Dear Members of the Campus Community and Lehigh Families,
One week after implementing stricter campus restrictions, the results of our most recent surveillance testing of approximately 800 students on and off campus and 180 faculty and staff indicate a positivity rate of less than 1 percent, a decrease from 3 percent last week. These results and the current number of active cases have been updated on the dashboard.
While the data do not indicate that we are back to the low case counts we experienced at the beginning of the semester—and we must continue to be vigilant—these results are encouraging. They indicate the temporary changes made by our community have had a positive impact on flattening the rate of increase in positive cases, particularly among and between undergraduate students living on and off campus.
If these trends continue for the next week, we will look to begin the cautious resumption of a limited number of activities shown to be at lower risk for spreading the virus. We are currently looking at which activities would allow us to resume operations at a pace that is responsible and pragmatic based on the data and what activities are the lowest risk. We will share more specific information next week outlining which areas and activities will resume.
In the interim, we must continue to practice what has shown to be effective in mitigating the spread of the virus, including social distancing, wearing face coverings, and carefully limiting our close personal interactions with others outside of our most immediate contacts.
To be clear, this is a call for the community to keep following the health and safety protocols that have allowed us to see these improvements.
We will look to the results of ongoing diagnostic testing and the future surveillance testing taking place on October 26 and 27 to guide the broader resumption of activity. It is uncertain whether we may be able to completely resume activities as they were at the beginning of the semester, but it is our goal to reopen as conditions and expert guidance allow. If we again start to see an upward trend in positive cases, campus access may be further limited or restricted from opening. Around the world, across the country, and in Northampton County there has been a resurgence in new infections, which we are also closely monitoring.
Students living on campus are permitted to access outdoor spaces while wearing face coverings and observing the five-person limit on all gatherings. Students on and off campus are encouraged to take advantage of the resources available to connect with others safely during this time.
Counseling services are available from University Counseling and Psychological Services for students who are experiencing stress or require additional support. Employee Assistance Program services are available from Integrated Behavioral Health for eligible employees and their dependents.
We once again commend students for responding with great flexibility and responsibility to these shifts and our staff and faculty for their integral efforts in supporting and enacting them. We all knew this semester would look different than ones that came before and recognize the continual adaptation, while critical, has not been easy. The shared efforts of the community are essential to keeping one another safe and healthy.
-COVID-19 Response Team
Important reminders about reporting symptoms and positive tests
We remind students of the importance of limiting travel to only extenuating or emergency circumstances until leaving for Thanksgiving break. Next week we will be providing further clarification on the Return to Campus Protocol for those who have left the Bethlehem area for an extended period of time (such as overnight) and are planning to return to campus before Thanksgiving break.
We were recently made aware of a small number of positive tests that were not reported to the Health and Wellness Center but rather to other campus organizations. For the health and safety of our community, it is essential that any Lehigh student who is living on or near campus in the surrounding community who has been tested for COVID-19 or who has a positive test for COVID-19 must notify the HWC directly by sending a secure message through the Patient Portal.
For students living off campus and with others, it is important for you to develop a shared understanding of what safe and healthy behavior looks like within your immediate living environment. If you test positive for COVID-19, you are strongly encouraged to notify your roommates and personal contacts so that they may take steps to protect themselves and others. And, as stated above, you must notify the Health and Wellness Center. This is critical for your safety and for the safety of others to enable accurate and timely contact tracing.
Read up-to-date criteria on the CDC website for symptoms of COVID-19. Students experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should contact the Health and Wellness Center. As a supplemental resource, we have partnered with the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) to provide access to their 24/7 nurse triage line (1-888-402-LVHN).
Faculty and staff should contact their primary care physician first and follow their advice, including scheduling a COVID-19 test, if recommended. Contact the university’s Employee Health Nurse Case Manager from Lehigh Valley Health Network, Terri Latvis RN, at 610-861-8080 ext. 21237 or Teresa.Latvis@lvhn.org to notify her and discuss next steps.