4.8.21: A Message From the COVID-19 Response Team

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

Dear Members of the Lehigh Community and Lehigh Families, 

Results returned so far from this week’s surveillance testing of all students living in the Bethlehem area indicate a 0.6% positivity rate, and there are 2 active faculty/staff cases. This is a hopeful indication that we have mitigated the moderate increase in cases we experienced last week, and we can further resume some additional campus activities.

Gatherings

As the weather becomes nicer, outdoor gatherings provide a safer way to connect with others. Given the improvement in this week’s testing positivity rate, we will cautiously further open up outdoor activity:

  • Informal gatherings- Effective immediately, informal outdoor gatherings are approved for 25 people or fewer (previously the limit was 15). The limit on informal indoor gatherings will remain 10 people or fewer. 

  • Formal gatherings- Effective immediately, outdoor gatherings that are supervised by Lehigh staff/faculty and therefore considered “formal gatherings” are approved for 75 people or fewer. Formal indoor gatherings supervised by Lehigh staff/faculty are approved for 25 people or fewer, with all safety and social distancing measures in place, such as meetings or small-group events held in Lehigh facilities. Larger gatherings (indoors or outdoors) will require approval by the CRT.

We recently approved several outdoor events and in-person activities, including fitness classes, and encourage students and community members to take advantage of these opportunities to connect while continuing to follow all health and safety protocols. The Campus Event Advisory Group (CEAG) will continue reviewing student event and activity requests from student organizations. Please be reminded the outdoor tent spaces remain available for reservation

COVID Surveillance Testing

Next week, we will move back to surveillance testing 50-60% of students living in the Bethlehem area, unless there is a significant increase in the COVID positivity rate that warrants enhanced testing. 

Vaccination

Recent information regarding vaccination opportunities was shared with faculty, staff and RAs/TAs/GAs eligible in Phase 1B of Pennsylvania’s vaccine rollout. Students received an update earlier today; the Lehigh Valley Health Network is offering vaccines to all students living in congregate settings now. Per the Pennsylvania Department of Health, all Pennsylvanians 16 and older—including all undergraduate and graduate students—will be eligible for vaccination beginning April 19.

We strongly encourage all community members to get vaccinated when they are able to do so. Getting vaccinated is the most impactful action and tool we have to protect ourselves and one another against the virus and to ensure we can resume a more normal living, learning, and working environment. Data shows that all of the currently available vaccines are also 100% effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID.  

The COVID Response Team is reviewing and implementing changes to Lehigh protocols for fully vaccinated individuals; for example, following CDC guidance, Lehigh does not currently require fully vaccinated individuals who come into close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus to quarantine (unless they develop symptoms).  Updates and information will be shared on Lehigh’s dedicated vaccination webpage. For recent messages, please also see below. 

If there is an increase in the COVID-19 infection rate on campus, the COVID-19 Response team may reverse course on opening gatherings or increase other mitigation measures; however, we are optimistic that as COVID-19 infection rates remain constant or decline and with the further expansion of vaccination opportunities, our community can continue to move closer and closer toward more normal campus life.  

Further Reading:

Resources: