation and are preparing to return to campus," Bartel said. "The rest continue to isolate in off-campus locations. It is worth noting that we have also isolated two students out of precaution. Those two were evaluated ... at Newton Medical Center and it was determined those students likely had COVID-19 based on their symptoms even though their tests came back negative."


The college is requiring quarantine of exposed individuals and is performing its own contract tracing.


Bartel said the college does have plans for more widespread testing if several cases are found without a known source of infection.


"Our students, faculty and staff have done a wonderful job planning for and adapting to the challenges of reopening in the current health climate," said Hesston College president Joe Manickam. "Our COVID response team, along with state health officials, has put tremendous effort into a rapid and comprehensive program of contact tracing to create a welcoming, successful and safe educational environment on our campus."


The outdoor portions of the campus have not been closed to the public. A number of activities — such as fall drama productions, musical performances and private music lessons — have been moved outside.


Information and updates on Hesston College’s COVID-19 response can be found at www.hesston.edu/covid-19-response.