9.15.21: Update from the COVID Response Team

A message sent to members of the Lehigh community and Lehigh families. 

***Please note: This message is part of an archive where a record of messages are posted in their original form at the time they were sent. As policies can change, check the current campus status page for the most updated health and safety protocols. Past messages will not be edited to reflect the most current policies.***

Dear Members of the Lehigh Community and Lehigh Families, 

After a spike in cases and our implementation of temporary health and safety protocols, we continue to monitor our case numbers and adjust accordingly. We are pleased to report that our case numbers are declining, with 16 total active COVID cases among students living on or off campus, and 3 active cases among faculty and staff, as reported on the dashboard. Even with this decline, we must remain vigilant. Local hospitals are seeing much higher demand in their emergency departmentsperhaps the greatest strain on their capacity since the start of the pandemic. We continue to stress the importance of vaccination first and foremost, andfor all members of the community and visitors to campusthe importance of following the health and safety protocols in place, especially avoiding contact with others when you are experiencing COVID-like symptoms. Fortunately, vaccines continue to be highly effective in preventing serious illness and hospitalization, and we continue to see no evidence of transmission in classrooms or similar settings on our campus.   

Following up on our last message, we have updated our testing protocol to include targeted surveillance testing and will continue to monitor case counts for a return to in-person dining. Read more about these updates below. 

We look forward to celebrating Family Weekend in a few short days, and we encourage all members of our community to be particularly attentive to health and safety protocols as we prepare to welcome many of our Lehigh families to campus. This community event is possible because of the improvements we’ve seen regarding COVID cases on campus. Please carefully consider your actions and activities in the coming days. Most importantly, if you or members of your family have symptoms, it is very important to avoid activities that may put others at risk. 

The following reminders continue to apply: Please stay home and away from others if you feel sick, and do not attend classes or events, even if you do not believe your symptoms are COVID-related. Get tested at the first sign of symptoms, stay away from others as you await your results, and isolate if you test positive.

All health and safety protocols remain in place as described on the Campus Status page. These apply to all students, faculty, staff and visitors, including throughout Family Weekend.  

Testing- We increased the availability of close contact testing for asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic students, faculty and staff. Sign up for close contact testing here

Students, faculty and staff who are experiencing COVID-like symptoms, regardless of their vaccination status, should seek medical attention. Students should contact the Health and Wellness Center (HWC) at 610-758-3870, and faculty and staff should contact the university’s Employee Health Nurse Case Manager from Lehigh Valley Health Network at Christine.Wolfe@lvhn.org or 610-861-8080 ext. 23504. Students must report any positive result from an outside testing center to the HWC Patient Portal and isolate. The isolation and quarantine protocol outlines further information. 

NEW: We previously shared that we were considering expanding testing to add random surveillance testing in populations of students in which the positivity rate is high. Given an increase in cases in the broader community and the potential increased risk of transmission during Family Weekend, we have decided to expand our surveillance testing program for at least the next two weeks. During the week of September 20, we will begin mandatory surveillance testing of approximately 10% of the vaccinated students on campus. This is in addition to continuing our ongoing weekly surveillance testing of unvaccinated students, staff and faculty. Students will be selected at random and will be contacted directly via email with information about when and how to sign up for an appointment. If you do not receive a message, you are not required to be tested, unless you have a medical or religious exemption and are already required to participate in regular surveillance testing. The results of this testing will help determine decisions about campus operations in the weeks ahead, including whether we will continue this expanded testing moving forward.

Dining- Take-out-only dining continues this week. We will re-evaluate the resumption of indoor dining next week, pending case counts, including the results of random surveillance testing during the week of Sept. 20. 

Fitness Centers- Taylor Gym opens today, September 15, for fitness and recreational opportunities at a reduced capacity and by appointment only via IM Leagues. Masks must be worn properly at all times, except during lap swimming. Basketball courts and the 5th floor will remain closed until further notice. Watch the website for updates, hours and additional information. The fitness facility in the Singleton, Hitch & Maida Houses remains temporarily closed. We continue to evaluate when to re-open this facility.

HWC New Location- The Health and Wellness Center has moved to its new location on the 2nd floor of Johnson Hall.  

Academic Classes reminder- We will continue with the mode in place for academic classes to occur in person unless the instructor tests positive or more than 30% of the total number of students in the course are currently in isolation. Faculty and instructors will continue to assess their current course status through a classroom dashboard as described here and will update their students at least weekly with this information. Faculty and instructors will work with students to ensure their ability to keep up with coursework if they need to quarantine or isolate. 

Masks reminder- Masks are required indoors in public spaces for both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals, including in classrooms, shared offices, laboratories, meeting spaces and fitness areas, as well as on buses. Masks are also encouraged for indoor off-campus gatherings. Outdoors, masks are not required but are strongly encouraged in settings where social distancing between individuals or family groups is not possible. Organizers of outdoor events have the latitude to require masks at their outdoor events, recognizing that venue size and density may be factors. Meetings and events with food are discouraged unless they are taking place outdoors. For any social interactions, even in outdoor settings, be mindful of social distancing and consider wearing a face mask for additional mitigation of transmission. 

Thank you for your continued attention to health and safety protocols. To those who are participating, have a safe and wonderful Family Weekend.  

- COVID Response Team