11.13.20: Giving Thanks and Staying Safe

A message sent to students

Dear Students,

As we approach the Thanksgiving break, we wanted to congratulate all of you on a job well done so far this semester. We know this fall hasn’t been easy for our community, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has made for an atypical and challenging semester. You should all take great pride in your hard work and sincere effort over the past several months to achieve academically, connect with your peers, and keep each other safe, both on campus and off. Thank you.  

Many of you are about to return to your homes and loved ones. A holiday homecoming is usually a welcome event, and we’re certain the same is true this year, perhaps even more so. This year, however, requires a bit more of us than a simple journey home. We want to highlight how what you are doing today and this weekend will affect your family’s health and safety over this Thanksgiving holiday.

COVID-19 shows no sign of relenting, and case counts are on the rise across the United States. Here in Pennsylvania, the Health Department recently reported that Lehigh’s home of Northampton County has "substantial community transmission" of the virus. The number of hospitalized patients in the Lehigh Valley is higher now than it has been at any point since April. As you return to your families, please be mindful of the risks you face here in the Lehigh Valley, in transit, and in your home communities. 

We know that pandemic fatigue is real, and it’s safe to say that all of us wish we could return to “normal,” especially as we enter the holiday season. Unfortunately, we cannot. Please remember that you are returning to your loved ones, some of whom may be high-risk, and you have some control over how well you can keep them safe. We are becoming increasingly aware of what activities put people most at risk. Experts have consistently identified indoor activities such as dining, small social gatherings and gyms as situations where transmission is occurring. You may wish to gather with friends before departing campus for the semester, but the potential risk these gatherings pose to yourself, your friends and your family far outweigh the reward in these circumstances.  

As you prepare to return home, we urge you to: 

  • Limit your exposure to people. 

  • Wear masks and practice social distancing.

  • Avoid unnecessary outings, such as trips to the store or dining in restaurants. 

  • Remember that a negative COVID-19 test result is not a guarantee. Even if you test negative, COVID-19 tests typically do not detect the virus until 3-5 days after exposure, and you could become exposed while you await your test results.  

  • Consult the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s official mobile app, COVID Alert PA, which can notify you if you’ve had potential exposure to someone who has tested positive for the virus. 

Thank you, again, for your dedication this fall to your studies, to each other, and to our larger community. We wish all of you a safe, happy and healthy Thanksgiving.


Nathan Urban

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs


Ric Hall

Vice President for Student Affairs