8.17.20: COVID Testing and In-Person Classes

A message to faculty and instructional staff from Provost Urban

Dear Colleagues,

As we approach the Fall Semester I wanted to reach out to you about two important ways that faculty and instructional staff can help make the semester successful.

Our testing and quarantining plan will require that faculty and instructional staff give students some flexibility.
Part of our plan to safely welcome some students back to campus for in-person classes includes the requirement that students receive one negative COVID-19 test result before they may access any campus facility or attend any in-person class. We have partnered with Vault Health to provide two rounds of on-campus COVID-19 testing, which will begin on August 19.

All students living on campus and student-athletes should have taken their first test at home, and most should have received their results prior to the first day of classes on August 24. However, other students, including undergraduate students living off campus who did not elect to be “fully remote” and graduate and professional students taking in-person classes may not arrive in Bethlehem until the weekend before the first day of classes. Therefore some students will not take their first test until August 24. The wait time for results is approximately 48-72 hours.

This presents a challenge for the first weeks of classes, as many students will still be waiting for their first test results. Students who test positive must self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days. In addition, students coming from countries listed by the CDC as level 2 and 3 and the states designated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as “hot spots” must complete the 14-day quarantine before being allowed on campus, even if they have tested negative. All of these students must attend classes remotely until they are cleared for campus access.

Given these requirements, I am asking that instructors accommodate students who must start classes remotely and offer flexibility regarding in-person student attendance during the first two weeks of the semester. Please work with individual students to ensure full course participation during this time. Faculty and instructional staff should be prepared to accommodate the needs of students who may need to quarantine or self-isolate at any point in the semester. We do not want students to feel pressure to come to campus or to class when they are sick.

The role of faculty and instructional staff in promoting health and safety
We each play an important role in protecting one another. While we expect to have cases on campus, several new requirements have been put in place to reduce transmission, including:
• Before coming to campus, all faculty, staff and students must complete a training and conduct a daily self-screening.
• Everyone coming to campus must wear a face covering in any public area and in any circumstance where interacting with others on campus.
• Everyone must maintain a six-foot distance between each other at all times.
• Failure to comply with these rules will result in the individual being barred from campus.

A key to containing spread of the virus will be testing and contact tracing. To facilitate contact tracing for students participating in in-person classes, I am asking that all faculty and instructional staff teaching in-person take one of the following steps that will allow contact tracing to be performed efficiently. Faculty and instructional staff should either:
• Require students to sit in assigned seats and take attendance during each class meeting or
• With students’ permission, take a photo of students sitting in each class.
Nothing needs to be done with this attendance information or these images unless the faculty or instructional staff member is contacted about a student in their class testing positive.

Beyond your professional responsibilities, please continue to care for yourselves and your families. Human Resources has created a website with COVID-19 guidance and resources for staff and faculty. Check in with colleagues in your department, college and across the university, and don’t hesitate to ask for support when needed.

We are about to start a very different kind of semester, and the journey here certainly hasn’t been easy. We begin with the understanding that all our plans are subject to change based on our evolving understanding of COVID-19 and its impact, as we remain focused on the health and well-being of our community. I continue to be impressed with and grateful for the flexibility and commitment our faculty and staff have demonstrated over the past several months. Your actions and reactions help set the tone for our students. Thank you for your dedication to our mission, our students and the broader community, as leaders, mentors and colleagues.

Key University Updates
• Open IV Phase Guidance for Staff and Faculty
• COVID-19 Testing Protocols for Students with Campus Access
• Fall 2020 Return to Campus Protocols for Graduate Students
• Lehigh COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Nathan Urban
Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs