As a followup to Monday’s message from the Covid Response Team, I want to more specifically address issues related to classes and teaching for the fall semester. In particular I want to describe how we can maintain a safe environment while providing our students access to the best quality education, primarily by addressing issues related to masking and students and faculty missing class due to illness.
Across campus, we will continue to permit any meeting organizer to require masking for any meeting they organize. As organizers for their class meetings, instructors have the authority to make this decision for any class. This does not need to be a blanket requirement for the entire semester, and a requirement can be specified on a class-by-class basis. As we did last year, we will give instructors the ability to look up how many students in their class have active COVID cases, which can be helpful in determining a mask requirement. Details of how to access this information will be provided by August 15th.
One of the most important things that we can do to reduce the spread of COVID is to make sure that people who are symptomatic and/or have tested positive reduce their exposure to others. For faculty and staff, this means that if you have symptoms, don’t come to campus. If you absolutely must come to campus, make your time on campus as brief as possible, wear a mask and minimize contact with others. Current rapid antigen tests may be less sensitive to current variants, so if you do have symptoms, consider taking at least two rapid antigen tests (separated by at least 12 hours) before coming to campus with symptoms.
Illness may mean that you may need to teach a few classes remotely over the course of the term. Similarly, faculty and staff who are symptomatic or have tested positive may need to miss other meetings. Not every campus meeting will be available remotely or in hybrid format, and in some cases people will need to miss meetings and “catch up” with colleagues afterward.
For anyone testing positive, we are following CDC guidance and requiring five days of isolation followed by five days of mask wearing. Faculty and staff testing positive should contact Christine Wolfe at 610-861-8080 ext. 23504 or Christine.Wolfe@lvhn.org so she can provide additional guidance and accurately track case counts.
We urge students with symptoms to reduce exposure to others as well. As a result, students may miss class and be unable to participate in group activities. As you finish your syllabi, consider how your grading and attendance policies may influence student behavior and their willingness to miss class. Students with symptoms should go to the Health and Wellness Center (HWC), where they can get a rapid test and/or a PCR test. Students testing positive will be instructed to isolate in their rooms for five days and wear a mask for another five. As was the case last year, instructors may request that students forward confirmation of a positive test that will be provided by the HWC.
Instructors should make allowances for students who need to miss class or exams because of a positive test or because of symptoms. This may include offering remote access to classroom lectures or discussions (if classroom technology allows) and/or may involve alternative assignments or assessments. Visit the LTS website “Hybrid Teaching: Strategies for Instructors with both In-class and Remote Students” for solutions and suggestions. We don’t want students to believe that the only way they can succeed academically is to expose others to COVID, but it is not mandatory that students can “attend” classes virtually upon request.
Our success last year had much to do with the strong sense of community we have at Lehigh: a willingness to be patient and understanding when illness strikes students, colleagues or even ourselves; flexibility when things don't go as planned; and a focus on working together to ensure the best possible academic year for all.
Thank you, as always, for your dedication and thoughtful preparation. I wish you a healthy and productive start to the semester!