11.12.20: COVID-19 Surveillance Testing Results

A message sent to members of the campus community and Lehigh families

Updated Nov. 12, 7:10 PM: The positivity rate of 2.6% refers to the positivity rate for students, faculty and staff, not just students as stated in the message. The dashboard reports the correct positivity rate for students. 

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Dear Members of the Campus Community and Lehigh Families, 

The most recent COVID-19 asymptomatic surveillance testing of approximately 700 students on and off campus returned 20 total positives, a positivity rate of ~2.6 percent. Approximately 100 faculty, staff and contract employees were also tested, returning 0 positive results. This increase in positivity rate among students is concerning and we strongly encourage all students to limit their contacts, especially in any setting in which wearing a mask is not possible. 

This round of testing concludes our required surveillance testing for the fall semester, with voluntary exit testing for students being held Nov. 17 and 18. We have extended the deadline to sign up for asymptomatic exit testing until 5 p.m. today, Thursday, November 12. We are offering these tests to students living in residence halls and off-campus students who are not fully remote. Please note: this testing is not for students experiencing symptoms. Students who are experiencing symptoms should contact the Lehigh Health and Wellness Center (HWC) at 610-758-3870 to assess and be tested (the HWC remains open for all students, on and off campus, now and through the break). 

There may be cases where the HWC refers students to a partner clinic to be tested or to consult with our partner resource and the 24/7 nurse triage line (1-888-402-LVHN) through the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN). 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. If you receive a positive test from an outside source, be sure to let the HWC know and to upload your results on your health center portal.

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 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.

For those who tested positive, 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.

These results and the current number of active cases will soon be updated on the dashboard

Across the country, there has been a rise in new infections. As a point of comparison, the positivity rate for Pennsylvania is 7.9 percent; the rate in Northampton County, where Lehigh is located, is 5.1 percent at the time of this report. Now more than ever, we underscore the importance of remaining vigilant as we approach the holidays. This is especially true for anyone who will be interacting with people at high risk for severe cases of COVID-19. 

Information for students, faculty and staff through and following the Thanksgiving break: 

  • Symptoms- First and foremost, if you feel sick, stay in your place of residence and do not go to class or other campus locations. Consult with either the HWC (for students) or the university’s Employee Health Nurse Case Manager from Lehigh Valley Health Network, Terri Latvis RN (for faculty/staff), and stay home and away from others. These resources will continue to be available and the HWC remains open for all students (on and off campus) through the break. 

  • Asymptomatic individuals can test positive for COVID-19. Even if you are not experiencing symptoms, be sure to continue practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings, and practicing good health behaviors such as washing your hands frequently. 

  • Positive Test Results- 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 and who has been tested for COVID-19 or has a positive test for COVID-19 notify the HWC directly by sending a secure message through the Patient Portal.

  • Exit Testing and Preparing to Leave Campus- Exit testing for eligible students who signed up will be held Nov. 17 and Nov. 18. All students should limit close contacts as much as possible for the 10-14 days before beginning close contact with friends or family, especially those who are at high risk. This is especially important if traveling by air, via public transportation or by other means that result in close contact with large numbers of people. Extending into the Thanksgiving break, Lehigh will offer accommodation to on-campus students who require isolation or quarantine due to a positive test result and strongly encourages that a student not travel after receiving a positive test result or being identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive. 

  • Gatherings- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance on travel and gathering around the Thanksgiving holiday. Even small household gatherings can carry significant risk for spreading the virus. When possible, celebrating virtually is encouraged, and families should familiarize themselves with the steps they can take to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus to its most vulnerable members. Also consider the community levels of COVID-19 in your surrounding area, exposure during travel, the location and duration of the gathering, and who will be attending. Read more.  

  • Semester Break Housing- Students who are approved to live in semester break housing will be required to follow the current Return to Campus Protocol if traveling at any time away from the area (see the protocol for specific information). The requirements include quarantining before coming to campus if traveling from a hotspot state and following all testing requirements.

  • Building Access- Beginning November 24, building access will be restricted to faculty, staff and graduate students, as well as undergraduate students who are granted special permission to live in semester break housing or access campus. The libraries, the University Center (used for dining over the break), and Taylor Gym may have limited access; information and updates will be available on the website.

  • Roommates Living Off Campus- 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 HWC. This is critical for your safety and for the safety of others to enable accurate and timely contact tracing.  

  • If you travel and are returning to an off-campus residence at any time, you should quarantine if traveling from a hotspot state. If a roommate returns from a hot spot state and is required to quarantine, you are not required to quarantine but should self-monitor for symptoms. If the traveler becomes symptomatic and tests positive, then all household members must quarantine and be tested. You should limit time spent in communal and shared spaces as much as possible and wear a mask when it is necessary to share spaces. Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding or other items with roommates. Limit access to your residence to those who live there, disinfect “high-touch” surfaces daily and follow all other CDC guidelines

  • Dashboard- The results of ongoing diagnostic testing and the results of the voluntary exit testing will continue to be reported on the COVID-19 dashboard. Please note: Beginning Monday, November 23, in anticipation of the planned shift to remote instruction and exams after the Thanksgiving break, the dashboard will be updated bi-weekly unless there is a significant increase in cases that warrants more frequent sharing. Cases counts will continue to be monitored in real-time and all other processes in terms of treating, testing and caring for students and contact tracing will remain in place. 

  • Spring Testing/Protocols- Further information for all students regarding testing and quarantining protocols for the return to campus will follow closer to the start of the spring semester. 

We want to thank the students, staff and faculty who participated in our surveillance testing program, and we are grateful to all members of the Lehigh community for your close attention to health and safety protocols throughout the fall semester. Please continue to be vigilant in the months ahead to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. 

-COVID-19 Response Team

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