When Ally McGrath’s roommate tested positive for COVID-19 within a house of fully vaccinated students, McGrath, ‘22, got tested and self-quarantined even though university policy does not require her to do so.
“I would not feel comfortable going out and pretending like my roommate didn’t just test positive for COVID,” McGrath said. “The pandemic isn’t over, and COVID obviously still is impacting Lehigh.”
Unlike the strict 14 day quarantine policy for close contacts last year, vaccinated close contacts are no longer instructed to quarantine by Lehigh’s COVID-19 Response Team or the CDC.
The CDC’s current recommendation for fully vaccinated individuals is that they do not need to quarantine unless they have symptoms and should obtain a test three to five days after their exposure even if they aren’t symptomatic.
McGrath was nervous when her roommate tested positive despite everyone in their house being fully vaccinated. McGrath and her three other housemates all tested negative after their initial exposure, but didn’t feel comfortable going about their routines.
“We got tested two or three times after, but we kind of self-quarantined where we just stayed in our house and didn’t see anyone,” McGrath said. “And again, we wore masks in the house just until we knew that we were all negative.”
Henry Anderson, ‘22, faced a similar situation when his roommate tested positive for COVID-19, despite being fully vaccinated.
“It very quickly became a conversation about how we can be as safe as possible while also making sure that we can still try to go about our day to day,” Anderson said.
Anderson’s roommate who tested positive isolated in his room, while he and his other housemates continued to get tested three more times, monitor any symptoms and wore masks in their house.
Both McGrath and Anderson chose to go above Lehigh’s standard protocol for exposure when fully vaccinated.
Lori Friedman, director of media relations for the university, said all students who test positive at the Health and Wellness Center or report a positive test to the university will undergo “case investigation and contact tracing.”
She said unvaccinated students identified as close contacts will be notified to quarantine and recommended for testing.
“Students who are fully vaccinated and are identified as close contacts or living mates will be notified and recommended to test but do not need to (be) quarantined,” Friedman said.
McGrath said she wishes Lehigh would test students weekly, regardless of their vaccination status.
“(Testing) would make everything so much more comfortable, because I know there are people at school who are feeling sick and they’re still going out,” McGrath said.
Anderson said he chose to self-quarantine after his exposure because he feels the university is falling short when it comes to testing and protecting students.
Anderson said unless you directly identified as a close contact with someone who is positive for COVID-19, nothing is obligating students to be tested.
“I care about my classmates, my teacher and I think that ultimately we all have to buy into this prisoner’s dilemma of sorts in order to beat COVID,” Anderson said. “That’s why I went for testing.”