2.5.21: Changes in Campus Status, COVID-19 Testing

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

Dear Members of the Campus Community and Lehigh Families,

Today will conclude the first week of arrival testing for all students who are required to be tested in the Bethlehem area. The results we are seeing so far indicate a higher COVID-19 positivity rate for surveillance testing than we saw at the beginning of the fall semester and more positive COVID-19 results from symptomatic testing, which is concerning. Below are the initial actions we are taking in response. Our goal following initial quarantining and arrival testing was to preserve as much in-person activity as possible; however, if the positivity rate for surveillance testing increases, further campus restrictions will be necessary.

What to Know-

-Initial results returned from nearly 2,000 surveillance tests indicate a positivity rate of 2.2% for students who are not experiencing symptoms.

-The positive COVID-19 cases are spread out among different class years, with a disproportionate number of positives occurring for students living off campus and also for those identified as participating in Greek recruitment (more guidance as a result of this data is below).

-The Health and Wellness Center is additionally seeing and testing symptomatic students; more than half of these tests have returned COVID-positive results in the past few days. The positivity rate for symptomatic testing is a very significant concern.

-The results of this initial testing will continue to be updated on the Lehigh COVID-19 Dashboard.

Campus Changes-

-Given the higher transmission risks associated with in-person dining, we will delay the planned shift to in-person dining and continue with takeout-only dining next week.

-All other planned shifts in the campus status will tentatively proceed on Monday, including the opening of the libraries and the resumption of in-person classroom activities, which are not shown to be a major source of spread for the virus.

-While modified quarantine will also end, we strongly urge members of the campus community to follow protocols and proceed with caution, as described above.

-Students involved in Greek recruitment will receive additional information from the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs about continuing virtual recruitment and postponing any planned in-person small group activities previously scheduled for this weekend and next week.

-The COVID-19 Response Team will be monitoring the ongoing return of results for both surveillance and symptomatic tests over the weekend and early next week to determine if further changes to campus status are warranted.

-If the positivity rate for surveillance testing increases, we will further restrict campus activity and the campus status page will be updated.

What Individuals Need to Do-

-Given the high positivity rate we are seeing for symptomatic tests, if you are experiencing symptoms, you should assume that it is possible you may have COVID-19 and should self-isolate to prevent potential transmission (don’t wait until you can be tested). Students should contact the Health and Wellness Center (610-758-3870) or call the Lehigh Valley Health Network 24/7 nurse triage line at 1-888-402-LVHN to arrange to be tested and to get additional guidance. Faculty and staff should contact Terri Latvis, RN, the university’s Employee Health Nurse Case Manager from Lehigh Valley Health Network, at 610-861-8080 ext. 21237 or Teresa.Latvis@lvhn.org.

-Students, staff and faculty should limit their close contacts. All members of the university should ask themselves how many people have been close contacts in the last two days and how they can limit this number to facilitate careful contact tracing; it is critical that anyone who has been potentially exposed to COVID be made aware so they can take the appropriate steps.

-All students, and especially those living off campus, should be attentive to the current limit on gatherings and also consider avoiding gatherings outside of your immediate household unit. This is especially important considering the upcoming Super Bowl weekend; do not host or attend parties or large gatherings.

-Obey social distancing, wear face coverings, and follow proper health protocols to keep yourself and others safe.

-People who have had COVID should not consider themselves “immune” or unable to transmit the virus, as there is clear evidence that people can be reinfected with COVID-19.

What’s Next-

-As you know, arrival testing continues next week for students living in the Bethlehem area. Students should be sure they have signed up for their appointments as described in this message. Faculty and staff with frequent campus interactions will also receive information about regular surveillance testing beginning next week.

-We will be looking at diagnostic and surveillance testing and the positivity rate of arrival testing to determine if further changes to the level of campus access may be warranted.

Thank you for your support and cooperation. Again, seeing this number of positive cases this early in the semester is concerning, and it will take all of us following all health and safety protocols to prevent further spread and additional disruption to in-person activities. We encourage you to review the resources available on the website for additional guidance and information about Lehigh’s health and safety measures.


Further Reading:

-COVID-19 Response Team