Dear Members of the Lehigh Community and Lehigh Families,
As you know, the COVID Response Team updates the community regularly regarding current case information and any changes to the current health and safety protocols. The dashboard continues to be updated daily, the campus status page summarizes current campus information, and the answers to frequently asked questions page provides more detailed information organized by topic.
We are monitoring the results of our targeted surveillance testing of 10% of the vaccinated student population on campus, in addition to our ongoing symptomatic testing and surveillance testing of unvaccinated students, faculty and staff. This week, our case counts for students, faculty and staff remain low.
Changes in Campus Status
As a result, campus changes this week include the resumption of in-person dining in the dining halls and the re-opening of the fitness facility in the Singleton, Hitch & Maida Houses beginning tomorrow, Thursday, September 23. All other campus health and safety measures, including the indoor mask requirement, remain in place. If masking non-compliance becomes an issue in either the dining halls or the fitness center, we will revisit this change. The fitness center will be closed if mask non-compliance is observed. As a reminder, the CDC continues to recommend mask-wearing for locations where community transmission is substantial or high; Northampton County is still noted as an area with high transmission, reporting 749 cases over the last 7 days as of September 22.
Staying home when sick, seeking medical guidance and testing when appropriate, and reporting any positive outside tests to the university continue to remain critical for supporting the health and safety of the campus community and sustaining in-person activities.
False Positives and Isolation
We have received questions about our isolation protocol and false positives, which we answer below.
How long is isolation?
Any student, faculty, or staff member who tests positive must isolate for at least 10 days following the date of a positive test or the onset of symptoms. As a reminder, the university is following CDC guidance regarding the isolation of positive cases and clearance to return to school and work.
Will receiving a negative COVID test after a positive test shorten or eliminate the need to isolate?
No. A positive PCR test (which includes all of the testing options offered by Lehigh) is a true positive per medical guidance. If you have had a positive PCR test, do not continue to get additional COVID tests of any kind. Doing so puts other medical providers who are administering the follow-up test at risk of getting COVID, reduces testing availability and is not sufficient for eliminating or reducing the length of the required isolation period. Studies show that people infected with COVID may be contagious for up to 10 days after symptom onset; therefore, CDC guidance and our policy is that people must remain in isolation for 10 days following a positive test or symptom onset. We have received questions regarding whether a negative test following a positive test would be sufficient to end isolation or to show that a positive test was a false positive. A positive test from Vault or testing through the Health and Wellness Center (HWC) is positive and will be treated as such through the duration of the isolation period. For more information, visit the CDC website.
I’m fully vaccinated and asymptomatic. Do I need to follow the same guidance?
Yes. Fully vaccinated asymptomatic individuals can spread the virus, so a lack of COVID-related symptoms does not mean you are not spreading COVID if you test positive.
Do I need to show a negative COVID test to end isolation?
No. In fact, once an individual has tested positive, they should not be tested again for 90 days from the date symptoms started or the date of the positive test. (This policy is based on CDC guidance and reduces the rate of false positives.) For this reason, once the isolation period has been completed and an individual is cleared to return to work or school, evidence of a negative test is not required. When in doubt about when you are able to end isolation, always follow the guidance provided by the HWC (for students) or Lehigh’s LVHN occupational health nurse (for faculty and staff).
In rare cases, ongoing symptoms could mean a longer isolation period is warranted, but in general, COVID-19 remains infectious no longer than 10 days after symptoms begin.
Can students share any information with their professors regarding isolating and quarantining?
Students may need to provide a copy of messages they are sent from the Health and Wellness Center, which includes confirmation of their isolation/quarantine start and end dates, to their faculty and instructors. Some instructors may require this information to excuse a student from class.
Vaccination continues to be the best protection against the spread of the virus as well as serious illness and death, and we are pleased to report our community vaccination rate for those who are fully or at least partially vaccinated is approximately 97 percent.
COVID-related updates will continue to be shared through email and posted to the COVID Information Center.
-COVID Response Team