Lehigh’s spike in COVID-19 cases has caused many classes to be held completely online. Professors have had to adapt their classes to accommodate this change. (Nora Thomson/B&W staff)

Recent restrictions on in-person gatherings affect classes, labs and clubs alike

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Following the rise of COVID-19 cases in the beginning weeks of the spring semester, Lehigh has placed temporary limits on some in-person class meetings.

Dr. Margaret Kenna, a biology professor, said the pandemic has greatly impacted her labs, not only forcing them to go remote, but also impacting the availability of TA support due to COVID-19 infection and quarantining. 

Kenna teaches biological sciences, specifically the Cell and Molecular Biology Lab, which usually consists of weekly labs, often completed in groups. 

Now, Kenna has to juggle multiple lab sections of both in-person and remote labs. In order to provide remote students with the necessary lab tools, Kenna and her TA’s have made over 100 lab kits that were shipped to students working remotely. 

For students who are participating in person, Kenna has adapted her class to a three-part rotating schedule. Students alternate their time within the physical lab, a lab simulation provided by Labster and virtual video labs using a new technology, Jove, provided by Lehigh.

Kenna said the first week of in-person classes went smoothly but by the second week, more than 50 percent of students were absent from class.

The many absences have forced Kenna to continue adapting in-person labs by providing students virtual labs, make-up sessions and flexible deadlines.

For remote learners, Kenna said the main challenge of this environment is the student’s ability to individually teach and motivate themselves without the influence of the instructor and in-person environment.

“The real heart of the matter is that it is also on the remote learner for how much dedication and self-teaching they are putting into the course,” Kenna said. “It is not just what I can provide for the student, it is also how you want to learn it.”

Balancing constantly evolving COVID-19 restrictions with students individually impacted by the virus has also caused disruption within music classes, lessons and ensembles, said Linda Ganus, Orchestra Manager and professor.

Ganus has worked at Lehigh for over 20 years. She said the pandemic has posed new challenges she had not previously experienced within her time at Lehigh.

Orchestra has been meeting every week since the start of the semester. Safety precautions have included cutting the normal three-hour rehearsals in half, using plexiglass separators for wind instruments in order to limit germ spread, and rehearsing outdoors when the weather permits.

“We are trying to do as much as we can under the safety conditions so that we can actually be together because that is an important part of making music,” Ganus said. 

Ganus said in order for rehearsals to continue, multiple backup plans are vital.

The music department has  continued final performances within the virtual setting through producing videos highlighting final pieces, rehearsals, and musician solos.

“The thing that we have learned is that we just can’t take anything for granted,” Ganus said.

Maggie Perlman, ‘21, has been singing in the Lehigh Choir since her freshman year. Perlman said she often looked forward to choir meetings twice a week as a way to decompress and feel a part of the music community. 

Now, the choir meets twice a week, remotely. 

Perlman said although they have not been able to meet in person, their sense of community has grown during the pandemic as the choir made videos at home speaking and singing of the challenges they were facing. 

“This semester, we are delving into more environmental and social justice issues through spoken word and music,” Perlman said.

Choir’s remote setting has also allowed Perlman to join Dolce, the women’s choir, which she was previously unable to participate in given her busy schedule. 

On Feb. 22, the group had their first in-person rehearsal in Baker Hall, following COVID-19 social distancing restrictions and guidelines. Each singer was placed within their own plexiglass cubicle while singing together as a unit. 

“It was amazing to sing with the other members in our performance hall almost one year since we last sang all together,” Perlman said.

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