With the expectation that some students will return back to campus in the fall, there are endless questions of how the Lehigh experience will differ during the pandemic.
Issues of health and safety are at the center of Lehigh’s decision making process when planning for the 2020-2021 academic year.
In addition to an increase in cleaning and sanitation procedures, self-monitoring and temperature checks, and modified classroom and lab spaces, the administration has been planning for what will happen if students on campus contract COVID-19.
David Rubenstein, Lehigh’s first executive director of the Health and Wellness Center, recently shared some of these plans with The Brown and White.
He said the Health Center is able to test symptomatic students for COVID-19, as it has done throughout the spring and summer along with providing other clinical services.
“In planning for the return of students in the fall, and in efforts to mitigate risk of exposure to COVID-19, the Health and Wellness Center will be opening a second clinic location where students without respiratory symptoms or other symptoms that could be consistent with COVID-19 will be seen,” Rubentstein said in an email.
Students with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 will log into the Health Center student portal to schedule an appointment and be seen on the third floor of Johnson Hall. If a student tests positive for the virus, the Health Center will work with the Dean of Students office to temporarily isolate the student in identified housing on campus and will receive follow up care and monitoring from the Health Center.
“The Health and Wellness Center also works with the Bethlehem Health Bureau who will provide contact tracing in identifying students with potential exposure, and the Health and Wellness Center will follow up as needed with these students,” Rubenstein said.
He said students who have had close contact with a case will be quarantined either in their regular housing or in other identified housing.
The new information comes after the university has announced its decision to reopen campus this fall with a mix of in-person and online classes. The Health Center previously released guidance requiring face coverings in all public spaces on campus. Social distancing guidelines will also be implemented in common areas like dining halls, libraries, recreational facilities and residence halls.
Classes with more than 50 students will be entirely remote, according to Lehigh’s COVID-19 FAQ page.
Uncertainty is rippling across higher education in other areas, too, and Lehigh is no exception.
The recent announcement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that international students must return to their home countries if their schools are offering exclusively online courses leaves these students and their schools in a difficult situation.
The fate of fall athletics for Patriot League schools is still uncertain. Meanwhile, the Ivy League decided to cancel all sports for those schools. Muhlenberg and Moravian colleges have canceled their football seasons.
And recent restrictions from Housing Services left some Greek life students left to decide if they would want to live in a different dorm or find off campus housing.
Coronavirus cases are surging nationwide, and Pennsylvania recently instituted a 14-day quarantine for travelers entering the state from one of 15 other states, according to Pennsylvania’s Department of Health. There are now over three million coronavirus cases in the United States and over 130,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.