Health & Safety | Annual Report 2020

Annual Report 2020

Health & Safety

No part of campus was impacted more by the pandemic than the Health & Wellness Center. In addition to the creation of two separate on-campus clinics, the HWC began conducting surveillance COVID-19 testing during the fall semester, as well as contact tracing, all while maintaining their typical services.

David Rubenstein

David Rubenstein

Executive Director of Health & Wellness Center

How early did COVID-19 hit your radar at the Health & Wellness Center (HWC), and what kind of planning took place to prepare for the possibility of the pandemic hitting Lehigh?

In January of this year, we began to pay increasing attention to information regarding an outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China. At the time, there were also cases in Beijing and Shenzhen as well as in Thailand and Japan being reported. Given that we had many international students returning from winter break at the time, the HWC began to review more closely the epidemiology, symptom constellation, how the virus spread and strategies to mitigate risk. Consequently, these included the now very familiar wearing of face coverings, assessing for travel history prior to symptoms onset, smaller-scale contact tracing for exposure history, evaluating symptom picture, contact with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and follow-up testing as required. Concomitantly, the university leadership also began to involve HWC in their review, discussion and planning to develop strategies to mitigate very early on in the pandemic.

How has the HWC been able to maintain its regular services while also focusing on managing COVID-19 testing and any potential cases?

Over the Spring 2020 semester, we began planning and preparing for the Fall 2020 semester and how to continue to provide a majority of traditional health services offered by the HWC, while also managing the pandemic. This led to the creation of two separate HWC clinics, one designed to see students presenting with non-COVID-19-like symptoms and health issues and one clinic designed to evaluate, assess and test students presenting with COVID-19-like symptoms. This strategy allowed us to mitigate risk by minimizing potential contact between students.

There have undoubtedly been many challenges over this past year. What has been the most difficult to handle?

The two periods during the fall semester where we had a large number of cases occur quickly created a challenging situation for us to keep pace with the contact tracing required. Lehigh staff across the university, including volunteers, amazingly stepped up to offer their services, help, support and talent in working with the HWC in reaching out to students to provide close contact tracing. This was instrumental in helping us keep pace with the periods of increasing cases.

The HWC also has stressed mental health awareness amidst lockdowns and social distancing. Until social gatherings can resume as normal, how can students, faculty and staff best take care of their mental health?

Focusing on meaningful emotional connection amidst social distancing is an important element in maintaining mental health and well-being. Similarly, finding areas which give meaning, finding connection with experiences that inspire, and allowing self-compassion to your own challenges, struggles and difficulties will facilitate empathy, support and care for others—which also enhances well-being.

COVID-19 testing tent on campus

Virus Surveillance

COVID-19 Testing

For the fall semester, Lehigh required students to undergo COVID-19 testing and produce a negative test prior to arriving on campus. Lehigh partnered with Vault Health to provide students with an at-home saliva-based COVID-19 test to complete in advance of their arrival on campus. The goal of this testing, combined with quarantining requirements for those arriving from hotspot areas, was to prevent the introduction of the virus to campus by asymptomatic students traveling to campus.

Once students were on campus, surveillance testing continued through early November at approximately two-week intervals. Students, faculty and staff who were not fully remote were selected at random for the surveillance testing, which was administered between two tents—one in Tamerler Courtyard and the other outside of the STEPS building.

Lehigh also provided voluntary COVID-19 exit testing at the end of the fall semester to any student living in residence halls or off-campus students who were not fully remote.

13,061 Total surveillance tests conducted on campus during the Fall 2020 semester. Surveillance testing is performed on students without symptoms or other indications of possible COVID infection.

Campus Services

Health & Wellness Center Expands

The Health & Wellness Center expanded over the summer and now includes two separate locations on campus to better serve students throughout the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The original location—on the third floor of Johnson Hall—remains and a new clinic location was added in Trembley Park 7 and 8, just south of the University Center.

The expansion allows the Health & Wellness Center to provide service to all students while separating those who are ill with COVID-19 symptoms from those who are not. Students with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 are being directed to health professionals at Johnson Hall. Those who are not presenting with any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and want to schedule routine visits, gynecological exams, reproductive health consultations, STI evaluations and treatments, immunizations, blood work or medication consultation, or who are injured, are directed to the Trembley Park location.

Student Well-being

Mental Health and Wellness

Lehigh's Counseling & Psychological Services center has remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and its counselors are available 24/7. To further assist students during these challenging times, Student Affairs compiled a collection of additional resources related to mental health and wellness, including disability support services, academic support and virtual activities.

Faculty, staff and their families, meanwhile, have been invited to take advantage of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which is managed by Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH). IBH has served many university employees through the hardships of the past seven months and provides confidential access to professional counseling services.