Graphic by Jenna Simon/B&W Staff

COVID-19 cases among Lehigh students ticking up; Pa. sees record highs

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Lehigh’s COVID-19 dashboard is showing 26 active cases of COVID-19 among students in the Bethlehem area as of Wednesday. There were only seven such active cases just two days ago.

The positivity rate for this week so far is 2.72 percent, marking the highest positivity rate in a given week since Sept. 28 when the rate was at four percent.

The higher positivity rate could be indicative of the amount of tests Lehigh has performed this week through its random surveillance testing protocol. So far, Lehigh has performed 552 surveillance tests this week. Last week, when the week’s high was 34 active COVID-19 cases among students on Nov. 5, there were zero surveillance tests performed, according to the dashboard. The week before that, in late October, Lehigh reported 702 surveillance tests.

This week marks the end of Lehigh’s random surveillance testing the school introduced in response to an outbreak that occurred about one month into the semester that forced new restrictions and a switch to all remote learning. It’s difficult to say the full extent of the outbreak, given that Lehigh did not begin reporting active COVID-19 cases — as opposed to cumulative cases — until Oct. 14. There was a high of 86 active cases among students in Bethlehem on Oct. 15.

The school will also administer “exit testing” before Thanksgiving break for non-remote students who want to participate.

Lehigh’s recent increase in active cases and a higher positivity rate comes as Pennsylvania is seeing record numbers of cases and hospitalizations. The Pennsylvania Department of Health is reporting 4,711 cases on Wednesday, marking a new high since the pandemic started in March. There are also 2,080 Pennsylvanians hospitalized due to COVID-19, which is also a record for the state.

Both Lehigh and Northampton counties have reached “substantial” community transmission, which applies to counties with at least a 10 percent positivity rate over the past seven days or when there are more than 100 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.

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