9.22.20: Additional COVID-19 Surveillance Testing Plan

A message sent to the campus community and Lehigh families

Dear Members of the Campus Community and Lehigh Families, 

At the beginning of the semester, we implemented a surveillance COVID-19 testing program for students before and/or shortly after their arrival to campus. The goal of this testing, combined with quarantining requirements for those arriving from hotspot areas, was to prevent the introduction of the virus to campus by asymptomatic students traveling to campus. This testing has continued at reduced levels in the last few weeks. The data from numbers of surveillance tests and positivity rates are published on the Lehigh University COVID-19 Dashboard (under “Surveillance Testing”). 

We have also performed dozens of rapid point-of-care diagnostic tests in the Health and Wellness Center (HWC) administered to students with COVID-like symptoms. All of these diagnostic tests have been negative, suggesting low rates of COVID-19 infection on campus. 

Nevertheless, because of rising case counts in the region, we are expanding our surveillance testing program. This email outlines important information about who will need to be tested and is being sent to the full campus community and Lehigh families for information and awareness. 

Starting next week and continuing through the week of November 9, we will be conducting several rounds of surveillance testing at approximately two-week intervals. The current plan is to test between five and ten percent of those students for whom testing was required previously. This number will be increased if infection rates are higher than expected based on previous testing. 

***Students will be selected at random and will be contacted directly through a follow-up email message later this week 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.***  

Data from these tests will be published on the public Lehigh University Dashboard. Testing between five and ten percent of all students will allow us to determine if there are populations of students in which infection rates have risen or are higher than the overall rate in the region. If we determine that there are higher than expected rates of infection, we will significantly expand testing.  

Our testing approach for faculty and staff will remain the same as what we have communicated previously

Testing of symptomatic cases by the HWC will continue as before. We encourage any student with any COVID-like symptoms to call the HWC to arrange an appointment for evaluation. The point-of-care testing in the HWC can often produce results in less than an hour, reducing the amount of time that the student and their close contacts need to spend in quarantine or isolation. Most other testing services in the region are currently taking at least three days to return results.

How This Testing Will Inform Our Fall Semester Planning 

Because surveillance testing is for students who are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or other indications of possible COVID-19 infection, we expect the rate of positive tests to be low (<1%). If surveillance testing reveals a higher overall rate of infection or a cluster of cases in a specific population, further testing and/or changes in campus operations may be needed to further mitigate the risk of COVID-19 at Lehigh. 

Other Mitigation Approaches

Testing is one required component of the overall health and safety plan our community has followed and must continue to follow, incorporating actions with which we are by now all familiar: wearing face coverings, social distancing, avoiding indoor gatherings of more than 25 people, completing the daily Lehigh COVID-19 Self-Assessment, washing our hands frequently and staying home when we feel sick. 

Protocols and Important Reminders

The cooperation of our community in following the established health and safety protocols has been critical to our shared efforts this semester in mitigating the risk of spreading the virus. 

  • For all, wearing face coverings, social distancing, and continuing to be vigilant are key.

  • Students who are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19: Stay in your residence and contact the Health and Wellness Center immediately at 610-758-3870 to be tested. 

  • Faculty or staff members with symptoms: Stay home and notify your supervisor or department chair. You should contact your primary care physician and follow their advice, including scheduling a COVID-19 test, if recommended. This testing can be done by your Primary Care Physician or can be coordinated through our occupational health services partnership with Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN). Any faculty or staff member who has been on campus or in close proximity to other Lehigh community members and receives a positive COVID-19 test result should self-isolate, follow a primary care physician’s advice, and contact the university’s Employee Health Nurse Case Manager from Lehigh Valley Health Network, Terri Latvis RN, at 610-861-8080 ext. 21237 or Teresa.Latvis@lvhn.org and notify her of your condition.

For FAQs about testing, visit our Surveillance Testing information page. If you have any questions not answered in the FAQ, please email inopen@lehigh.edu.

Thank you for your continued cooperation as we work together to ensure a safe and successful semester for all members of our community. 

Sincerely, 

 

Nathan Urban

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

 

David Rubenstein, Psy.D.

Executive Director, Health and Wellness Center