Lehigh announced it will also test fully remote students for COVID-19 as part of its surveillance testing. (Sharon Jo/B&W Staff)

BREAKING: Lehigh updates original COVID-19 plan, will expand surveillance testing

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Lehigh announced plans Tuesday afternoon to continue mandatory COVID-19 surveillance testing for non-remote students.

Now, a random sample of non-remote students, regardless of symptoms, will be tested for COVID-19 in the weeks to come.

The announcement is a change from the testing plan previously communicated to students. All non-remote students were tested twice the first two weeks of the semester. But after the first two weeks and before this latest announcement, only symptomatic students — including fully remote students — were eligible to be tested for COVID-19 by Lehigh’s Health and Wellness Center.

Provost Nathan Urban and David Rubenstein, the Health Center’s executive director, outlined the revised plan for university COVID-19 testing.

The decision to resume testing came as a result of rising cases counts in the region, the email said. 

Beginning Sept. 28 and continuing through Nov. 9, Lehigh will be conducting surveillance testing in multiple rounds at approximately two week intervals. 

“The current plan is to test between five and 10 percent of those students for whom testing was required previously,” the email said. “This number will be increased if infection rates are higher than expected based on previous testing.”

As the plan currently stands, students will be selected at random, contacted by email and will be required to sign up for testing. Their results will then be published on Lehigh’s coronavirus dashboard. 

Students who are not contacted will not be tested during that week.

The email said, since surveillance testing is for students not necessarily experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, the expected positivity rate is predicted to be below 1 percent. 

“If surveillance testing reveals a higher overall rate of infection or a cluster of cases in a specific population, further testing and/or changes in campus operations may be needed to further mitigate the risk of COVID-19 at Lehigh,” the email said. 

A recent Brown and White survey conducted via an Instagram poll between Sept. 20 and Sept. 21 found that an overwhelming majority of respondents would like to continue routine weekly surveillance testing, regardless of symptoms. Out of 522 respondents, 484 — or 92.72 percent — said they are in favor of returning to routine weekly testing.

For students who are seeking additional COVID-19 testing options, there are multiple off-campus locations offering both active-virus and antibody tests at little to no cost. 

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