Faculty will now be able to keep track of COVID-19 cases in their classes. Despite guidelines in place, positive cases appeared on campus in the first few weeks of class. (Sharon Jo/B&W staff)

Positive COVID-19 cases in classrooms will be reported to faculty via Argos

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Lehigh has launched a new system for faculty to monitor the number of active COVID-19 cases among students in their classes, Provost Nathan Urban announced in a Sept. 3 email. 

The system, launched using Argos tracking technology, notifies faculty of the number of students in their classes who have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Arogs began sending email notifications to faculty on Sept. 7. 

This change was driven by the desire to give faculty the flexibility that they may need to ensure that students can make progress on their work,” Urban said in an email to The Brown and White

Many faculty members requested information about the number of positive cases in their classes to better respond to student needs and plan their mode of instruction over the course of the term, Urban said. 

Michael Gusmano, a professor in the College of Health has responded positively to this new system. 

It is too early to make a final judgment on the system, but I think it is a reasonable effort by the university to provide us with regularly updated information about what is happening on campus so we can make informed decisions about keeping people safe,” Gusmano said. 

Heather Flyte, a teaching assistant instructor in the English department, had difficulties gaining access to Argos. 

As a graduate student, Flyte is not considered a faculty member. She does not have automatic access to systems like Argos, despite being the sole instructor for her classes. 

Flyte said she emailed the provost that she did not have access to Argos and she was told to file a help desk ticket. She said she has not heard back about her help desk ticket. 

Flyte said a large portion of the English department are teaching assistants like herself. 

“The English department touches almost every student at Lehigh during their time here,” Flyte said. “This is a blind spot in COVID case management.” 

Gusmano said there is an issue with the lag time involved with the system. He said data has to be collected and entered into Argos, so faculty members’ understanding of what is happening in their classroom is delayed by a day. 

“It is crucial for students, staff and faculty to provide the university with information about their status as soon as possible because the faster that information is made available to the university, the better off the system will work,” Gusmano said. 

In coordination with the Argos tracking system, the university has instituted a policy that allows faculty to shift to remote instruction if more than 30 percent of students in a given class section are quarantining or in isolation. 

Flyte chose to hold her classes remotely despite having no reported COVID-19 cases in her classes. 

“I wasn’t sure about going remote, but then I had a couple of students reach out that they weren’t comfortable being in person with the rise of cases, so I said ‘that’s it,” Flyte said.

Others, like Gusmano, have continued with in-person instruction, providing the option for students in isolation to join via Zoom. 

“I know the university is committed to remaining in person, and there are very good reasons to believe we should be able to do so,” Gusmano said. “Along with our vaccine and mask policies, we know that good public health practices can work – even in the face of Delta and other variants.” 

Urban said the university has not seen evidence of transmission of COVID-19 in the classroom in data collected so far. 

“Keeping classrooms safe is critical, and it is why it is so important that everyone wears a good-fitting mask and wears it properly at all times during class,” Urban said. 

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