Lehigh’s work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus has been a priority for our community since long before the Fall semester started last month. We are proud of the consistent effort of many of you, which has helped us see some early success. However, a low number of COVID-19 cases now does not mean we no longer have to worry about the virus. We cannot let our guard down today, tomorrow or several weeks from now. We must remain vigilant.
As we’re all well aware, it doesn’t take much for COVID-19 to spread on a college campus. After weeks of low case counts, yesterday Northampton County saw its largest increase in COVID cases in a month—back to levels not seen since July. The decision to ignore the health and safety requirements we have put in place this semester, or any attempts to modify them for individual circumstances, puts us at risk of an outbreak, which would very quickly transform our already limited on-campus presence to a more restricted, or even remote, remainder of the semester. We are counting on everyone to do their part.
Compliance with Health & Safety Protocols
Essential campus spaces that welcome many students, including our dining halls and libraries, cannot remain open if students fail to comply with the health and safety guidelines we’ve put in place. As communicated last week in a message to meal plan participants, we want students to be able to connect and engage with each other. The same is true within our libraries, which always have been important venues for student interaction and collaboration.
However, disregard for required safety protocols makes these valuable spaces less safe for those who use them and places a burden on those who do comply, including your fellow students and the Lehigh employees in these spaces who work tirelessly to provide you with the resources you need for a successful semester. Noncompliance will impact our ability to keep these facilities as open and accessible as they are now. We ask that you make decisions that will benefit you and the campus community in both the short- and long-term: Wear a mask when not eating or drinking, maintain 6 feet of distance, and avoid gatherings of 10 or more people within these buildings at all times.
It has come to our attention that some students with campus access have been using their IDs to provide access to campus buildings to fully remote students. Although it may seem like a well-intentioned effort to help out a friend who would like to come to campus, providing this access has the potential to undo the good work our community has done so far with regard to preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Fully remote students have not been tested and have not taken the training required for all students who come to campus. If a student has not been cleared for campus access via our COVID-19 testing protocol and the daily HawkWatch self-assessment, they may not enter any campus facilities. If you have campus access, do not use your ID to open the door of a facility for another student. This poses a real and unnecessary risk and can negatively impact the remainder of the semester for all of us. It is also a violation of our COVID conduct policy. If you are aware of fully remote students who are accessing campus, report this activity via the COVID-19 Behavior Expectation Reporting Form. Problems with compliance in mask-wearing and building access rules may require that we reduce density in spaces like the library or that we temporarily close spaces altogether so that staff can perform more frequent safety checks.
As you know, we have asked students not to travel away from campus before the Thanksgiving Break if at all possible. Given the increasing case numbers in the region and state, we remind students of this policy and urge students to cancel any non-essential travel plans they have, especially to other college campuses. If you must travel, limit your exposure by practicing social distancing and mask-wearing during your trip. If you suspect any exposure to COVID during your travel, contact the Health and Wellness Center upon your return.
Your decisions—even those that might seem trivial in the moment—affect our wider Lehigh community. We want you to be here. We need you to be safe. Wear your mask. Practice social distancing. Complete your daily self-assessment. Read the signs posted around campus. Most importantly, consider the potential consequences of your actions, no matter how inconsequential they may seem. Doing so can make all the difference for you, your Lehigh community, and the rest of your semester here on campus.
Please continue to take care of yourself and one another.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Vice President for Student Affairs