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Faculty quarantined at BYU Jerusalem Center after visiting region where tourists had COVID-19

The north side of the BYU Jerusalem Center is shown on April 14, 2018.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

PROVO — Four faculty members at BYU’s Jerusalem Center taught classes Monday from their bedrooms.

The professors taught students sitting in classrooms via Zoom video conferencing after Israel instituted a quarantine on anyone who visited the Bethlehem area in the past two weeks due to the coronavirus.

The four instructors had visited a village on March 3 near Bethlehem. The village was named in the directive issued by the Israeli Ministry of Health. Four Greek tourists had stayed at a Bethlehem hotel before returning home and being diagnosed with COVID-19.

“Our faculty hadn’t been to Bethlehem but did go to Beit Jala nearby,” said Jim Kearl, assistant to the BYU president for the Jerusalem Center. “There’s no evidence our faculty were near or exposed to anything. The Greek tourists were never in Beit Jala.”

Kearl said the four faculty members are not sick, infected or contagious.

A field trip to the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem will go on as scheduled this week, according to a BYU news release. Students will use materials prepared by the faculty for a self-guided trip.

The faculty quarantine will end on the evening of March 16. Regular classes will resume the following day, Kearl said.

Israel previously had announced that anyone in the country fewer than 14 days could not attend a gathering with more than 100 people, which affected worship services at the Jerusalem Center on the weekend for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Faculty, staff and students attended the services, but Latter-day Saint tour groups could not.

“They showed up to attend church, and we had to tell them they couldn’t attend,” Kearl said.

Israel’s Ministry of Health declared Monday that anyone entering the country must enter quarantine for 14 days, effectively stopping tourism, according to the BBC.

That declaration won’t affect the Jerusalem Center this term, Kearl said.