2.25.21: Easing Campus Restrictions

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

Dear Members of the Lehigh Community and Lehigh Families,

After a period of extremely high positivity rates in surveillance testing and symptomatic testing, COVID-19 student positivity rates for surveillance testing have begun to decline (from 8.5% the week of Feb. 8 to 4.2% the week of Feb. 15 and less than 1% so far this week).  View the Lehigh COVID-19 Dashboard>. 

While we continue to monitor the results of ongoing surveillance and symptomatic testing, this positive sign allows us to begin cautiously easing restrictions on certain aspects of campus operations. 

We continue to emphasize the importance of remaining vigilant and following the safety protocols in place, which we know are most effective for preventing infection. If you are sick, stay home, consult with the appropriate health provider contacts, and follow all quarantine and isolation directions if you test positive for the virus or are identified as a close contact. Keeping infection rates low will allow us to maintain as much in-person activity as possible on campus and to support the health and safety of the Lehigh and South Bethlehem communities. 

If positivity rates continue to decline or remain fairly constant, we will implement the following:

  1. Classrooms - In-person teaching will resume in those classes identified by the spring schedule of classes as having an in-person component. -Effective Monday, March 1.

  2. Gatherings (public lounges) - In response to student requests for safe study and socializing areas, and given what we know about where transmission is least likely to occur, we are identifying additional spaces where students can be together in low-density environments. We will open several lounges in the University Center to allow physically distanced studying and socializing. Other spaces can be used for this purpose, but it is critical that mask-wearing and physical distancing are maintained. -Effective immediately

  3. Gatherings (household limitations) - Students will no longer be limited to interacting with members of their immediate households as implemented previously. Students residing on campus may visit students in residence halls other than their own (as long as no quarantine is in place). All gatherings on and off campus should follow group size requirements as noted below. -Effective immediately 

  4. Gatherings (size) - The limit on the gathering size for indoor spaces will remain at 5Outdoor gatherings of up to 15 people participating in an unsupervised activity will now be permitted. For example, groups of students may want to walk together or play an outdoor game as weather permits. Physical distancing and mask-wearing are still requirements for all gatherings, including outdoors. Classrooms will continue to follow approved in-person class sizes. -Effective immediately 

  5. Double Mask-Wearing - Wearing face-coverings in any public area continues to be required, and we strongly encourage double-masking as recommended by the CDC for protection. Additional disposable masks are available at the surveillance testing center in Zoellner, dining areas, the libraries, and the gym. -Ongoing  

  6. Gym - Taylor Gym will begin plans to reopen with capacity limits and safety modifications in place, including required double-masking and no eating/drinking. Information on hours and access will be posted on the website. The Singleton, Hitch & Maida fitness facility will remain closed at this time because it is not supervised; however, its opening will be re-evaluated based on the positivity rate in this residence hall.

View the updated Campus Status page for a full summary, including areas that remained unchanged. This page will always be updated with the most current operations at-a-glance. We recommend bookmarking it for future reference.

If case counts and positivity rates decline further this week, we will review plans to allow in-person dining at low density in the dining halls. This will specifically depend on the positivity rate of students living in the residence halls. 

One of the most important things that students can do to keep transmission low is to limit the total number of people with whom they have close contact. Socializing with a small “household” of others who are engaged in similar activities will reduce your risk and will help contain infections when they do happen. 

Surveillance testing continues, and we are monitoring the prevalence of COVID in the on-campus and off-campus student populations. Any further changes will be communicated, and we thank you for your cooperation as we work together to support the health and safety of the entire community.

Resources:

-COVID-19 Response Team