1.12.21: Spring Update, Testing, and Arrival Information

A message sent to Lehigh students and families and shared with faculty and staff.

Dear Lehigh students and families, 

We hope this email finds you safe and well—Happy New Year. While the past year was certainly challenging for all, we hope you are as enthusiastic about the semester ahead at Lehigh as we are. 

Over the winter months, staff and faculty have been working diligently to apply the lessons learned from the fall to make enhancements for the spring. We recognize that the safety and mitigation protocols of the pandemic have required the Lehigh experience to look and feel different from past semesters, and we are working to make the spring the best it can possibly be given the circumstances.  We are looking forward to welcoming students to the start of the new academic semester in just a few weeks.

As a follow-up to the message shared at the end of December, we are writing to provide a general update and to describe the specific pre-semester requirements for all students, as well as information for students arriving in Bethlehem. 

Semester Begins February 1

Last week, Pennsylvania updated its COVID-19 restrictions, including loosening its bans on indoor dining and gyms. We continue to monitor conditions and will follow any new guidance, but these updates, which are less restrictive than those that were in place at the time of our December update, indicate we can move forward with our planned spring semester start of February 1. 

Current Conditions

Over the winter break, we saw COVID-19 vaccinations begin to roll out for healthcare personnel and first responders under the first phase of Pennsylvania’s vaccination plan. While we are hopeful this is indicative of light at the end of the tunnel, there is not currently a set timetable for when the vaccine is expected to be available to the general public. The Commonwealth is releasing information by phase, and we will keep the community informed of any major updates. 

Paired with the anticipated surge from holiday gatherings and travel, the winter season continues to bring with it a rise in COVID-19 cases locally and nationally and the emergence of a highly contagious strain of the virus now in several states, including Pennsylvania. Given this variable context, we encourage everyone in the Lehigh community to remain vigilant and cautious, particularly in your personal interactions with others and in settings where the risk of contracting the virus is higher. 

Campus Restrictions

Given the current conditions, we anticipate campus at the start of the semester will see similar restrictions to fall to mitigate the spread of the virus, with limits on the size of gatherings, restrictions on campus visitors, limits on travel, and with social distancing and other health protocols continuing to be in place. Building access and hours will be more limited in the first week of the semester until students are tested and have completed quarantine, as described below. Dining will be take-out only the first week of February. We are committed to making the semester and Lehigh experience as positive and productive as possible given this context and are hopeful that as conditions improve, we can offer more of the in-person activities and opportunities that we know are important and valuable to students. 

Arrival Quarantine and Classes - The University will require a modified quarantine for all students living on and off campus between January 25 and February 7 to facilitate Commonwealth requirements and to support the safety of the campus and Bethlehem community; a negative pre-arrival test does not eliminate the quarantine requirement. 

Many courses with an on-campus component will be fully remote between February 1-5. All courses with an on-campus component will begin on-campus activities by February 8. During modified quarantine, students may leave their on- or off-campus residence for solo activities such as to pick up meals or to take “fresh air breaks,” or to attend the limited classes occurring in person, but should not leave their residence otherwise except for emergency or health-related reasons, such as to fill a prescription. More details are available on the website

Community Expectations

Regardless of where they are living and studying, all students will be required to complete an updated training on the spring COVID-19 expectations and other important steps before the start of the spring semester. When and how to access this training will be shared by Student Affairs. 

COVID-19 Testing

All undergraduate students and some graduate students living in Bethlehem (as described on the website) will be required to complete a combination of COVID-19 testing and quarantining before and upon arrival in Bethlehem and through the spring semester. Students should refer to the below guide for instructions regarding your specific circumstances. 


***A pre-semester checklist that breaks down the pre-arrival and arrival requirements by category is available on the website.  Please read this guidance in detail to understand the requirements for your unique context. While some of this information is highlighted below, we ask that students visit this link and read the information carefully, particularly for students who are planning to arrive or move into a residence hall on campus in the coming weeks.*** 

Pre-arrival and Arrival Requirements for Students Living in Bethlehem 

Testing - We have again partnered with Vault Health to provide our pre-arrival, arrival, and surveillance testing. For those who completed this process in the fall, it will be similar, and we have made enhancements to make the process more streamlined.

Pre-arrival - All domestic undergraduate students who will be living on or off campus in Bethlehem, including those who are remote/not fully remote, and some graduate students (as described on the website), are required to complete pre-arrival testing before returning to Lehigh. You will receive instructions by Wednesday, January 13, and should complete the steps immediately to provide adequate time to receive and send back your test so you can be cleared for accessing campus. For those who don’t complete the necessary pre-arrival testing, your arrival or access to campus may be delayed. Students arriving after February 1 will be required to let us know their arrival date.  

Completing a pre-arrival, or at-home test, is intended to mitigate the risk of students who are unknowingly positive from traveling and transmitting the virus to others; it will also allow residential students who test positive to isolate at home rather than being required to move to University isolation housing. 

Arrival Testing - All undergraduate students living in Bethlehem and some graduate students must also complete two rounds of required arrival surveillance testing on campus. Round one of arrival testing will occur on campus February 1-5 and round two will occur on campus February 8-12 (further detail will be shared by email).

Surveillance Testing - Following arrival testing, there will also be continued required surveillance testing on campus for all undergraduate students living in the Bethlehem area and some graduate students. To support the protection of all students and the larger Bethlehem community, we expanded our surveillance testing requirement to include all undergraduate students living in Bethlehem, including those who elected “fully remote” status this spring. Most students (~100%) will be tested at least once every two weeks. Failure to comply with testing and contact tracing efforts will result in conduct violations.

Faculty and staff with a high level of engagement on campus will also be provided with regular testing. 

Travel - Families should be aware of the current PA DOH requirements for entering the Commonwealth; as of now, all travelers from other states or countries must have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the Commonwealth or quarantine for 10 days upon entry into Pennsylvania. If a traveler chooses to get tested upon entering the Commonwealth or is waiting for test results, the traveler must quarantine for 10 days, or until receipt of a negative test result, whichever comes first. These may change, and the most updated guidelines are available on the PA DOH’s website. 

Students completing the arrival quarantine process will have fulfilled these requirements, but families should be aware of the Commonwealth requirements if accompanying their student during travel. Further instructions regarding the move-in process for residential students will follow from Housing Services this week.

During the semester, students should limit travel away from campus other than in the event of an emergency and follow all health and safety protocols. Students who travel will be expected to follow a testing and quarantining protocol upon return, which will be updated and shared at the start of the semester.  

All students, whether they are living on or off campus, should familiarize themselves with the isolation and quarantine protocol.

Please refer to the pre-semester checklist for the details about your specific requirements and the timeline for when you will receive additional information about how to get tested and other items before the start of the semester.

The COVID-19 Information Hotline has been temporarily reestablished for questions about arrival. Call 610-758-1500 to speak with a Lehigh staff member during the following hours:

  • Today, January 12, between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. EST

  • January 13-15, between 9:00 a.m. and noon 

  • January 18-22, between 9:00 a.m. and noon 

Thank you, and we look forward to the semester starting in a few short weeks. 


Nathan Urban, Ph.D.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs


David Rubenstein, Psy.D.

Executive Director, Health and Wellness Center