We have heard many students and faculty express their excitement about the first week of the semester and the relative normalcy of in-person classes and activities. It has truly felt like we are getting back to the Lehigh we love. This is all possible because of our high vaccination rates and the work of many people to provide a more in-person and engaged experience for students this semester.
However, we are concerned about the number of COVID cases that we are seeing among students. Most of these cases are breakthrough cases, and none have led to a student being hospitalized. Both of these are to be expected given our high vaccination rate (>95% at least partial vaccination). If we had a 100% vaccination rate, then by definition 100% of the cases would be breakthrough cases. Vaccines are highly effective against serious illness, but vaccines are not perfect, especially against the Delta variant. If our number of cases continues to increase, we will need to adjust our campus status, focusing on reducing indoor group activities.
Based on what we are hearing from and about students who test positive, the most important things that everyone can do to prevent further spread are:
avoid contact with other people when you feel sick;
get tested at the first sign of a COVID symptom; and
avoid large indoor gatherings with unmasked people
More detailed information on testing and protocols will be coming from the COVID Response Team (CRT) later today, but if we all do these three simple, common-sense things, it will help dramatically in our efforts to have a normal semester.
Some students getting tested at the Lehigh University Health and Wellness Center (HWC) are reporting that they felt sick for two or three days before getting tested, and in the meantime they continued attending events, hanging out with friends, going to parties and going to class. Doing these things—even if vaccinated—puts others, especially those who may be immunocompromised or unvaccinated, at risk. If you feel sick, call the HWC at (610) 758-3870 and get tested ASAP. In addition, 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.
Masks must be worn in all indoor common and public spaces on campus. We recommend that you wear masks when indoors off campus, especially when in large groups.
Please remember that all students are required to report positive results obtained via any COVID test to the HWC. This is critical for the health and safety of our entire community. All faculty understand that students should miss class if there is a concern about a potential COVID infection, and they will work with you to make up any missed material.
We want this semester to be as normal as possible, and this will take all of us working together and doing the right things. Unfortunately, COVID is still with us. We need to take precautions to ensure that we can continue to have an opportunity to make the most of this semester.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Vice President for Student Affairs