BREAKING: Lehigh sports on pause after on-campus cases

All Lehigh University athletics has been closed indefinitely with immediate effect, Athletic Director Joe Sterrett said in an email Tuesday to certain members of the Lehigh Athletics Community.

Later on Tuesday afternoon, the Lehigh COVID-19 response team alerted the campus about its first on campus COVID-19 cases.

The email from Sterrett said the decision to pause training and training was due to concerns following multiple positive COVID-19 cases across teams. The decision, which Sterrett said came from Lehigh’s COVID-19 response team, came after the teams began their third week of training.

A day later, on September 30th, the Welch Fitness Center announced it was closing for cleaning, with no reopening date announced.

Sterrett said he learned of this decision via email and currently has no further information.

“The level of contact tracing related to the few cases of COVID that we have experienced has clearly raised enough concern that the decision was made to shut us down,” Sterrett said in his email.

In the past two days, two on-campus students tested positive after reporting symptoms and four new cases from off-campus students, the COVID-19 Response Team wrote in its email to the campus community. The number of students in isolation and quarantine has also risen sharply, according to Lehigh’s COVID-19 dashboard.

One of the cases on campus had not been on campus since September 26 and notified the health and wellness center of the positive result on the evening of September 28.

Another student who lives on campus has moved into isolation.

“Those who came into close contact – defined by the CDC as 15 minutes or more within 1.80 meters – are currently being quarantined, will be relocated and tested if necessary,” the email said.

All positive cases will be investigated to determine if there is a risk of a major campus outbreak.

“We have seen a significant increase in the number of students who require quarantine,” said the COVID-19 response team. “Careful contact tracing has identified at least 60 close contacts as a result of these new COVID-19 cases, including cases related to multiple athletics programs.”

Close contacts have been identified and contacted, appropriately placed in quarantine and have been or will be tested shortly.

In a phone call today, Sterrett said there were two confirmed COVID-19 cases on the football team. He said he believed these players tested positive last week, which would therefore be different cases from what Lehigh said in the past two days. Sterrett said the two football cases were reported through the health center.

As of yesterday, Lehigh’s COVID-19 dashboard had only reported one new case for the week of September 21 through September 27 and one new case for the week of September 28 through October 4.

Sterrett said only the soccer players who were in direct contact groups were quarantined. Team members not exposed did not have to be quarantined.

“To those of our programs that have done everything we asked, and we have a number of them, I am deeply sorry,” Sterrett wrote in his email to certain members of the Lehigh Athletics Community.

That decision comes just two months after the Patriot League canceled Fall sports in response to the pandemic. At this point in time, the teams were still allowed to train and exercise in compliance with health and safety conditions.

Lehighs Surveillance tests Program that tests random samples of the non-remote student population started this week and will run through November.

The COVID information hotline 610-758-1500 has been re-established and is operational on September 29th from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm EDT and on September 30th from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm EDT.

“As a campus community, we must collectively take proactive steps to reduce the potential for the spread of COVID-19 on our campus and in our communities,” the COVID-19 Response Team said in its email.

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