Information Center

Isolation and Quarantine Protocol

Last Updated: Sep. 13, 2021 at 2:38 pm

This protocol is a detailed outline of how we will care for students who require isolation or quarantine.


For Positive COVID-19 Cases 

Isolation is the separation of someone who is ill and is awaiting a test result or has tested positive for COVID-19 from people who are not sick.  One can test positive for COVID-19 without symptoms. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people can test positive, which is why it is important that individuals who are experiencing COVID-like symptoms get tested, regardless of vaccination status. 

Students who test positive for COVID-19 are required to isolate for at least 10 days (the duration of the infective period) from the time symptoms first appear or, in the case of an individual who has a positive test but has not had any symptoms, 10 days from the date that they were tested.

Isolation may be required for longer periods depending on the course of symptoms. Read more from the CDC about how to "Isolate If You Are Sick." 

Process/What to Expect

  • If you live off campus, you will be contacted by the Health and Wellness Center (HWC) Contact Tracing Team. 
  • If you live on campus, you will be contacted by the HWC Contact Tracing Team and the Relocation Team with information about relocation to isolation housing. Review suggested items for what to pack at the bottom of this page under "Additional Resources." 
  • If you receive your test result after hours or over the weekend, a clinician is available and on call at 610-758-3870 for those experiencing medical issues. 
  • Students may choose to complete their isolation at home if they can be transported by private vehicle and NOT by public transportation (plane, train, bus, etc.) or ride-share. Students should email if they will be isolating at home or another off-campus location. Students completing their isolation period at home must be cleared by the HWC to end isolation and return to campus. 
  • If you receive a positive test result from an outside source and you live on campus, you should remain in your residence and notify the Health and Wellness Center by uploading your result to the Patient Portal as soon as possible (even if you are not experiencing symptoms). The HWC will monitor incoming reports throughout the weekend and will send you a secure message through the portal with isolation instructions. Once your information is uploaded in the Patient Portal, please allow for adequate processing time and communicate through the Patient Portal if you have questions about your status. All students should remain in their residence and self-isolate until they receive further relocation directions. The Relocation Team will contact you as soon as possible; however, the HWC needs to confirm your status first, which will occur once you submit your positive test result through the portal (the Relocation Team and Lehigh University Police Department do not have this information and cannot respond to inquiries until they are confirmed by the HWC).  
  • If you live on campus and test positive and are remaining on campus for isolation, the Relocation Team will contact you with everything you need to know in regards to isolation housing, including where you will be relocated. If it is after 9 p.m., students are typically given until 8:00 a.m. the following morning to move into isolation housing. For students living in the residence halls, on-call staff are available who can assist with later moves if there are extenuating circumstances in the overnight hours. The HWC Contact Tracing Team will also follow up with you to facilitate contact tracing.
  • For questions about isolation housing and food, email More information on dining is included in the message that is sent by the Relocation team to students as part of their relocation instructions. 

If you are experiencing symptoms at any time, including while awaiting follow-up from the HWC for a positive test result, please call the HWC's main number at 610-758-3870. There is a HWC clinician-on-call after-hours and on weekends for medical concerns. At any time, if you are experiencing a true medical emergency, call LUPD at 610-758-4200 or dial 9-1-1. 

Isolation Protocol

If the student lives on campus:

  • Lehigh-required isolation for students living on campus involves assignment to a residence with zero public contact due to a COVID-19 diagnosis with or without active symptoms. Isolation housing units are self-contained and there is no air circulated between units. 
  • Faculty will readily accommodate students and help with a plan for continuing their studies during this time.
  • Students isolating on campus will receive information regarding the meal options they may select, cleaning supplies for their restroom and living space, bed linens, and check-ins with an HWC healthcare provider and University staff member.
  • Students may not have visitors and may not leave their room except to receive medical care. If a student is having a medical emergency, they should call LUPD and EMS at 610-758-4200 immediately. Students should let dispatch know they are in isolation for exposure to COVID-19. For non-emergency medical concerns, students should call the HWC.
  • The HWC will communicate with the appropriate offices that a student has been diagnosed as a positive COVID-19 case and the student will be assigned a room for isolation.
  • Students will remain in the temporary space until the date cleared by the HWC.
  • Sheets, pillows, blankets, and towels will be placed in isolation spaces prior to a student’s arrival by the Relocation Team.
  • Tissues, cleaning and sanitizing solution, hand soap, toilet paper, and paper towels will be available in isolation spaces.
  • Students assigned to isolation spaces should be cleaning the space regularly, twice per day, using cleaning supplies that have been provided.
  • Once an isolation room is vacated, the room will be fully cleaned using best-practice cleaning protocols related to COVID-19. This applies to all university-operated isolation spaces.
  • Students who test positive for COVID-19 may be isolated together (e.g. “cohorting” of positive cases).
  • Students with symptoms who are suspected of having COVID-19 who are awaiting test results need to be isolated, but will not be isolated with students who have a known positive COVID-19 test.

If the student lives off campus in the local community in a unit or house not owned or operated by Lehigh University (including SouthSide Commons):

  • Students with symptoms who are awaiting COVID-19 test results OR who have a positive COVID-19 test result will be instructed to self-isolate in their off-campus apartment.
  • It is required that students must be in self-isolation and may not return to campus until cleared by the HWC.
  • Any housemates living in the apartment who are unvaccinated must quarantine (fully vaccinated individuals may get tested but are not required to quarantine). 


For Exposure to COVID-19, Close Contacts

Quarantine is the separation of someone exposed to a COVID-19-positive individual from others to monitor the exposed person for signs of illness. For COVID-19, quarantine lasts 14 days (the duration of the incubation period). The CDC provides options to shorten quarantine, which might include a 10-day quarantine combined with testing. Lehigh students, faculty and staff should follow the guidance provided by the Health and Wellness Center (for students) and Lehigh’s occupational health nurse from LVHN (for faculty and staff).

Read more from the CDC about "When to Quarantine." Fully vaccinated students who come into close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID are recommended testing but are not required to quarantine. Unvaccinated and not fully vaccinated students will be required to continue following the CDC guidelines for quarantining. Note that guidelines for quarantining following travel may differ. 

***Please note that unoccupied housing space will be extremely limited on campus and will be prioritized for use as isolation space for on-campus students with COVID. Unvaccinated students should be aware that, if they are identified as a close contact, they will be asked to quarantine at an alternative location. Unvaccinated students should develop a plan in advance for where they will quarantine in the event they are identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID.***

Quarantine Protocol

  • Students in quarantine may not attend classes or other campus activities. They may only pick up take-out meals and must immediately return to their residence.
  • If COVID infection rates or adverse campus conditions necessitate, additional mitigation protocols may be applied for unvaccinated students, including limiting their access to Lehigh residence halls or campus buildings or limiting their participation in in-person activities. This information is provided to students during the process of requesting an exemption from Lehigh’s COVID vaccination requirement. Students who are unvaccinated because they received a medical or religious exemption will be asked to quarantine at an alternative location (e.g., home or a local hotel).  Students completing their quarantine period away from campus must be cleared by the Health and Wellness Center to end quarantine and return to campus. 
  • Faculty will readily accommodate students and help with a plan for continuing their studies during this time.
  • Specific recommendations for quarantine of particular individuals based on the nature of their particular exposure to COVID-19 will be determined by the Bethlehem Health Bureau and LU HWC through investigation and surveillance of current active COVID-19 cases. 
  • Students may not have visitors and may not leave their room except to receive medical care. If a student is having a medical emergency they should call LUPD and EMS at 610-758-4200 immediately. Students should let dispatch know they are in quarantine for exposure to COVID-19. For non-emergency medical concerns, students should call the HWC.
  • Students who are quarantining off campus but who have a meal plan may come to campus to pick up meals but must immediately return home to quarantine. Meals should be picked up and students must return to their room with their take-out containers. This process is designed to minimize contact with others and follows all appropriate health and safety protocols. Both students and staff are wearing masks.  Students in quarantine should be in and out of the dining halls within 10-15 minutes and stand socially distanced while in the dining hall. 
  • Students living in off-campus housing who had close contact with someone with COVID-19 will be instructed to quarantine in their off-campus housing. 
  • Students living in off-campus housing must be in quarantine and may not return to campus until cleared by the HWC. Any housemates living in the apartment will be made aware of the recommendation for their self-quarantine requirements by the Bethlehem Health Bureau or the HWC. Bethlehem Health Bureau will work with HWC for contact tracing and recommendations once there is a positive COVID-19 test result.
  • The HWC will follow up with students as needed in accordance with CDC and PA DOH recommendations.

Additional Resources

Go Kit

It is important to note that if you are asked to isolate, you will not be able to leave your isolation space until released by the HWC.  It is recommended that all students assemble a “Go Kit” to have available should you need it.  Students may either bring their Go Kit to the HWC if they are not feeling well or showing symptoms of COVID 19 or you may ask another student to pick up your Go Kit from your room and deliver it to your isolation location (please request they leave it outside of your door so there is no contact).

The university is providing some items in all isolation rooms including:

  • Linens (2 sheets, pillow, pillowcase, 2 towels, washcloth)
  • Paper products (toilet paper, paper towels and tissues)
  • Wellness Kits (thermometer, hand sanitizer, 2 masks)
  • Cleaning supplies. Students should use the cleaning supplies regularly during their stay in isolation, including in bedrooms, common areas and bathrooms.

Supplies you may want to include in your Go Kit:

  • Academic Materials: All class materials, including academic books, notebooks, laptop and other necessary supplies.
  • Personal Medications: Prescribed medications you need for at least 10 days (the duration of the infective period).
  • Hygiene Supplies: Shampoo, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, feminine products, etc.
  • Technology Supplies: Phone charger, laptop charger and a back-up battery.
  • Comfort Food: Consider packing your favorite comfort snacks and drinks as well as a reusable water bottle. The university will be providing bagged/pre-prepared meals for you throughout your stay, but you may wish to bring along your own favorite snacks.
  • Self-Care Items to support your well-being: Art supplies, puzzles, crafts, playing cards, books
  • Blanket

CDC Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions marked with a bell emoji have been added recently.
  • Isolation (minimum 10 days) separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. Read more from the CDC about how to "Isolate If You Are Sick," including information about how long you should isolate. 
  • Quarantine (14 days) separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. Read more from the CDC about "When to Quarantine," including a chart with guidance about when to start and end quarantine under various scenarios. The CDC provides options to shorten quarantine, which might include a 10-day quarantine combined with testing. Lehigh students, faculty and staff should follow the guidance provided by the Health and Wellness Center (for students) and Lehigh’s occupational health nurse from LVHN (for faculty and staff).

Read Lehigh's isolation and quarantine policy.

Refer to our isolation and quarantining protocol for what to expect if you live on or off campus. 

If you have any questions regarding your housing or dining needs during your isolation or quarantine, email or call 610-758-3500.

If you have questions related to specific medical concerns or symptoms, call the Health and Wellness Center at 610-758-3870 or contact us through the HWC secure message portal.

For questions about surveillance testing, contact

Visit the isolation and quarantine section of the FAQ for additional answers to questions specific to isolation and quarantining. Consult our COVID-19 Contacts page for contact information not found here.

Students who completed their isolation or quarantine at home must first be cleared by the Health and Wellness Center (HWC) contact tracing team to return. 

Upon return, students who completed quarantine at home (did not test positive) need to sign up for an on-campus surveillance test to be completed as soon as possible and will not be required to complete another quarantine period while awaiting a test result.

No. Negative tests do not "test you out" of quarantine if you were identified as having come in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated. If a person who is a close contact has a test during that time and tests positive, then they become a case and must be in isolation starting from the date of the test (or onset of symptoms) for 10 days. Isolation (required for at least 10 days) is for people suspected of having COVID-19 and who are either awaiting a test or confirmed to be a positive case. Read Lehigh’s isolation and quarantine protocol.

A close contact is defined by the CDC as someone who was within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more within 2 days prior to illness onset, regardless of whether the contact was wearing a mask. Fully vaccinated individuals are not required to quarantine but at this time may still be referred to be tested. If not fully vaccinated and required to quarantine, demonstrating a negative COVID-19 test does not eliminate the need to quarantine. As part of Lehigh’s contact tracing policy, not fully vaccinated roommates, suitemates, housemates, apartment mates and hallmates are also required to quarantine. This aligns with CDC guidance, which supports some additional mitigation measures for educational congregate settings: “Known close contacts of a positive individual, such as roommates, suitemates, those sharing an apartment, instructors with in-person contact and colleagues of faculty/staff should be quarantined and tested for SARS-CoV-2. All quarantined individuals should follow existing CDC guidance, stay in their current place of residence (in a separate room, if possible) or make alternative housing arrangements, and monitor their health for the prescribed quarantine period after last contact with a person who has COVID-19.”

See additional resources:

If a student is in quarantine, the mail center will hold the package for the student to pick up after quarantine is over. If it’s a time-sensitive matter, then the student can delegate someone to pick up the package. They can send an email to stating the name of the person picking up the package so they know they have been provided permission.

It depends on how long ago you tested positive for COVID-19. Current guidance from the CDC and PA Department of Health is that a person is presumed to have immunity for 90 days following a positive viral COVID test (antigen or PCR).  During that 90 day period of time, if someone has been a close contact with a person with COVID, they do not need to quarantine.  After that 90 days, they need to quarantine if they have had close contact with a case and resume participating in required surveillance testing. 

This guidance is independent of any antibody testing that may be done.  Although this will likely evolve, currently per CDC: "Serologic testing should not be used to determine immune status in individuals until the presence, durability, and duration of immunity are established."

In addition the CDC says the following, which is applicable to the university setting:

  • The presence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies indicates a previous infection and possibly at least some degree of immunity or protection against future SARS-CoV-2 infection.  However, until the durability and duration of immunity are established, it cannot be assumed that individuals who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, including total antibody, IgM, IgG, or IgA, are protected from future infection.
  • Persons who have had a COVID-19 compatible or confirmed illness should follow previous guidance regarding when to resume normal activities, including work, regardless of the presence of antibodies.
  • Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about grouping persons residing in or being admitted to congregate settings, such as schools, dormitories, or correctional facilities.

No. You do not need to quarantine if you are fully vaccinated (meaning at least 2 weeks after the final dose of a COVID vaccine series) as long as you are not experiencing COVID-like symptoms (however, you must be fully vaccinated in order to be exempt from quarantine).  Students must upload a copy of their COVID vaccination card on the HWC health portal, including documentation of their full name, name of vaccine received, and the administration date for both doses.

Regardless of vaccination status, persons who exhibit new or unexplained symptoms of COVID-19 still need to isolate and be evaluated for COVID-19 testing. Close contacts who have not received the vaccine must follow existing quarantine guidance.

Unvaccinated students or not fully vaccinated students (meaning it has not been 2 weeks after the final dose of a COVID vaccine series) who have been identified as a close contact or who believe that they have been in close contact with a person with COVID in the classroom need to quarantine per Lehigh policy and should schedule a close contact test here. Fully vaccinated students are not required to quarantine, as long as they are not experiencing COVID-like symptoms. Those experiencing symptoms, vaccinated or unvaccinated, must contact the HWC at 610-758-3870 to get tested as soon as possible.

No. Studies show that people infected with COVID may be contagious for up to 10 days after symptom onset; therefore, CDC guidance and our policy is that people must remain in isolation for 10 days following a positive test or symptom onset. We have received questions regarding whether a negative test following a positive test would be sufficient to end isolation or to show that a positive test was a false positive. A positive PCR test (which includes all of the testing options offered by Lehigh) is a true positive per medical guidance. Getting a follow-up test after having a confirmed positive test result puts other medical providers who are administering the follow-up test at risk of getting COVID, reduces testing availability and is not sufficient for eliminating or reducing the length of the required isolation period. A positive test from Vault or testing through the Health and Wellness Center (HWC) is positive and will be treated as such through the duration of the isolation period. For more information, visit the CDC website

This guidance also applies to individuals who are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic. Fully vaccinated asymptomatic individuals can spread the virus, so a lack of COVID-related symptoms does not mean you are not spreading COVID if you test positive.

No. In fact, once an individual has tested positive, they should not be tested again for 90 days from the date symptoms started or the date of the positive test. (This policy is based on CDC guidance and reduces the rate of false positives.) For this reason, once the isolation period has been completed and an individual is cleared to return to work or school, evidence of a negative test is not required. When in doubt about when you are able to end isolation, always follow the guidance provided by the HWC (for students) or Lehigh’s LVHN occupational health nurse (for faculty and staff). 


In rare cases, ongoing symptoms could mean a longer isolation period is warranted, but in general, COVID-19 remains infectious no longer than 10 days after symptoms begin. 

Students may need to provide a copy of messages they are sent from the Health and Wellness Center, which includes confirmation of their isolation/quarantine start and end dates, to their faculty and instructors. Some instructors may require this information to excuse a student from class.

No. Space on campus is very limited given the health and safety protocols in place, such as low-density occupancy. Students living off campus will be required to self-isolate in their off-campus residence. We urge students and families to consider this when making decisions about living in the Bethlehem area in off-campus housing instead of remaining home.  All students will have access to services from the Health and Wellness Center and access to treatment, including through telemedicine.