A poster hangs outside of the University Center, reminding students to stay 6 feet apart. Despite rules, some students who live off-campus have had troubles following social distancing regulations. (Letong Zhang/B&W Staff)

Students off-campus struggle with social distancing while in quarantine


Students who remain in their off-campus Bethlehem houses do not know for certain if others are properly following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, in accordance with social distancing policies.

Davey Stocken, ‘20, is living in his off-campus house with his friends. Stocken said he estimates there are around 20 people living on Hillside Avenue, and many of those individuals are still socializing.

“People aren’t hanging out except with close friends, but there’s so much intermingling because everyone knows each other, that we still end up seeing a lot of people,” Stocken said.

Despite the fact that social distancing laws and advisories have been put into place, students feel that not much can be done to prevent interaction between friends. 

Stocken said since he is paying for his off-campus house, Lehigh cannot force students to leave those homes. He said there are more cases of coronavirus in his hometown, so he believes he is more at risk going home than staying in Bethlehem.

Andrew Zhang, ‘20, said after Lehigh sent students home for the rest of the semester, the school hasn’t done much to mitigate the spread of the virus, except for closing “the hill” by putting up barricades.

“There’s no regulation,” Zhang said. “They can’t regulate off-campus seniors or force us not to be here.”

Stocken said he doesn’t think the Health and Wellness Center is doing much to regulate individuals off-campus, other than offering testing for the virus.

Dr. David Rubenstein, executive director of the Health and Wellness Center, said in an email that the center remains open, and students can call for recommendations or assessment of symptoms. 

He said if students living on or near campus feel sick, they should call and notify the Health and Wellness Center.

“It is important that the HWC is aware of their illness, so that we can work with the student and the university to ensure that the student is appropriately isolated,” Rubenstein said in the email.

While it would be helpful for students to self-report, Rubenstein said they’re not required to notify the school that they have symptoms or are living off-campus.

At this time, the only broad measure the Health and Wellness Center has taken to address people living off-campus is by sending an email to all Lehigh students, asking who’s still living there, Zhang said. 

Alexis Holder, ‘20, is living in an off-campus house with her roommate. She said she hopes students will respond to the email sent out by the Health and Wellness Center, but doubts many people will actually do this. 

Stocken said he would most likely not respond to the survey, since he feels there is no point in filling it out. He said he doesn’t really know what the health center can do besides provide recommendations, as they can’t prevent students from catching the virus. 

Holder said the Health and Wellness Center has been helpful to her in the past few weeks.

“I called them a few days ago (asking) how to stay safe, and they were really, really great,” Holder said. “I think it depends on how much you reach out to them, how much you care. Every time I’ve called them, they’ve been so helpful.”

Holder said while there are some people who are following social distancing and self-isolation guidelines, other students have no qualms about continuing to hang out with friends.

She said she has seen students hanging out in groups on social media. 

Holder said while she and a few other students have been strongly advocating for social distancing policies, it’s difficult to get people to listen.

“Even from making those points sometimes, I was made fun of for trying to do that,” Holder said. “I think people aren’t understanding that this virus is so scary, because it spreads so easily and it’s not about us — it’s about the community, and we don’t have a right in Bethlehem to do whatever we want.”

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