Lehigh University warns students they might need to lockdown if cases keep rising

Lehigh University warns students that if students do not act immediately to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the school could potentially be forced to lock its entire student body.

Since Lehigh brought students back to campus two weeks ago, the daily rate of positivity for tests in students has increased from 2% for pre-arrival tests to a high of 10.2% on Monday. The rate of positivity for the cumulative surveillance tests is 5.3% since testing began on February 3.

New cases appeared for the first time among students off campus and, according to the university, are now increasing comparatively among students on campus. Lehigh blamed “unauthorized indoor gatherings last week and weekend,” where students met without a mask.

“We urgently need to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our campus community,” the COVID-19 task force wrote in the warning. “If we don’t, we may need to require all students to quarantine themselves on and off campus, as was the case recently at several universities, including the University of Michigan and Berkeley.”

UC Berkley students are required to stay in their dormitories and are prohibited from exercising outside.

There are currently a total of 368 active COVID-19 cases in the Lehigh student body – 133 on campus and 235 off campus. There have been 430 positive cases as of January 1, and 72% of the cases have been caught by surveillance testing. Throughout the fall semester, there were only 658 positive cases where the student population was more limited.

There are currently seven positive cases among the staff and 32 as of January 1st. There are currently 476 students in quarantine and 233 students are currently in isolation.

“Rates of positivity from this high impact on our campus operations, including isolation and quarantine capacity, health and wellness center capacity and continued contact tracing efforts, and our ability to protect the communities in Lehigh and Bethlehem,” Lehigh said in the warning. “Furthermore, continuing and expanding personal activities this spring will only be possible if we reverse this trend.”

Limited courses are in person and takeout is now only available. The gyms are closed and gatherings are limited to five people in the same household.

The university urged students to limit their contacts and social distance, and to adhere to existing health and safety protocols.

The warning states that if students gather in a group of 50 people, if they have a positivity rate of 5%, they have a 92% chance of contacting someone with COVID.

As of Monday, Lehigh is expanding the monitoring tests. They will continue to test 100% of the designated students and expand to PhD students. Faculties and staff with frequent interactions on campus are given the opportunity to be tested as well.

The university now strongly recommends dual masking, as is now recommended by the CDC, and will make more disposable masks available around campus.

Lehigh’s clear enforcement guidelines and how anyone can report violations of the university’s COVID guidelines.

Students with symptoms should contact the Health and Wellness Center (610-758-3870) or call the Lehigh Valley Health Network’s 24/7 nurse triage line at 1-888-402-LVHN to arrange a test and get additional instructions. Faculty and staff should contact Terri Latvis, RN, the Nursing Case Manager at the University of the Lehigh Valley Health Network, at 610-861-8080. 21237 or [email protected]

Lehigh has revived its COVID-19 hotline and will be available on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

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Sara K. Satullo can be reached at [email protected]

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