7.30.21: Fall 2021 Update for Students and Families

A message sent to Lehigh students and families and shared with faculty and staff. 

Dear Lehigh Students and Families, 

We hope you are having an enjoyable summer. As the fall semester draws closer, plans for the full resumption of campus activity are on track. After the challenges and sacrifices of the past year and a half, we are all looking forward to interacting and engaging with one another in person and enjoying our beautiful campus. 

This is a time of transition and adjustment for both new and returning students, and we are committed to supporting an exceptional academic and co-curricular experience. All offices and departments will be fully open on campus in early August in preparation for students’ arrival. We are continuing to monitor conditions and implement and adjust our policies, if necessary, following state and federal health and safety guidelines. 


  • Except for a very small number of undergraduate courses that have been approved to be remote, all undergraduate courses taught in the classroom before the pandemic will be taught in the classroom. 

  • Research activities are continuing. 

  • Undergraduate and graduate students with questions about any disability accommodations, including those related to COVID, should consult with Disability Support Services

  • While data show COVID vaccination prevents severe illness and is the best course of defense against the spread of the virus, faculty will be flexible if students must be out of the classroom because of temporary illness. COVID is still with us, but common illnesses such as colds and the flu may also result in temporary absences. Students should stay home if they feel sick and work with their professors to fulfill any specific requirements of each course if they are absent. Faculty will work with students and provide appropriate support.

Campus Life and Activity

  • Campus spaces will look and feel similar to the way they did before the pandemic. 

  • With high rates of vaccination, students, faculty and staff will be able to gather physically in communal spaces and facilities. 

  • There will be opportunities for students to mingle and socialize in residence halls and campus spaces based on their needs and interests. For students whose previous experiences were largely remote, targeted in-person programming will help familiarize them with campus life. 

  • Classrooms will be at full capacity. 

  • Plexiglass partitions will remain only in the most high-traffic areas. 

  • Dining halls will be open with dine-in services. 

  • Recreational facilities will operate at a fuller capacity and with longer hours.

  • Travel will be permitted.

  • Visitors will be welcome and asked to complete a symptom self-assessment and follow all safety protocols while on campus.  

  • Large in-person events and social activities will resume, including arts, theatre, and musical performances, traditional campus events, club and intramural activities and sports, and varsity athletics events, which will follow forthcoming guidance from the Patriot League and NCAA.

  • While vaccination will reduce the likelihood of new infections and serious illness, we will continue to reserve isolation and quarantine spaces, implement appropriate COVID-testing protocols and continue contact tracing. 

  • The campus status page will continue to be updated with the university’s current protocols, and the Lehigh COVID dashboard will be updated daily with the current number of COVID cases and vaccination rates. Read below for specific information related to the recently updated masking policy, vaccination, testing and other protocols.  

Masks and Social Distancing 

  • UPDATE: We recently updated our mask guidance to align with the CDC’s and are requiring masks to be worn indoors in public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. Masks are not required outdoors, but students should keep a mask readily available at all times. 

  • While we do anticipate this requirement to be in effect at the start of the semester, we are hopeful it will be a temporary one, and 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, on campus and in South Bethlehem. 

  • We are not implementing any new social distancing guidelines or COVID capacity limits at this time.


  • Students must submit verification of vaccination or request a medical or religious exemption no later than August 4 (next Wednesday).  

  • Students who upload their information by the deadline will receive a free limited edition Lehigh T-shirt, and 2,000 students will receive vouchers for a free cup of coffee from the Grind. 

  • IMPORTANT: Failure to submit verification of vaccination or a medical/religious exemption request by the August 4 deadline will result in a “Hold” being placed on students’ accounts. For students living on campus, failure to complete all required immunizations and documentation could delay your arrival and check-in. If you have not yet been vaccinated, or if you have been vaccinated and have not yet uploaded a copy of your vaccination card, please do so as soon as possible by following these instructions

  • Read more about Lehigh’s policies and answers to frequently asked questions on the Vaccination Resources page. Vaccination information specific to international students is also available on the OISS website and in this latest message.

  • All community members must continue practicing health and safety protocols, such as paying close attention to any symptoms you might experience, staying home when sick, getting tested for COVID if you have symptoms (even if you’ve been vaccinated) and washing hands frequently.

Students who receive approved exemptions from the vaccination requirement will have access to campus spaces but will be required to complete a daily symptom self-assessment, follow CDC guidelines for quarantining, participate in mandatory surveillance testing, and follow any additional university mitigation protocols, including those implemented as a result of an increase in COVID infection rates.

Testing, Quarantine and Isolation

  • Students fully vaccinated with an FDA- or WHO-approved vaccine are not required to quarantine if they are identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19. 

  • Fully vaccinated students are not required to participate in surveillance testing.

  • Because breakthrough infections are possible and new variants may be more transmissible, all community members who experience COVID-like symptoms, regardless of vaccination status, are required to consult with their health provider and follow all directions for testing and isolating.

  • All undergraduate and graduate students should contact the Health and Wellness Center for COVID-related questions.

  • Counselors from University Counseling and Psychological Services (610-758-3880) are available, and students are encouraged to call the center for support as they make the transition to life on campus, as well as throughout the year.  

Virtual Discussions, Fall 2021 

  • Yesterday, university leaders and members of the COVID Response Team hosted a live virtual discussion for undergraduate students and families. We hope you will find the recording informative.

  • The Graduate Life Office will host a live conversation on August 5, at 9:00 a.m., specifically for graduate students. More information will follow.

  • The Office of International Students and Scholars will also continue to communicate information specific to international students. Please look for an invitation to international families to join a virtual conversation about the fall semester in early September. 

We look forward to seeing students on campus in the weeks ahead, and to a wonderful Fall 2021 semester at Lehigh. 


Nathan Urban

Interim President and Provost & Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs


Patricia Johnson

Vice President for Finance & Administration


Ricardo Hall

Vice President for Student Affairs