9.2.21: New Health and Safety Measures

A message sent to 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,

We are writing with some new changes to our campus status. There are currently 150 active cases among students living on and off campus and 0 active faculty and staff cases, as reported on the Lehigh dashboard. The cases we are seeing are mostly breakthrough cases with few or mild symptoms.

Given this increase in cases, we must take some immediate steps to mitigate the spread of the virus and protect our campus and the South Bethlehem community. The availability of isolation housing is critical to being able to relocate students who are COVID positive. Our goal is to immediately flatten the rise in new cases and our hope is that these new health and safety measures—which will continue through at least Friday, September 10—will be temporary. The Campus Status page will be updated with the following information.

Effective immediately:

Testing- We will be significantly increasing the availability of close contact testing for asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic students, faculty and staff. See the bottom of this message for more details. Testing options are also available on the COVID Information Center.

Masks- In addition to the indoor masking requirement, masks will be required to be worn at all outdoor events and gatherings where social distancing between individuals or family groups is not possible. For any social interactions, even in outdoor settings, be mindful of social distancing and consider wearing a face mask for additional mitigation of transmission. Event organizers, including for student organizations, have the latitude to require masks at their outdoor events, and we want to reiterate and encourage implementing this health and safety measure as part of any event planning.

Effective Monday, September 6:

Academic Classes- To accommodate students and minimize disruptions associated with students in isolation and quarantine, undergraduate and graduate class instructors may choose to temporarily shift to remote or hybrid instruction for the week of September 6-10, regardless of the percentage of positives. This is not required and is at the discretion of the instructor. Based on data from Lehigh and across the country, we have no evidence that in-person instruction while masked is a significant source of transmission. Instructors who choose to shift to remote-only instruction should: 1. send an email to their chair indicating their plan for instruction for the coming week and 2. inform students of this planned shift. Faculty should indicate to students how they plan to support students who need to be in isolation. We understand that some students are hesitant to report a positive test for fear of falling behind in classes. All faculty have been instructed to work with students to ensure their ability to keep up with coursework if they need to quarantine or isolate.

All faculty will have access to a dashboard with daily information regarding the number of reported positive cases in their classes. More information for faculty will follow from the Provost’s Office.

Meetings/Gatherings/Events- With the exception of activities supervised by faculty or staff (including classes) or otherwise approved by the CRT, we will limit all gatherings to no more than 25 people in attendance indoors and encourage outdoor gatherings over indoor gatherings when possible. Events and meetings should ideally only provide food if they take place outside; any activity that requires the removal of masks indoors (except when alone) is discouraged.

Dining- We are in the process of evaluating enhancements to some of our dining protocols, and any updates will be shared on the dining website and in future communications.

Fitness Centers- Because of staffing issues, Taylor Gym will temporarily close through Tuesday, September 7. Updates will be shared on the website. The fitness facility in the Singleton, Hitch & Maida Houses will be temporarily closed.

We Want to Reiterate:

Stay home and away from others if you feel sick, and do not take unnecessary risks by attending 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.

Available and expanded testing options are included below this message.

Students who receive a positive test result from testing conducted outside of the HWC must report their result to the Patient Portal and isolate. Failure to do so will result in a referral to the Office of Student Conduct. This applies if you live on or off campus.

If you have received a positive test result, do not attempt to attend class or any other event (including outdoor events) in person. Attending classes and events while positive for COVID will result in increased transmission and, consequently, increased cases and further restriction of campus activity.

We want to also take this opportunity to emphasize that the majority of the cases we are seeing are breakthrough cases, and these cases have not been severe. Vaccination remains highly effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID. Nationally, regionally, locally and on our campus, there is a current surge in cases, requiring increased vigilance by all of us. The Lehigh community has continually taken the actions we’ve needed to support the health and safety of our campus and South Bethlehem communities. We can support one another now by taking these steps to help us preserve all the good things that Lehigh has to offer in this new academic year.

For Questions:

Students can receive assistance from the HWC with questions regarding particular health-related concerns, vaccination status and isolation/quarantine dates by sending a message to the HWC via the Patient Portal (most expedient) or by calling (610) 758-3870. In lieu of parents calling directly, parents should instruct their students to contact the HWC through the health portal or by phone to address their specific medical concerns.

To allow the HWC to focus on calls from students seeking medical care, we ask that other inquiries, including students and parents who have questions about policy, be directed to the COVID-19 Information hotline, which has been temporarily reestablished for inquiries related to this information. Please note that the hotline is not staffed with medical professionals; staff will not be able to answer health-related questions or questions related to a particular student’s health status.

COVID Information Hotline Hours:

Call 610-758-1500 to speak with a Lehigh staff member during the following hours-

  • Thursday, September 2, between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. EST

  • Friday, September 3, between 8 a.m. and noon EST

-COVID Response Team

Testing Options:

*Please note that some of these are NEW options for testing based on high demand.

  • Students, faculty and staff who are experiencing symptoms, regardless of their vaccination status, should contact the Health and Wellness Center (HWC) at 610-758-3870 (if a student) and the university’s Employee Health Nurse Case Manager from Lehigh Valley Health Network at 610-861-8080 ext. 23504 (if a faculty or staff member) to arrange for symptomatic testing. Students need to report any positive result from an outside testing center to the HWC.

  • For students, in addition to the HWC, Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) offers access to their 24/7 nurse triage line (1-888-402-LVHN). Speak with a nurse to assess COVID and other symptoms, answer your questions, and discuss your testing options.

  • Close Contact Testing at STEPS tent- Anyone (students, faculty and staff) who was notified or believes they are a close contact may sign up for close contact testing here, even if they are not symptomatic. Previously, this was only open to students and is now additionally available to faculty and staff. We have increased and continue to increase availability for testing. You must schedule an appointment through the link.

  • New HWC Hours Saturday, Sept 4- The Health and Wellness Center will have expanded hours this Saturday, September 4, between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Appointments are limited. Students who are symptomatic should call 610-758-3870 for an appointment.

  • Additional testing options- Those with concerns about potential exposure to COVID can obtain a test through LVHN (either with symptoms or without symptoms), and testing is available at many local health centers and pharmacies as well. See the Pennsylvania Department of Health site or Lehigh’s HWC site for lists of local testing resources. Be sure to check your insurance for coverage.

  • LVHN offers testing at LVHN Care On Demand (2300 Highland Avenue Bethlehem, PA 18020, Open: Mon-Fri 7AM-8PM and Sat-Sun 8AM-5PM for walk-ins). No appointment is necessary. Check the LVHN website for the most current information on hours. Students can request testing only or can request to be seen by a health care provider for evaluation. Students should upload a copy of any positive test result for the HWC to process/contact trace.

Reference and Recent Communications: