Dear Members of the Campus Community and Lehigh Families,
We are seeing a concerning increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases, with 22 new positive cases reported on and off campus since yesterday. There are currently 250 students on quarantine as a close contact to a known or suspected case. In the most recent round of surveillance testing for asymptomatic students, approximately 4 percent tested positive, an increase from less than 1 percent previously.
The dashboard will be updated with this new information. Timely contact tracing, follow-up of cases and the isolation and quarantining of students are being deployed, as well as rigorous cleaning and disinfection protocols.
Given this increase in cases, we are taking a series of steps to further mitigate the risk of spreading the virus on our campus and in the South Bethlehem community.
Scaling back campus activity
Expanding our testing for students, faculty and staff
Reinforcing our expectations of all members of the campus community
Scaling Back Campus Activity
Indoor settings carry a higher risk for aerosol transmission of the virus, especially when masks or face coverings are not worn. Larger gatherings where social distancing is difficult and even intimate gatherings beyond your immediate residence also carry greater risk. We are scaling back indoor activities, further limiting the size of informal gatherings, and asking students to limit social activity to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus.
The following changes will take effect at the indicated times in addition to the actions announced earlier this week:
Wednesday, September 30: Athletic team practices and training remain suspended
Wednesday, September 30: Taylor Gym is closed
Immediately: On-campus and off-campus meetings and gatherings (indoors and outdoors) will be limited to 5 people at most. On-campus and off-campus students should limit their personal interactions to those in their immediate living quarters. On-campus students should minimize trips off campus that might result in exposure.
Saturday, October 3: EWFM and Linderman Libraries will be closed.
Saturday, October 3: Building access to facilities other than residence halls may be limited.
Monday, October 5: All undergraduate classes and most graduate classes will be shifted to remote instruction.
Monday, October 5: All dining will be shifted to takeout. Meals will still be delivered to students in quarantine and isolation housing. In some cases, students quarantining together may be permitted to pick up take out and return immediately to their residence hall. Additional information was sent via e-mail.
Monday, October 5: Research may continue; however, research activities involving undergraduate students will require revised safety plans submitted to Environmental Health & Safety (email@example.com) and undergraduate students who participate in in-person research activities must be identified.
Monday, October 5: Managers and department chairs are instructed to reassess the need to have staff and faculty report to work on campus; remote work is encouraged where possible.
As we scale back campus activity we are also increasing testing on campus and making additional resources available over the weekend for students who are experiencing symptoms and who require testing.
Campus adjustments will be revisited as the results of our additional testing are confirmed and conditions are assessed, but we anticipate these changes will be in effect until at least October 16. Further details regarding these changes will be communicated by the respective areas and available on the website.
We know students benefit from opportunities to connect with others and relieve stress, which many of these resources help to provide. It is our hope that by taking this temporary action now we can mitigate the spread of the virus and keep our community safe and healthy so these activities may resume safely.
Increased Testing and Quarantine/Isolation Information
Beginning next week and continuing in the coming weeks, we will require additional students, faculty and staff to be tested as part of our surveillance testing program. This will help to identify individuals not experiencing symptoms who may unknowingly spread the virus. More details will follow by e-mail in the coming days.
For those experiencing symptoms- Seek care immediately if you are experiencing symptoms that may be COVID-19 related and get tested. Stay home and away from others while awaiting your test results. If you are a student, contact the Health and Wellness Center by calling 610-758-3870 first and you will receive guidance about next steps. For students who are experiencing symptoms over the weekend, we have partnered with the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) to provide access to their 24/7 nurse triage line (1-888-402-LVHN). Speak with a nurse to assess COVID and other symptoms, to answer your questions, and discuss your testing options. A video visit is also an option. Additional information is available in the guide published here. For those who are tested at an alternate location, be aware that if you are not taking a rapid test, your results may take several days to be processed. Transportation to a LVHN Express Care Center will be made available from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for students who are living on campus by calling 610-758-4295. If you are experiencing a true medical emergency and need to visit the hospital or emergency department, you should call 9-1-1. If you receive a positive test from an outside source, be sure to let the Health and Wellness Center know and to upload your results on your health center portal.
During the week, students who are experiencing symptoms can be tested at the Health and Wellness Center. Results are usually available within an hour. Our Health and Wellness Center will have additional staff to support students who are reporting symptoms and need to be tested. There may be cases where the Health and Wellness Center refers you to a partner clinic to be tested.
For faculty and staff who do not feel well, stay home and notify your supervisor or department chair. If you arrive on campus and begin to feel symptoms consistent with COVID-19, immediately notify your supervisor or department chair and go home. You should contact your primary care physician first and follow their advice, including scheduling a COVID-19 test, if recommended. In addition, 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.
For those identified as close contacts- A close contact is defined by the CDC as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic clients, two days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated. The Health and Wellness Center is testing students who are close contacts and may refer you to the outdoor testing tent established for this purpose. The lab turnaround time for these tests is between 24 and 48 hours.
Close contacts are placed on quarantine for 14 days from the date of last close contact. Demonstrating a negative COVID-19 test does not eliminate the need to quarantine. If a person who is a close contact has a test during that time and tests positive, then they become a case and must be in isolation starting from the date of the test (or onset of symptoms) for 10 days. Isolation (required for at least 10 days) is for people suspected of having COVID-19 and who are either awaiting a test or confirmed to be a positive case. Read Lehigh’s isolation and quarantine protocol.
Required Actions and Community Commitments
We commend our students, faculty and staff who are diligently completing the daily COVID-19 Self-Assessment, wearing face coverings, limiting gatherings per guidelines, staying home when sick, social distancing and practicing good health behaviors that showcase what it means to be a responsible community member. We continue to urge students to limit their travel, even locally, and to limit their engagement to the close circle of those with whom they live to further reduce risk.
We continue to emphasize the importance of remaining vigilant, especially in light of these new cases. We remind you of the safety training you completed at the beginning of the semester and refer students to the Fall 2020 Student Social Contract. Any behaviors or actions that show a disregard for the health and safety of others could result in a Code of Conduct violation and disciplinary action up to and including removal from housing, loss of campus access, being asked to leave campus, or suspension from the University. Specifically, this means that effective immediately, any violations of the Social Contract will result in immediate removal from campus housing and interim suspension pending the outcome of a streamlined disciplinary process that prioritizes the health and safety of the campus community. This includes: unauthorized access, failure to wear face coverings, gatherings of more than five people, and any alcohol or drug violations that include a violation of the Social Contract. Any violation of established alcohol policies is concerning, but especially now as impairment leads to poor judgment with regard to safety and puts both self and others in danger.
We ask all to be especially careful and to practice good judgment as we work together to mitigate the spread of the virus in our community. These actions are also critical for maintaining the health and safety of the greater Bethlehem community.
We are taking these steps because the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and neighbors in South Bethlehem is our first priority. We understand these temporary restrictions may add uncertainty and worry, but we must respond quickly and swiftly to this new information. We appreciate your willingness to adjust with us, to support each other, and to move forward together.
Counseling services are available from University Counseling and Psychological Services for students who are experiencing stress or require additional support.
For more details, please visit the COVID-19 Information Center. The All Frequently Asked Questions section and the COVID-19 Dashboard will be updated with the most current and continuously updated information about Lehigh’s response to address COVID-related issues.
The COVID Information hotline has also been temporarily reestablished for inquiries related to this information. Call 610-758-1500 to speak with a Lehigh staff member during the following hours:
Friday, October 2, 2020, until 5:00 p.m. EDT
Saturday, October 3, 2020 9:00-11:00 a.m. EDT
-COVID-19 Response Team