Students line up on the STEPS Lawn to be tested for COVID-19 during the first week of class. This week there were 293 positive COVID-19 cases. (Gabi Falk/B&W Staff)

Campus-wide testing discontinued for now, only symptomatic students to receive tests


With Lehigh’s mandatory testing of all non-remote students wrapped up, the university will now only be testing symptomatic students. No routine testing of students is scheduled to occur throughout the rest of the semester as of publication. 

“We are reviewing our testing approach on an ongoing basis and are evaluating whether additional testing of asymptomatic students will be performed,” said David Rubenstein, executive director of the Health and Wellness Center. “Action will be determined by case numbers among the student population and in the region, as well as recommendations from CDC and regional public health authorities.”

He said this was all part of the overall health and safety plan for returning to campus. Students must also complete a training and a daily self-screening if they will be on campus and must follow all guidelines. 

Rubenstein said in an email students were required to be tested twice during the first two weeks of the semester. This way, if a result came back negative in the first week of testing due to the student only recently being infected, the result would come back positive in their second test. 

“The goal of this testing was to reduce the likelihood of a student arriving on campus who could transmit COVID-19 to members of the Lehigh campus and surrounding Bethlehem community,” Rubenstein said. 

Rubenstein said any student experiencing symptoms should be tested at the Lehigh Health Center throughout the semester. Symptomatic students will be quarantined as well as anyone who has come in close contact with that person, and contact tracing will be conducted if an individual tests positive. 

All students living on-campus and those living off-campus who did not choose the fully remote option and thus had access to campus facilities were required to be tested twice for COVID-19 during the first two weeks of the semester.

Students living off-campus who chose the fully remote option  — including those in South Bethlehem — were not required to be tested. 

Jack Silvershein, ’24, feels there is more Lehigh could be doing to keep students safe but said overall he feels safe on campus. 

Silvershein contracted COVID-19 in March but recovered quickly. Since recovering, he feels the antibodies in his blood give him a little more security but thinks other students who do not have these antibodies might not feel the same way. 

I know a lot of schools are testing students every week, and we don’t do that here,” Silvershein said. “I think that is definitely something we could improve on. What is the point of quarantining people if you don’t even know if they have it?”

Silvershein thinks one way Lehigh could improve would be to give students more time and space to spread out in campus facilities. 

“The dining halls close at 8 p.m. (during the week) and 7 p.m. on the weekends, which is kind of inconvenient, and there are a bunch of kids there,” Silvershein said. “It is pretty compact, especially at places like Rathbone. I understand why they close everything early, but I think if they want to spread out where people are and when and limit people in a certain space, then I think they should be open a little later so that you can spread out a lot of the people that actually go to certain places.”

Luke Coolbaugh, ‘24, said overall he also feels safe on campus. 

More testing can’t hurt, but I think (testing students twice) is a pretty good standard,” he said. 

Sean Bowyer, an employee at Vault Health, the company Lehigh contracted with to test students, said results from these tests are usually available within 48 to 72 hours, and there is a 98 percent accuracy rate.  Students take the tests by providing a sample of saliva. 

Bowyer said the goal is to provide tests to students in a safe environment and in a non-invasive way.

Lori Friedman, Lehigh’s media relations director, said there are currently 1,223 students living on-campus, including 1,051 first-year students, 92 upperclassmen and 80 Gryphons. There have been zero positive results for students currently living on-campus as of Sept. 7.

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  1. Lehigh should be doing surveillance testing 2x per week for students on campus and those living off campus who are accessing buildings/cafeteria to help mitigate outbreaks. Limiting testing to only those kids who have symptoms is fine, but doesn’t make sense when the virus is highly transmittable through people who are asymptotic. The CDC botched this message and not necessarily best practices from a public health standpoint.

  2. There is nothing mentioned in this article as the reasoning why Lehigh has stop the testing, I have sent several emails to the task force with no valid response. I think there needs to be further investigation as to the thinking before this decision.

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