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8.30.21: Information on COVID Testing and Campus Protocols

 

A message sent to undergraduate and graduate students from the COVID Response Team.

Dear Students, 

We are writing to follow up on the message shared by Provost Urban and Dr. Hall with specific information about how to schedule COVID testing, updates to the university’s contact tracing policy, and further details. 

There are currently 49 total active COVID cases among students living on or off campus reported on the dashboard, which we are monitoring. While vaccination provides substantial protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID, the most important thing that you can do to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID, even if you are vaccinated, is to pay attention to symptoms that you may have and, if you feel sick, avoid contact with other people and get tested. 

Testing, Isolation and Quarantine:

 

  • All undergraduate and graduate students experiencing COVID-like symptoms, regardless of their vaccination status, should stay in their residence, avoid contact with others, and call the Lehigh University Health and Wellness Center (HWC) at 610-758-3870 to arrange for testing. 

  • Supplemental to the HWC, the Lehigh Valley Health Network 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. 

  • Remember that if you receive a positive test result from testing conducted outside of the HWC, you must report your result by uploading it to the Patient Portal. This applies if you live on or off campus.

  • Students who have been notified that they are a close contact of someone who tested positive will receive a communication from the HWC as part of the contact tracing process with instructions for obtaining close contact testing. Students who have not received a communication that they have been identified as a close contact, but who believe they are a close contact of someone who tested positive for the virus and are not experiencing significant symptoms, may sign up for close contact testing through the HWC here

  • For students who are not close contacts of a person with COVID and who aren’t experiencing symptoms but are concerned and want to be tested, there are a number of testing options available in the communityStudents must upload any positive test results through the Patient Portal.  If you do a home COVID test, upload a picture of your completed home test to the health portal.

  • All students who test positive for COVID, vaccinated and unvaccinated, are required to isolate, and unvaccinated students who are close contacts are required to quarantine.

  • The university continues to provide isolation housing for on-campus students who test positive for the virus and follow the established isolation and quarantine protocols for all students who require isolation and quarantine. 

Updates to Contact Tracing and Classroom Information:

 

  • Our community has emphasized the importance of vaccination, and more than 95% of students are fully or partially vaccinated. 

  • Because of this high vaccination rate, we are prioritizing contact tracing on and off campus for higher-risk contacts, which includes unvaccinated students living in residence halls and all unvaccinated and vaccinated roommates in traditional residence halls, suitemates in apartment-style living, and intimate partners. 

  • Residential students received communication on this last week from residential staff in their hall. 

  • For classrooms, the Provost’s Office will provide information to instructors and students when a student in their class tests positive. The name of the student case will not be shared with the instructors or other students.

  • In these instances, everyone in the class will be directed to self-monitor for COVID symptoms. If a student becomes symptomatic, they must contact the HWC at 610-758-3870 to get tested as soon as possible. They should not come to class or engage in group activities until receiving a confirmed negative test result. 

  • Vaccinated or unvaccinated students who have been identified as a close contact or who believe they have been in close contact with a person with COVID in the classroom setting and are not experiencing symptoms or experiencing only mild symptoms may receive a COVID test, if desired, and schedule one at this link

  • Unvaccinated students who have been identified as a close contact or who believe that they have been in close contact with a person with COVID in the classroom need to quarantine for 14 days from the date of their last known or presumed close contact.

  • Students who are unvaccinated are required to participate in weekly surveillance testing, with the exception of the time that they are on quarantine. Further information for unvaccinated students is included below.

  • Classes will continue in person unless the instructor becomes symptomatic or receives a positive COVID test result. In this case, the class must shift to remote instruction until the instructor receives a confirmed negative test result or, in the case of a positive test, is cleared to return to work. Alternatively, if the instructor is too sick to teach, the class can be rescheduled or an alternative instructor can be found.

  • If the percentage of students in isolation for COVID in a class (section) is greater than 30%, the instructor can move to remote instruction until students return from isolation. Isolation typically lasts 10 days after a positive test result.

  • Students required to quarantine or isolate or who feel sick and miss class should communicate with their professors in a timely manner to determine the best way to keep up with their coursework. All faculty understand that students should miss class if there is a concern about a potential COVID infection, and they will work with you to make up any missed material. Faculty and instructional staff will also actively encourage students who appear to be unwell to leave class and seek care from the Health and Wellness Center.

Masks:

 

  • The indoor mask requirement in public spaces and on buses remains in effect for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Please continue to keep a mask on you at all times and wear it as required in classrooms, shared offices, laboratories, meeting spaces, fitness areas and dining spaces. Masks are not required outdoors. 

  • In addition to the mask requirements on campus, we recommend that you wear masks when indoors off campus, especially when in large groups. Many students who have tested positive have described attending events—mostly off campus, but some in the residence halls—where many people gathered unmasked. These kinds of events pose the greatest risk for spreading COVID.

  • NEW: In the interest of further reducing the potential for transmission, we have updated our masking policy to prohibit the removal of masks in the classroom. Masks must be worn in classes at all times, with no exception for eating or drinking.

  • Masks must be worn in all indoor common and public spaces on campus. 

Unvaccinated Students:

 

  • Students with approved medical and religious exemptions from the COVID vaccination requirement must continue to participate in mandatory surveillance testing. As mentioned above, unvaccinated students who have been identified as a close contact or who believe that they are a close contact of a person with COVID should schedule close contact testing at this link if they are having no symptoms or mild symptoms.   

  • As a reminder, per CDC guidelines, fully vaccinated people do not need to quarantine if they are close contacts, whereas unvaccinated students do. The university is preserving available housing space for vaccinated and unvaccinated students who test positive and require isolation. As shared earlier, unvaccinated students who came into close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID will be required to quarantine off campus and should make appropriate preparations ahead of time in the event this occurs.

  • Unvaccinated students who received exemptions are fully compliant with the university requirement to be vaccinated or have an approved medical or religious exemption; however, regardless of the reason, they are not fully vaccinated. In requesting a medical or religious exemption, they agreed to additional health and safety protocols, including leaving campus at any time if case rates increase to mitigate the risk of their exposure. 

The COVID-19 Response Team (CRT) constitutes a command center for the purposes of assessing and addressing day-to-day university operations and the evolving health issues impacting our community. The CRT meets frequently during each week to monitor conditions and assess mitigation protocols to support the health and safety of campus and the greater South Bethlehem community. 

We will continue to maintain or adjust policies based on the most current health guidance, taking into account our context as a residential university and prioritizing health and safety for all students, faculty and staff. The COVID Dashboard, the Campus Status page, and the COVID Information Center continue to be updated daily to inform the campus community of current case information and the campus’ status. 

-COVID Response Team

 

8.30.21: RE The Most Important Things You Can Do to Ensure a Successful Semester

A message sent to undergraduate and graduate students by Provost Nathan Urban and Vice President for Student Affairs Ric Hall.

We have heard many students and faculty express their excitement about the first week of the semester and the relative normalcy of in-person classes and activities. It has truly felt like we are getting back to the Lehigh we love. This is all possible because of our high vaccination rates and the work of many people to provide a more in-person and engaged experience for students this semester. 

However, we are concerned about the number of COVID cases that we are seeing among students. Most of these cases are breakthrough cases, and none have led to a student being hospitalized. Both of these are to be expected given our high vaccination rate (>95% at least partial vaccination). If we had a 100% vaccination rate, then by definition 100% of the cases would be breakthrough cases. Vaccines are highly effective against serious illness, but vaccines are not perfect, especially against the Delta variant. If our number of cases continues to increase, we will need to adjust our campus status, focusing on reducing indoor group activities. 

Based on what we are hearing from and about students who test positive, the most important things that everyone can do to prevent further spread are:

  • avoid contact with other people when you feel sick;

  • get tested at the first sign of a COVID symptom; and 

  • avoid large indoor gatherings with unmasked people

More detailed information on testing and protocols will be coming from the COVID Response Team (CRT) later today, but if we all do these three simple, common-sense things, it will help dramatically in our efforts to have a normal semester. 

Some students getting tested at the Lehigh University Health and Wellness Center (HWC) are reporting that they felt sick for two or three days before getting tested, and in the meantime they continued attending events, hanging out with friends, going to parties and going to class. Doing these things—even if vaccinated—puts others, especially those who may be immunocompromised or unvaccinated, at risk. If you feel sick, call the HWC at (610) 758-3870 and get tested ASAP. In addition, many students who have tested positive have described attending events—mostly off campus, but some in the residence halls—where many people gathered unmasked. These kinds of events pose the greatest risk for spreading COVID. 

Masks must be worn in all indoor common and public spaces on campus. We recommend that you wear masks when indoors off campus, especially when in large groups. 

Please remember that all students are required to report positive results obtained via any COVID test to the HWC. This is critical for the health and safety of our entire community. All faculty understand that students should miss class if there is a concern about a potential COVID infection, and they will work with you to make up any missed material. 

We want this semester to be as normal as possible, and this will take all of us working together and doing the right things. Unfortunately, COVID is still with us. We need to take precautions to ensure that we can continue to have an opportunity to make the most of this semester. 

Sincerely, 

 

Nathan Urban

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs


Ric Hall

Vice President for Student Affairs