Dear Members of the Lehigh Community and Lehigh Families,
Happy New Year! We hope this email finds you well and that students are enjoying the winter break. With the start of the spring semester less than three weeks away, we are writing to share updates and information about student arrival.
The fall semester required adjustments to our health and safety protocols along the way, and while COVID is still with us, we are looking forward to building on the successes of our first semester fully together in person to support a safe and successful spring on campus. The first day of classes will begin as planned on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, with most instruction occurring remotely during the first week and in-person instruction resuming on Monday, Jan. 31. Student arrival will move forward and residence halls will open as scheduled; move-in instructions will follow from Housing Services. We will implement some adjustments to our arrival requirements and first-week plans as noted in further detail below.
As students travel back to campus from around the world, the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly. In Northampton County, COVID case counts are at their highest levels ever. The good news is we have learned much as a community about how to prevent the spread of the virus while moving forward with our daily lives. High vaccination rates and required boosters for our Lehigh community reduce the risk of severe illness from COVID and the spread of the virus on our campus and in South Bethlehem. Arrival testing and testing throughout the semester will provide an additional layer of protection.
Our goal is to limit the spread of the virus early in the semester in order to preserve in-person activities throughout the remainder of the academic year.
Arrival Testing: Students who have any COVID symptoms should not travel to campus and should delay their arrival until they have a negative COVID test. We will require students to complete a Lehigh-supplied COVID test upon arrival on campus and to obtain a negative test result before participating in academic or social activities. Students testing positive on arrival will need to isolate immediately after testing. Students (such as graduate students) who are already routinely accessing campus during the break will pick up an “arrival” test beginning the week of Jan. 17. Details of the location and timing of testing will be provided in a subsequent message.
Depending on the spread of Omicron and on the availability of testing, we may require pre-arrival testing to prevent large numbers of students arriving on campus and immediately testing positive and requiring isolation. More details will be shared as soon as possible and with enough time before the start of the semester.
Ongoing Testing During the Semester: Symptomatic, close contact and surveillance testing will continue as during the fall semester, with the frequency of surveillance testing being determined by the prevalence of COVID cases on campus. Surveillance testing will be at least weekly for unvaccinated students, faculty and staff.
Reporting Positive COVID Tests: Students who have recently tested positive for COVID must submit documentation of their positive test to the Health and Wellness Center through the Patient Portal and do not need to complete pre-arrival or arrival testing.
Most instruction will be remote during the first week of classes (Jan. 24-28). Some classes and labs will be in person upon the request of the instructor. Students will be informed by Jan. 15 about which of their classes will be in person. This shift will allow students time to return to campus, get a COVID test, and, if needed, complete their isolation period before their in-person classes begin. In this way, we will limit disruptions associated with students missing in-person classes because of isolation or quarantine required in the first week of the semester. We anticipate that starting in the second week of the semester, all instruction will proceed in the mode originally planned. There is very little evidence of COVID transmission occurring in the classroom when masks are worn properly, although conclusive data on the transmission of the Omicron variant in these settings is not yet available.
Dining will be takeout only Jan. 23-30. This includes all dining locations and retail locations that are open (e.g., Rathbone Dining Hall, Cort @ Lower UC, Brodhead, and Grind@FML). Check the dining website for hours and more information.
Fraternity and Sorority (IFC and Panhellenic) Recruitment
Spring recruitment activities previously planned to be conducted in person will be shifted to virtual. The Office of Fraternity & Sorority Affairs will provide specific instructions to chapters and registered students.
Shortened Isolation and Quarantine
We have updated our isolation and quarantine protocol to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recently updated guidance that provides for shortened isolation periods in some cases.
Masks continue to be required indoors at Lehigh regardless of vaccination status when around others, and we are additionally recommending that if possible, you wear a disposable surgical mask, a KN-95 or a KF-94 mask, rather than a cloth mask, as these masks may be more effective at preventing transmission.
Boosters Due Jan. 14
As a reminder, booster documentation for compliance with the university’s booster requirement is due next Friday, Jan. 14, for continuing students, faculty and staff. Please monitor CDC recommendations for eligibility and timeframes (the CDC recently updated its recommendations for those who received the Pfizer vaccine). We provided the instructions for students to submit their documentation, and faculty and staff will receive further instructions this week. Additionally, as a point of clarification, if your medical or religious circumstances have changed since receiving the original vaccination series and you intend to submit a new request, follow the instructions provided on the FAQ linked on our Vaccination Resources Center: "Can I submit a medical or religious exemption request for the COVID booster?"
Our campus protocols and any changes continue to be noted on the Campus Status page, the COVID Information Center, and Frequently Asked Questions page. The university’s COVID Response Team continues to meet regularly to monitor case counts, hospitalization rates, and other factors, and to adjust campus protocols as needed in accordance with public health guidance.
We are looking forward to welcoming students back to campus in a few short weeks, and to a successful and productive semester together this spring.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Vice President for Finance & Administration
Vice President for Student Affairs