Coronavirus Communications Archive


Lenoir-Rhyne University communicates regularly about COVID-19 with the LR community. 

We are committed to supporting our students, faculty and staff during these times of uncertainty and will continue to work through questions that arise during the pandemic. Be sure to familiarize yourself with CDC guidelines on How to Protect Yourself and Others to limit the spread of Coronavirus.

October 2021

  • October 4, 2021: Coronavirus Update

    TO: LR Campus Community
    FR: Dr. Fred Whitt, President

    Our COVID taskforce continues to meet and monitor COVID infections and provide updated recommendations as needed. As reported last week, we are continuing to require wearing masks indoors on campus, unless you are in your office or residence hall alone. Being fully vaccinated and wearing masks indoors continue to be our best measures to prevent infection and spread on campus. The data in Catawba County improved some this week as new cases and hospitalizations were down from the previous week. However, the county had another 17 deaths due to COVID during this same reporting period.

    Some of you have indicated a desire for LR to schedule a Pfizer booster vaccine clinic on campus this month so we can provide easy access for those who would like to get their booster shot. We are working through the Catawba County Heath Department and its vendors to schedule a date later this month. Any LR employee or student, as well as LR contract employees, who received their second Pfizer vaccine injection six months ago or more, should be eligible for the booster. We will confirm the booster clinic dates as soon as possible.

    You also may choose to receive your booster shot at CVS, Walgreens, and other health care providers. The booster shot is the same dose as the other two injections. While in discussion, there have been no new updates concerning boosters for the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  

    In addition, Cornerstone Health on campus is working with local health officials to schedule one or two flu vaccine clinics on campus, starting this month. Flu cases already have been reported in Catawba County, and we want to provide proactive opportunities for our LR community members to remain as safe as possible.

    Next week is fall break on Monday, Oct. 11, and Tuesday, Oct. 12. Faculty and students are off Monday and Tuesday, while the staff are off on Monday as most campus offices are closed Monday. Those who are required to be tested twice weekly for COVID will need to take only one test next week on either Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

    Lenoir-Rhyne reports no positive cases from surveillance testing last week. There were three positive cases self-reported—a commuter student and staff member in Hickory and one commuter student in Asheville. All positive cases this week were from individuals fully vaccinated. 

    The most recent data is provided below and will be updated on our website later today.

    September 27 – October 3, 2021

    • LR Vaccination Rate: 99%
    • Total Tested this week: 103
    • Positive Cases from Testing: 0   
    • Positivity Rate: 0%
    • Self-Reported Positive Cases: 3 (one commuter student in Hickory.one in Asheville; one Hickory staff)
    • Breakthrough Cases*: 3

    *Those who are fully vaccinated who test positive

    We continue to be thankful for the LR community supporting and embracing the requirement to become fully vaccinated so our campus can remain as safe as possible.

September 2021

  • September 27, 2021: COVID-19 Update

    TO: LR Campus Community
    FR: Dr. Fred Whitt, President

    As many of you know, the Pfizer booster was recently approved for those individuals over 65 years or age, as well as those who have underlying medical conditions such as heart issues, diabetes, autoimmune disease, and cancer. Priority for the booster shot also includes those individuals who are frontline workers including teachers. The Catawba County Public Health Director has indicated this includes all Lenoir-Rhyne employees. We encourage those of you who received your second Pfizer vaccine six months ago to schedule your booster vaccine as soon as possible. We anticipate a booster recommendation for the Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be approved shortly.

    Please know that medical experts expect a more serious flu season, and we urge everyone to get the flu vaccine before the end of October for maximum protection. We plan to have a flu vaccine clinic on campus in October and will announce details as soon as they are finalized.

    Lenoir-Rhyne reports one positive case from surveillance testing last week. There were three positive cases self-reported last week, all from employees on the Hickory campus. No one from the LR community who has been fully vaccinated has been seriously ill or hospitalized with COVID infection. Our local hospitals are reporting 90 percent of COVID hospitalizations are individuals who have not been vaccinated. There were no positive COVID cases from students this week.

    The most recent data is provided below and will be updated on our website later today.

    September 20 – September 26 Data

    • LR Vaccination Rate: 99%
    • Total Tested this week: 208
    • Positive Cases from Testing: 1   
    • Positivity Rate:  .48% (<1%)
    • Self-Reported Positive Cases: 3 (Hickory employees all fully vaccinated)
    • Breakthrough Cases*:  4

    *Those who are fully vaccinated who test positive

    We continue to be thankful for the LR community supporting and embracing the requirement to become fully vaccinated so our campus can remain as safe as possible.

  • September 20, 2021: COVID-19 Update

    TO: LR Campus Community
    FR: Dr. Fred Whitt, President

    September 13-19, 2021 Weekly Testing Report

    The Lenoir-Rhyne University COVID-19 vaccination rate is 98.8%. 

    LR continues to manage the COVID-19 situation closely on each of our campuses, as well as monitoring COVID-19 within our broader community.

    We previously indicated that wearing masks would be required of everyone, including those who are fully vaccinated, when on campus in indoor settings. This requirement was originally set through September 30, and has now been reviewed and updated.

    Masks will be required at all times indoors, regardless of vaccination status, until further notice. It is our hope we can relax this requirement in the near future, particularly for those who are fully vaccinated. However, local positivity rates, hospitalizations and deaths continue to be high in our region. We know that vaccinations and wearing of masks are the two most important measures to protect the spread of COVID and keep our campus as safe as possible.

    Lenoir-Rhyne reports no positive cases from surveillance testing last week. There were four positive cases self-reported last week, all off-campus students in Hickory. Over the previous several weeks, half of the positive cases were from individuals not fully vaccinated. The most recent data is provided below and will be updated on our website later today.

  • September 2, 2021: COVID-19 Update

    TO: LR Campus Community
    FR: Dr. Fred Whitt, President

    Lenoir-Rhyne made the decision in June 2021 to require students, faculty and staff on all three of our campuses to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This requirement was implemented to provide a living and learning environment that prioritizes the health, safety and well-being of the entire LR community, and 99 percent of our community is now vaccinated.  

    In addition, the vaccine requirement provides the best chance for our students, faculty and staff to return to normal operations and to enjoy the full LR experience. As an ELCA Lutheran university, we believe in caring and loving thy neighbor, and these values are paramount in leading our decisions.

    Given the current surge in the delta variant and breakthrough cases (fully vaccinated individuals becoming COVID infected), Lenoir-Rhyne has mandated masks, regardless of vaccination status, in all indoor facilities on all three campuses through at least September 30. The only exceptions are when occupying your individual office, in your room in the residence halls or apartments, or while you are eating or drinking in the dining hall. This will be re-evaluated later this month to determine protocols beginning October 1. Please know that any faculty, staff or student can be rapid tested Monday through Friday from 9:00 -11:00 AM in McCrorie, room 105. There is no charge for this.

    In addition to wearing masks, the following are temporary protocols for individuals visiting campus. These policies are in place currently and will be reviewed regularly to determine if they need to be extended or modified.

    • The university is not permitting events on campus from outside groups not affiliated with Lenoir-Rhyne for the fall semester, which runs through December 31, 2021.
       
    • Individuals from the community are welcome to visit campus and take advantage of campus-sponsored events and services, including the Visiting Writers Series, symphony concerts, chapel, the library and dining in the Cromer Center. Lenoir-Rhyne strongly encourages all visitors to be fully vaccinated and requires everyone to wear a mask in all indoor facilities on campus.
       
    • Individuals attending indoor athletic events are also strongly encouraged to be fully vaccinated and are required to wear masks while indoors.
       
    • Attendees at outdoor athletic events are strongly encouraged to be fully vaccinated. Attendees who are not fully vaccinated are expected to wear masks, whether outdoors or indoors, in an event to keep our student-athletes and LR community as safe as possible.

    I know that we are all weary of the pandemic, but now is not the time to let down our guard. Rather, we must recommit ourselves to doing our part to ensure the safety and health of our entire community. Through these guidelines, we not only protect ourselves, our friends and our families, but we can help ease the burden on the healthcare systems in our region.

August 2021

  • August 17, 2021: New University Mask Requirement

    TO: LR Campus Community
    FR: Dr. Fred Whitt, President

    I hope you have enjoyed a relaxing summer and are ready to begin the 2021-22 academic year at Lenoir-Rhyne. Many students are already back on campus, and our official move-in day is this Friday.

    We all are looking forward to a more normal year after a very challenging 18 months responding to the COVID pandemic. The good news is nearly 100% of all faculty, staff and students at each of our campus locations will be fully vaccinated. This includes our adjunct faculty, high school students, and contract employees such as Aramark, Ellucian and Budd Group.

    Unfortunately, the virus remains an issue and, while the academic year will certainly look much more like it has traditionally, we will continue to take precautions to ensure the health and safety of our campus community. With COVID-19 cases involving the more infectious delta variant trending upward, the CDC has recommended that everyone wear a mask in all indoor public spaces in areas of high or substantial levels of transmission. This currently includes the communities that are home to all three of our campuses.

    As a result, we are implementing updated policies and accommodations for each of the groups of individuals as we begin the school year. These protocols are attached and include:

    • LR will require masks to be worn indoors in public areas (including classrooms and library) for those who are fully vaccinated. The indoor mask requirement for fully vaccinated individuals does not apply to those who are eating or drinking, those alone in their office, apartment or residence hall, or those who are with their fully vaccinated roommates.
       
    • Anyone not fully vaccinated, including those individuals who received an approved vaccine exemption, will be required to wear masks at all times in public settings both indoors and outdoors, and participate in COVID testing a minimum of twice each week.

    This will be effective beginning August 18 and until further notice.

    We believe that our comprehensive policies provide us with the best chance to return to normal and ensure the health, safety and well-being of our campus community, and we will continue to modify them to best respond to current conditions.

    I would personally like to thank you all for your support as we continue to navigate the pandemic and look forward to the new academic year.

  • August 17, 2021: Updated LR COVID-19 Vaccine Accommodations

    TO: LR Campus Community
    FR: Dr. Fred Whitt, President
    RE: Updated LR COVID Vaccine Accommodations

    The following provides updated information regarding COVID protocols for LR faculty, staff and students regarding their vaccination status. These will be reflected in the updates to the Protecting the Den document for the academic year 2021-22. Please know we begin the year with additional uncertainty pertaining to the recent surge in COVID infections in our region. We continue to encourage all individuals to be fully vaccinated not just to protect yourselves, but also to protect others.

    Our campus will be close to 100% fully vaccinated, and no less than 98%. This includes our students, faculty, staff, coaches, adjunct faculty, high school students, Aramark and Ellucian employees, etc. This should provide for a more normal experience and reduce anxiety pertaining to COVID infection on our campus, as long as we are smart about wearing mask, washing hands frequently and remaining socially distanced off campus when around individuals who may not be vaccinated.

    Fully Vaccinated Faculty, Staff and Students

    Fully vaccinated individuals (14 days following final dose of approved vaccine) will have limited restrictions or accommodations on campus since they have reduced risk of contracting and/or spreading COVID infections than those individuals who are unvaccinated.

    • Wearing a mask for fully vaccinated individuals will only be required in indoor public places, including classrooms and the library. This is effective beginning August 18 through the end of September. We hope this is temporary, and we will review at the end of September.
    • You do not need to wear a mask while in your rooms, offices or while participating in physical activity. Residential students may have guests who are fully vaccinated in their rooms, as well as visit other rooms of students who are fully vaccinated.
    • You are not required to wear masks outdoors nor required to participate in weekly COVID testing. The exception are those who participate in athletics and have NCAA required testing.
    • Optional COVID testing for fully vaccinated faculty, staff and students will be available from 9-11 AM Monday-Friday. Testing will be in the athletic training lab (McCrorie 105).
    • Immediately report any physical symptoms similar to COVID infection (fever, congestion, sore throat, headache, etc.) and be tested ASAP. This testing will be conducted at Cornerstone Health on campus by calling (828) 328-7959 for an appointment.
    • Report any exposure to individuals who test positive for COVID-19 ASAP. Follow the COVID reporting guidelines and report no later than 12 hours after you learn of the exposure. You will not be required to quarantine if exposed unless you test positive for COVID.

    Unvaccinated Faculty, Staff and Students

    Unvaccinated faculty, staff and students with approved vaccine exemptions are expected to work on campus/be enrolled in classes, but are required to adhere to the following university accommodations:

    • Wear masks at all times indoors and outdoors when around others. Exemptions are eating and drinking or in office alone or dorm room alone.
    • Social distance at least 6 feet at all times where possible including dining hall, library, etc.
    • Participate in required rapid testing at a minimum twice each week or more if a student athlete. Test location and schedule will be communicated later prior to the first day of class.
    • Immediately report exposure to anyone who test positive with COVID-19 and no later than 12 hours after learning of exposure.
    • Adhere to the 7-14 day quarantine period (per CDC guidelines) and as recommended by the university if contact traced for COVID exposure.
    • Residential students unvaccinated are required to be in single rooms with baths and will not be allowed to visit other rooms or have guests in their rooms
    • Required temperature checks and other health screenings daily
    • Other accommodations specific to the individual pending the activities and/or job duties.

    Partially Vaccinated Faculty, Staff and Students

    LR faculty, staff and students who are not fully vaccinated by August 16 may return to campus and not be delayed in continuing their education or job duties if they follow the temporary accommodations listed below. These individuals must receive their first vaccine shot no later than August 19, and second shot no later than September 9, 2021. These individuals must be fully vaccinated no later than September 23, 2021 and will need to follow accommodations similar to unvaccinated individuals until fully vaccinated.

    Until fully vaccinated (no later than September 23, 2021), these individuals will adhere to the following:

    • Wear masks at all times indoors and outdoors in the presence of others. Exemptions are eating and drinking or in office or dorm room alone.
    • Social distance at least 6 feet at all times where possible including dining hall, library, etc.
    • Participate in required rapid testing at a minimum twice each week or more if a student athlete.
    • Immediately report exposure to individuals who test positive with COVID-19 and no later than 12 hours after learning of exposure.
    • Adhere to the 7-14 day quarantine period (as per CDC guidelines) as recommended by the university if contact traced for COVID exposure
    • Required temperature checks and other health screenings daily
    • Other accommodations specific to the individual pending the activities and/or job duties.

    All faculty, staff and students are strongly encouraged to wear masks when off campus, particularly at indoor venues. This will help protect you and others when at malls, stores, restaurants, etc. Our county has a very low vaccination rate and the Delta variant is very contagious and affecting the younger population. COVID infections are at the same level as February during the peak of the winter.

June 2021

  • June 25, 2021: COVID-19 Update (Fall 2021 Vaccine Requirement)

    TO: LR Campus Community
    FR: Dr. Fred Whitt, President
    DT: June 25, 2021

    Following extensive discussions and deliberations with the COVID-19 taskforce, the leadership team, cabinet, the executive committee of the board of trustees, and local and regional public health experts, we have decided to require the COVID-19 vaccine for all Lenoir-Rhyne students, faculty and staff at all campus locations starting with the return to campus this fall. LR joins a group of more than 500 colleges and universities nationwide that are requiring vaccination to facilitate their return to normal operations for the fall semester.

    The decision was based on ensuring the health, safety and well-being of our campus and broader community and is consistent with one of our LR values -- being a caring community.  In addition, we believe requiring the vaccine is essential to provide the full LR experience for our students, faculty and staff—without masks, social distancing, quarantining and mandatory testing.

    In order to return to campus for the 2021-2022 academic year, students, faculty and staff are required to complete the vaccination process on or before August 16, 2021. A completed vaccine process means that two weeks must have passed from the second vaccine shot (Pfizer or Moderna) or from the one-time Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That means you must receive your second shot (or the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine) by August 1, 2021.

    Students who are approved for early arrival to campus for the fall semester prior to August 16 will need to complete their vaccination process before arrival to campus.

    Students are required to submit a copy of their completed vaccine card online, while faculty and staff are to submit their proof of vaccination using Paycom. Approximately 1,000 LR faculty, staff and students have already fully completed the vaccination process; they simply need to upload their vaccine documentation ASAP and not later than July 18, 2021. 

    Individuals may be exempt from the vaccine requirement only if they show documented medical reasons or adherence to sincerely held bona fide religious beliefs as noted of the exemption forms. To request an exemption, you should submit the appropriate exemption form ASAP and no later than July 18, 2021. A committee will review the request and notify you of its decision. Exemption forms and FAQs will be made available on the university website the week of June 28. Students enrolled in online classes only who will not be on campus for the semester may be exempt from the vaccine requirement.

    COVID vaccines are readily available from drugstores and public health departments. In addition, LR will work with Catawba County Public Health to offer an on-campus vaccine clinic during July. Information on finding a COVID vaccination site near you is available online.

    If you have additional questions, please contact the following:

    Getting a vaccine will help ensure the health and safety of not only the LR community, but of the Greater Hickory area. The LR community has shown considerable strength and resilience during the pandemic, and I appreciate your commitment to one another and to the broader community.