9.3.21: Instructor Notification of COVID-Positive Students in Courses

A message sent to faculty and instructional staff

Dear Colleagues,

As noted in an earlier message, the Provost’s Office will notify all instructors when a student in their class tests positive for COVID. This message outlines the automated process by which instructors will receive this information. Instructors will receive notifications of new positive cases, and they can check the current status via a personalized dashboard in Argos. Below, I also provide additional information about switching instructional mode and COVID testing resources available to you as described in the recent email to campus.  

Determining the number of COVID cases among students in your class: 

  • When a student in a course tests positive for COVID via any test administered by or reported to the Lehigh Health and Wellness Center (HWC), this information will be added to the instructor’s Argos dashboard. Instructors will be able to view the number of active cases in their courses at any time by logging into Argos and clicking “Run Report.” If you are off campus, you must log in to the VPN to access your dashboard. 
  • Currently, TAs don’t have direct access to this dashboard, so faculty should share case count information with student TAs as well as students in the class. We are determining our options for getting TAs access as well as for providing department chairs access to all classes in their department. 
  • Email notifications will begin on Tuesday, September 7. Email notifications of new cases will be sent every two hours. This is the same cycle through which the HWC receives surveillance and close contact test results from Vault Health. Symptomatic test results processed by the HWC will be integrated into the report daily at 7:00 a.m. The report does not distinguish between the different types of tests. 
  • The Argos dashboard includes the current courses assigned to the logged-in instructor, section numbers, positivity counts, current enrollments and the total positive percentage out of each current enrollment. Course enrollment is the “census enrollment” in Banner (combined as per cross-listing in Banner), and the percentage is the positive number of cases divided by census enrollment. The data does not include student names. 
  • Case data is based on the HWC case management system and will fluctuate as active (i.e., "positive test and not yet cleared") cases fluctuate. It is accurate as of the date that it is run. Vault Health test data will be received through this system at the same time as it becomes available to the HWC and students. 

Once you determine the number of positive cases in your class: 

  • You must inform all students in a class as to the number of positive cases in the class. An email notification or other message should be sent to all students in the class indicating that a student in the class has tested positive. We are looking at ways to directly inform students, but for now, we ask that you update students at least weekly. 
  • You should also communicate with students about how you will meet the educational needs of students who need to isolate or quarantine. This will increase the likelihood that students will follow protocols and help reduce transmission.
  • Students missing class for illness (including following COVID protocols) must be allowed to make up work and make academic progress. If students believe that they can’t miss class and still perform well, this may result in lower compliance with isolation and quarantine policies, putting community health at risk.
  • Students have been made aware that they should not under any circumstances attend an in-person class if they have tested positive. If you are in a class and it appears that a student who has tested positive is present based on attendance and the data you’ve received, you should ask any students who have tested positive to leave or (if necessary) cancel class. Faculty (or students) who are concerned about a student being non-compliant should submit a report. 
  • If faculty want to verify the isolation or quarantine status of students, they can ask students to forward the email that they received from the HWC. If students have obtained a positive test from an off-campus source, once they upload this to the HWC secure portal, it will be entered into the system and students will receive an email about their isolation status.   

Classroom COVID transmission: 

To date, we have no evidence of transmission occurring in a fully masked classroom. We believe that in-person instruction in a fully masked, highly vaccinated environment continues to be safe. This is consistent with data and protocols at many universities across the country. Nonetheless, current CDC and PA Department of Health guidance is that people with COVID-19 should isolate for ten days after a positive test; therefore, our policy is that these students should remain in isolation and not attend class for this period. We are continuing to look for evidence of COVID spread in the classroom, especially between instructors and students. If an instructor has specific concerns about classroom safety, they can contact the CRT at incovid@lehigh.edu. 

Flexibility of instructional mode:

Many students with whom I have spoken have expressed appreciation to faculty for providing in-person instruction, and many faculty I have spoken to also have said how much they want to be back in the classroom with students. However, we need some degree of flexibility.  

We do want to provide the flexibility instructors need to meet the needs of students in their classes, including students in isolation or quarantine. In-person instruction continues to be permitted and favored when it meets the educational needs of our students. However, for next week, any instructor may elect to shift to remote instruction as we adjust to the impact of the larger-than-expected number of COVID cases on campus. After next week, and throughout the semester, if the percentage of students in isolation and quarantine in any class is above 30%, the instructor may (but is not required to) teach remotely. If you plan to shift to a remote (or to a hybrid) instructional mode, inform your chair and your students of your plan. I anticipate that most instruction will shift back to normal for the following week. 

To facilitate any shift in instruction, faculty can consult with LTS about what technology options for remote or hybrid instruction are available to them, including the use of portable cameras and microphone systems. 

To summarize the above information on the options for choice of instructional mode: 

  • Sept. 6-10: Any instructor may choose to shift to remote instruction.
  • Sept. 13 and after: An instructor may choose to shift to remote instruction if their class has >30% of students in isolation. This will be tracked by the Provost’s Office. 

COVID testing options:

As described in the CRT email from yesterday, anyone who was notified or believes they are a close contact may now sign up for close contact testing here, even if they are not symptomatic. This is a new option for faculty and staff. We have increased and continue to increase availability for testing. You must schedule a testing appointment through the link. Please note that in addition to testing, unvaccinated individuals identified as close contacts must quarantine for 14 days; vaccinated individuals without symptoms are not required to quarantine. 

If you have any questions, please contact provost@lehigh.edu. 

Nathan Urban

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs