11.19.20: Immediate Campus Actions, Increase in Positive COVID-19 Cases

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

Dear Members of the Campus Community and Lehigh Families,

Over the course of the past 48 hours, we have seen a marked increase in the number of students who are reporting COVID-like symptoms to the Health and Wellness Center (HWC) and testing positive for COVID-19 on both diagnostic and close contact testing. The most current data on active cases will be updated on the COVID-19 dashboard; however, yesterday’s dashboard update returned 34 new active COVID-19 cases, and early results returned from asymptomatic exit tests show an additional 63 positive results and a 9.3% positivity rate.

While we await the remainder of the results, there are steps we are asking our community to take immediately to mitigate the further spread of the virus.

First, for those remaining in the area, we are strongly urging students to limit your interactions to those within your immediate “household.” For on-campus students, this means your residence hall suite or wing of your floor and for off-campus students this means your residence. Interactions within these groups should still be limited and occur only when wearing a mask. Avoid unnecessary outings, such as trips to the store or dining in restaurants.

Lehigh strongly urges students not to travel after receiving a positive test result or being identified as a close contact and to follow the guidance included below if they must travel. All students should notify Housing Services through the Housing and Dining Self-Service portal of your current departure plans and any changes.

We also strongly urge all students, faculty and staff to be extra vigilant and to pay particular care to social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines. For those faculty and staff for whom it’s possible, we continue to encourage remote work.

It’s particularly important for any Lehigh community member who does not feel well, even with minor symptoms, or who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19, to stay home. Do not come to campus, travel unnecessarily, or be around others.

In order to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus on campus, in addition, effective immediately:

  • All classes will be held remotely unless faculty gain approval from the Provost’s office (contact provost@lehigh.edu)

  • Faculty supervisors of research labs should ensure that everyone follows closely their revised safety plans

  • EWFM/Linderman Libraries are closed and will transition to curbside services and remote support

  • The Grind@FML is closed

  • Taylor Gym’s Welch Fitness Center and all recreation areas are closed

As COVID-19 cases are also on the rise in all 50 states, many, including Pennsylvania, are implementing new and stricter mitigation guidelines (see “New PA Guidelines” below).

If You are Experiencing Symptoms

First and foremost, if you feel sick, stay in your place of residence. For positive cases, we continue to deploy contact tracing, follow-up, the isolation and quarantining of students, and cleaning and disinfection protocols.

Faculty and staff should consult with the university’s Employee Health Nurse Case Manager from Lehigh Valley Health Network, Terri Latvis RN (610-861-8080 ext. 21237 or Teresa.Latvis@lvhn.org), and stay home and away from others.

Students who are experiencing symptoms should consult with the HWC at 610-758-3870 or Lehigh’s partner resource through the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), the 24/7 nurse triage line (1-888-402-LVHN), and be tested. Transportation to a LVHN Express Care Center is available for students from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. today through Wednesday, Nov. 25, 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 off campus or the Lehigh University Police Department at 610-758-4200 if on campus and they will coordinate with Bethlehem EMS.

The HWC on-call staff will be available through the Thanksgiving holiday (Wednesday, Nov. 25, through Friday, Nov. 27) for students living on and off campus. 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. This is the most efficient way to notify the HWC of a positive test result. If you test positive from the Vault exit test on Nov. 17 or Nov. 18, the HWC will be notified.

Students Who Test Positive or Are a Close Contact of a Person with COVID-19

  • Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate for a minimum of 10 days.

  • Individuals who are close contacts must quarantine for 14 days. A negative test will not end quarantine if you were identified as having come in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. You need to complete the full 14 days of quarantine. If you are a close contact who is asymptomatic, we ask that students contact the HWC or consult with our partner LHVN resource to be tested and call the transportation number if requiring a ride to be tested.

Lehigh strongly urges students not to travel after receiving a positive test result or being identified as a close contact. If required, students who test positive or are identified as a close contact may travel if they are able to do so by private vehicle, but they should not use public transportation, which includes plane, train, bus, or rideshare.

For on-campus students- Extending into the Thanksgiving break, Lehigh will offer accommodation to on-campus students who require quarantine as a close contact or who require isolation while awaiting a test result or after testing positive. If you have a family member at home who is at high risk for complications due to COVID, you should complete your isolation period at Lehigh or at a location where you can isolate without risking exposure to others. Students living on campus should refer to the guidance shared by Housing Services if you test positive or are identified as a close contact.

Meals- Students in isolation will have meals, including a Thanksgiving meal, delivered throughout the 10-day isolation period, even after the residence halls close for the semester. Students who are quarantining will receive instructions about meal options. All students remaining on campus may order and pick up a Thanksgiving meal in advance on Wednesday, Nov. 25, at Clutch & Go (second floor of UC) from 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. Students in isolation should not pick up.

We have identified additional quarantine and/or isolation space to supplement the space in Trembley Park for isolation housing now and through the Thanksgiving break, if needed.

For off-campus students- If you test positive for COVID-19, you should isolate in your residence and are strongly encouraged to notify your roommates and personal contacts so that they may take steps to protect themselves and others. If you have had a positive COVID-19 test done somewhere other than at HWC, you must upload your test results on the Patient Portal. This is critical for your safety and for the safety of others to enable accurate and timely contact tracing. 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.

Information for Students Leaving Campus

For students living on campus who are returning home to isolate or quarantine, please follow the guidance above and notify us that you are leaving. For all students who are traveling for the holidays, even if you completed an exit test, we encourage you to follow the guidance and testing recommendations of the state or local area to which you are traveling, as these vary and are continuing to be updated. Remember that a negative test result is not a guarantee that you are not infected with the virus or will not be infected in the days following your test. COVID-19 tests typically do not detect the virus until at least 3-5 days after exposure, but may take up to 14 days to detect the virus. Wearing a face covering, practicing social distancing, and practicing positive health behaviors are most critical.

All students leaving and returning to PA are expected to follow any PA-specific orders (see below). Additionally, students who are approved to live in semester break housing or access campus through the break will be required to follow the current Return to Campus Protocol if traveling at any time away from the area.

New PA Guidelines

Given rising cases in Pennsylvania, The PA Department of Health issued new COVID-19 mitigation efforts to slow the spread of the virus, which Lehigh is following and underscores for all students, faculty, and staff.

These include:

  • Travel restrictions- To take effect Friday, November 20, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine issued an order requiring anyone who visits from another state to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the Commonwealth. Pennsylvanians visiting other states are required to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to their return to the Commonwealth or to quarantine for 14 days upon return to Pennsylvania. For students, we expect that all students will follow the order’s requirements before returning to Pennsylvania.

  • Students who have left the campus area (defined as Northampton, Lehigh and Bucks County) but have stayed in Pennsylvania, must comply with the Return to Campus Protocol that outlines Lehigh’s testing and quarantining requirements. Our requirement is two negative PCR COVID-19 tests 5-7 days apart and no more than 10 days before returning to or accessing campus.

  • For faculty and staff, university-related travel has been restricted since March due to health concerns. For personal travel, we expect that faculty and staff follow all quarantining and testing guidelines upon returning to Pennsylvania as described by the order. The order does not apply to people who commute to and from another state for work or medical treatment.

  • Strengthened masking- The new order requires strict masking indoors and outdoors if you are away from your home and aligns with Lehigh’s existing policy for wearing face coverings on campus.

  • Testing protocols- The departments of health and education also issued recommendations for colleges and universities to implement a testing plan for when students return to campus following the holidays, to establish protocols to enforce mask-wearing and physical distancing, and to have adequate isolation and quarantine space. These new recommendations align with Lehigh’s current and spring plans.

The COVID-19 Information hotline has been temporarily reestablished for inquiries related to this information. Call 610-758-1500 to speak with a Lehigh staff member during the following hours:

  • Today, Thursday, Nov. 19, between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. EST

  • Friday, Nov. 20 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. EST

  • Saturday, Nov. 21 between 9:00 a.m. and noon EST

-COVID-19 Response Team