7.29.21: New Mask Requirement, CDC Guidance

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

Updated August 30, 2021:

  • In addition to the mask requirements on campus, we recommend that you wear masks when indoors off campus, especially when in large groups. Many students who have tested positive have described attending events—mostly off campus, but some in the residence halls—where many people gathered unmasked. These kinds of events pose the greatest risk for spreading COVID.

  • NEW: In the interest of further reducing the potential for transmission, we have updated our masking policy to prohibit the removal of masks in the classroom. Masks must be worn in classes at all times, with no exception for eating or drinking.

  • Masks are not required outdoors; however, when with others, even in outdoor settings, be mindful of social distancing and consider wearing a face mask for additional mitigation of transmission.


Dear Members of the Lehigh Community and Lehigh Families,

We are announcing a change in Lehigh’s masking policy to require both vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear masks when indoors in public spaces. This policy will take effect Monday, August 2. Masks are not required outdoors, but everyone should keep a mask readily available.

The emergence of the more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19, and evidence that vaccinated people infected with this variant can spread the virus to others, has led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to update its mask guidance. We are updating our masking policy in response to this change from the CDC.

Prior CDC guidance had stated that individuals who were fully vaccinated could go without masks in both indoor and outdoor settings. We adopted that as our policy but strongly encouraged unvaccinated individuals to wear a mask when indoors.

This week's CDC recommendation states that even fully vaccinated individuals should wear a mask when “in public indoor settings if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission.” Substantial transmission is defined as 50 or more COVID cases reported per 100,000 people over a 7 day period. Northampton County has reported 55 cases/100,000 people over the last seven days. Moreover, cases are increasing significantly in the County over the last two weeks.

Therefore the new policy—which will go into effect Monday, August 2—is that masks are required in all indoor public and common spaces regardless of vaccination status:

  • This includes classrooms, shared offices, laboratories, meeting spaces and fitness areas.

  • Masks will continue to be required on shared transportation such as buses.

  • Masks may be removed briefly while eating and drinking and when people are alone in any space.

  • Masks may also be removed while dining in designated dining areas (including dining halls and other food service areas such as the Grind).

  • Roommates and suitemates are not required to wear masks in their private rooms, but all students living in the residence halls should wear a mask in hallways and other common areas. More specific guidance will be provided for residential students.

  • Again, masks are not required outdoors, but everyone should keep a mask readily available.

We are not implementing any new social distancing guidelines or COVID capacity limits at this time; however, we encourage any unvaccinated community members to continue practicing social distancing to protect themselves and others.

We will be communicating with students, faculty and staff in the coming days regarding the fall semester and are moving forward in all respects with the full resumption of in-person activities for the campus community in the academic year ahead.

We are hopeful that this change in the masking requirement will be temporary. We will continue to monitor data and guidance from the CDC and other public health sources, especially as it relates to data on new variants. We will also continue to monitor local transmission rates in the County, as the CDC has advised, and on campus and in South Bethlehem. In addition, we continue to strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated. Even with this new information, the data continue to show that full vaccination is our best course of defense against serious illness from COVID and the threat of new variants.

Thank you for your continued commitment to Lehigh.

-COVID Response Team