BREAKING: In an email sent to the Lehigh community on Feb. 12, the COVID-19 Response Team outlined urgent campus status changes in response to a rapid rise in the virus positivity rate among students over the past few weeks.
The email said pre-arrival COVID-19 testing indicated a positivity rate of about 2 percent. That rate has subsequently increased, peaking at 10.2 percent on Feb. 8. As of Feb. 12, the positivity rate is 5.3 percent.
The email noted that case rates began increasing off campus, but now comparable virus positivity rates among the on-campus population are being reported. The COVID-19 Response Team has received reports of unsanctioned indoor gatherings, which it believes have contributed to the rise in cases.
Currently, there are 368 active cases of COVID-19 among Lehigh students. Of those, 133 are among students living in residence halls and 235 are among off-campus students.
“We urgently need to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our campus community,” the email said. “If we do not, we may need to require all undergraduate students to quarantine on and off campus.”
The email outlined changes in operations that will go into effect Monday, Feb. 15.
The university will continue to test 100 percent of the designated undergraduate student body, and will offer testing for faculty, staff, and teaching assistants with frequent campus interactions. Testing offerings will be extended to graduate students who conduct research on campus and who live in the same residence halls as undergraduates.
The number of in-person classes is set to be reduced beginning Feb. 15. While the classroom is believed to be a low-risk environment, in-person learning can be ineffective if students are forced into isolation or quarantine, the email said.
Library hours will remain the same, and no dining will be permitted anywhere within the libraries.
The COVID-19 Response Team has also recommended double masking when around others, a practice that the CDC now recognizes to be more effective in preventing the spread of the virus.
The team outlined the university’s quarantine policy. Students living within 150 miles of campus who are able to travel home by private vehicle may do so, but will need to be cleared to end quarantine by the Health and Wellness Center before returning to campus.
Students are urged to restrict their activity and limit close contacts.
“Given a 5 percent positivity rate, if you gather with a group of 50, for instance, you have a 92 percent chance that you have contacted someone with COVID,” the email said.
The email encouraged community members to report violations of the university’s COVID policy before or while such events are occuring.
This story will be updated as more information is made available. Please return to The Brown and White for continued COVID-19 updates.