As mentioned in last week’s COVID-19 update, we continue to focus on collecting and cross referencing key data points to make decisions about the remaining weeks of the semester. You likely know the CDC issued new guidance on Tuesday. It focuses heavily on what vaccinated individuals can safely do. We know that at least 68% of our on-campus students have some immunity by being fully or partially vaccinated or through natural immunity as a result of a COVID-19 infection. Vaccines remain readily available in the Lehigh Valley, including at least one site now offering walk-in vaccination without an appointment.
As we developed our operational levels we considered ways to protect members of the community who were at risk and to prevent a community spread event that might overwhelm our capacity or strain local hospitals. While we have seen a steady number of students with COVID-19 this spring, the vast majority of student cases required no specific medical intervention beyond routine care. Our most at-risk community members have been able to access vaccines for several months, and the entire community has had access for approximately one month. We believe that we can safely change our tactics for the remainder of the spring semester if students cooperate with the adjusted plans.
We will continue to report data, including positive cases, on our COVID-19 dashboard. Remember, students who are fully vaccinated can opt out of testing. Students for whom we have vaccination records and do not appear for testing next week will be considered as opting out.
We will not use weekly positivity rates to determine levels of operation. As our testing numbers decline, fewer positive cases would trigger deeper restrictions than are necessary to protect the community given the saturation level of vaccinated individuals. We are reverting to Operational Level 1 and, barring an unexpectedly large number of new COVID-19 cases, expect to remain there through finals.
Students who are vaccinated can fill out this vaccination survey through Sunday evening at 5 p.m. After that time, all other students who have not indicated their vaccine status will receive an individualized survey to indicate their vaccine plans. If we receive verified information that more students are vaccinated and our percentage of vaccinated students rises to 85%, we will move to Operational Level 0 and stay there for the remainder of the semester.
Many students identified as close contacts can safely quarantine in their own room. Students in traditional-style residence halls whose roommate is fully vaccinated or who do not have a roommate will be eligible to quarantine in their own room if identified as a close contact. This is added to the ability of students in suites and apartments to quarantine in place. Quarantined students will still be ineligible to attend class in person and will continue to be tested using rapid tests at specific points during the quarantine period. The COVID-19 housing team will give you instructions about how to quarantine safely in either your own room or a designated space if you must relocate. Students in quarantine remain able to exercise outdoors for 45 minutes a day unsupervised but are expected to limit interactions with others.
Students who have active COVID-19 cases will be moved to isolation housing and, beginning Monday, will be permitted to spend up to 45 minutes per day outdoors within a supervised area and at a designated time if they feel healthy enough to do so.
Students who are fully vaccinated can follow the CDC guidance about not wearing masks outside. In large group settings (specific programs or large events such as Commencement) masks are still required, so you should keep a mask with you. We encourage you to go outside. Outdoor social activities have far less risk than inside ones, so gather up your friends and enjoy the Quad or head to a nearby park.
We understand how difficult it has been to live in various states of restriction. That said, this decreased restriction is not a license to engage in risky or disruptive behavior. We want you to safely gather with your friends and enjoy the good weather, but not at the expense of other members of the campus community or our neighbors in Easton. Remember that a portion of the community does not yet have immunity from COVID-19, so please socialize responsibly.
Here is what has not changed: You must still wear masks in the classroom and in other College buildings regardless of whether you are fully vaccinated. You must still notify Bailey Health Center if you exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, even if you have opted out of testing. We are still working hard to keep the community safe while supporting the delivery of more experiences you value.
Be well and stay safe,
Vice President for Campus Life
Dr. Jeff Goldstein
Director of Health Services