8.30.21: COVID-19 Guidance & Reminders

A message sent to faculty and staff

Dear Colleagues,

As we begin a new semester, we wanted to share information about the current status of campus to help inform your health and safety practices.

There are currently 49 total active COVID cases among students living on or off campus reported on the dashboard, which we are monitoring. Students received specific health and safety guidance from Provost Nathan Urban and Vice President for Student Affairs Ric Hall, as well as the COVID Response Team (CRT). Additional information regarding contact tracing in classrooms was also sent to faculty and instructional staff teaching in classrooms earlier this morning by the Provost’s Office.

There is one active case among faculty, staff and contract employees. None of the student or staff/faculty cases are severe at this time, and we are hopeful that widespread vaccination will prevent any serious illness from COVID; however, given the number of new cases in our community, we wanted to emphasize that the most important thing that you can do is pay attention to symptoms that you may have and, if you feel sick, avoid contact with other people. This is critical, especially as in-person activities have fully resumed and social distancing is no longer in effect with required vaccination.

Health and Safety Measures

  • Verification of vaccination or an approved medical or religious exemption is required for all students, faculty and staff. The deadline for faculty and staff to confirm their status is TODAY, Monday, August 30. Read more about what is required below.

  • The indoor mask requirement in public spaces and on buses remains in effect for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Please continue to keep a mask on you at all times and wear it as required in classrooms, shared offices, laboratories, meeting spaces, fitness areas and dining spaces. 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.

  • 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. The lecturer may remove their mask briefly to drink or may use a drinking straw that can be used with a mask on.

  • The university continues to provide isolation housing for on-campus students who test positive for the virus and follow the established isolation and quarantine protocols for all students who require isolation and quarantine.

  • The CRT continues to meet throughout the week to monitor conditions and assess mitigation protocols to support the health and safety of campus and the greater South Bethlehem community.

Illness or Exposure Protocols for Faculty and Staff

Please continue to monitor your personal health for symptoms and risk of exposure. Remember that vaccination, while effective at preventing serious illness and death, is not a guarantee against infection or the prevention of transmission of the virus after infection.

Do not come to campus if:

  • You are experiencing COVID-like symptoms.

  • You are unvaccinated and have had a recent exposure to a known positive case. Note that Lehigh University is following the recommendation for a 14-day quarantine period after last close contact as the safest quarantine period to prevent transmission.

  • You are unvaccinated and awaiting results from a test due to a close contact exposure. Note that a negative test does not shorten the duration of quarantine.

  • You have tested positive and are in isolation. Isolation is a minimum of 10 days after symptom onset or date of specimen collection of the positive test, whichever comes first.

***In any of these situations, follow the advice of your primary care physician, and notify the university’s LVHN Employee Health Nurse Case Manager, Christine Wolfe, RN, at Christine.Wolfe@lvhn.org or 610-861-8080 ext. 23504. Christine serves as the key point of contact for Lehigh employees for any health concerns related to COVID-19. She facilitates care through recovery and return to work for any employees who suspect exposure or may test positive for COVID-19, working closely with Lehigh Human Resources throughout the process. Christine must clear you for your return to work, and she will do so depending on your particular condition and using the most updated CDC guidance at the time.

Note that employees who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine after exposure to a known positive case as long as you are not experiencing COVID-like symptoms.

Staff: For any of the above, please stay home until receiving a confirmed negative test result or receiving clearance from Christine Wolfe to return to work. If you are able to work from home, you are free to do so on a temporary basis with approval from your dean or supervisor. If you are not able to work remotely, you may use sick leave. The university has extended the ability to request an additional 10 days of sick leave for COVID related absences through December 31, 2021.

Faculty: For any of the above, please stay home and (if feeling well enough) temporarily shift your course(s) online until receiving a confirmed negative test result or receiving clearance from Christine Wolfe to return. As soon as you are aware that you will need to stay home, alert your department chair and your dean's office. Communicate the change to your students and provide them any information that they will need to make the temporary shift.

Note to supervisors and department chairs: Staff and faculty are not required to divulge that the reason for their absence is due to a COVID-19 isolation or quarantine. However, if they choose to share this with you, treat this as confidential information and follow up with Christine Wolfe or Human Resources to make sure the appropriate information and all services are being extended.

Action for Confirming Vaccination and Requesting Medical and Religious Exemptions

  • The deadline to register your vaccination status is TODAY, August 30. Please see the personalized link to a Docusign form you received via email to provide this information.

  • If you have received a medical or religious exemption or have not yet completed the 14-day waiting period after your final vaccine dose, you are required to participate in weekly surveillance testing, which will begin on Thursday, September 9. Instructions and signups for this testing are forthcoming.

  • Unvaccinated employees should take particular care, given the increase of cases on campus. Mask-wearing and vaccination remain the best way to prevent infection.

  • If you are unvaccinated and are identified as a close contact required to quarantine, do not come to campus until you have been cleared to return. Instead, contact Christine Wolfe at Christine.Wolfe@lvhn.org or 610-861-8080 ext. 23504. Please note that a negative test result does not remove a person who is identified as an unvaccinated close contact from quarantine.

Additional Guidelines

  • For faculty and staff who encounter a student who does not look well or shares that they do not feel well, direct them to go home and seek appropriate medical advice. Students should contact the Lehigh Health and Wellness Center (HWC) at 610-758-3870 or the LVHN 24/7 nurse triage line at 1-888-402-LVHN. Provide reassurance that the student will receive the necessary support to continue with coursework if isolation or quarantine is required. This does not include, however, a change in course delivery (i.e., a hybrid mode of instruction).

  • For supervisors who encounter an employee who does not look well or shares that they do not feel well, direct them to go home and advise them to seek appropriate medical advice, including contacting Christine Wolfe at Christine.Wolfe@lvhn.org or 610-861-8080 ext. 23504.

  • Look out for each other. If you encounter anyone on campus—faculty, staff or student at any venue or event—who does not look well or shares that they do not feel well, encourage them, kindly and without judgment, to go home.

  • If a colleague or student informs you that they have tested positive for COVID and you believe you have been exposed, contact your personal healthcare provider and Christine Wolfe, RN, at 610-861-8080 ext. 23504 or Christine.Wolfe@lvhn.org.

  • If you have concerns about your workplace or classroom space arrangements, contact incovmod@lehigh.edu.

  • Continue wearing a mask.

  • Given the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant and the increase in cases we are observing, members of the Lehigh community should consider prioritizing outdoor over indoor informal gatherings whenever possible, both on and off campus, and to exercise their best judgment in attending large informal gatherings indoors. Again, if you feel sick, stay home and away from others.

  • The university has no COVID restrictions on general visitors, but visitors must complete the symptom checker and comply with all campus policies.

  • The COVID Dashboard, the Campus Status page, and the COVID Information Center continue to be updated daily to inform the campus community of current case information and the campus’ status.

As the semester progresses, please monitor your email for any COVID-related updates from the CRT, which meets frequently to assess conditions. We will continue to maintain or adjust policies based on the most current health guidance, taking into account our context as a residential university and prioritizing health and safety for all students, faculty and staff.

-COVID Response Team