Liberty University on Thursday said it will shift to online instruction and halt indoor gatherings, as part of its “temporary mitigation measures” to slow the spread of COVID-19 on campus.
The evangelical Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia, said the temporary mitigation period will last from Aug. 30 through Sept. 10, during which all residential classes will be moved online and large indoor gatherings suspended. Outdoor events, including the 2021 football season opener on Sept. 4, are not interrupted.
As of Aug. 25, Liberty has 159 known active COVID-19 cases, which account for 0.55 percent of the total campus population, according to the university’s website. There are also 385 on-campus and commuting students and 107 employees in quarantine.
The university also encourages, but not requires, students and employees to keep a physical distance and wear a mask. Free vaccines clinics will also soon be offered on campus, although COVID-19 vaccination is also not required as a condition for enrollment or employment.
“We are taking the necessary steps and actions to lighten the burden to our medical service providers, the local hospital resources, and to do our part to keep our community safe,” Keith Anderson, executive director of Liberty’s Student Health Center and Wellness Initiatives, said in a statement.
“We understand the severity of the pandemic and desire to act swiftly to ensure the health and safety of our campus. Through collective collaboration with our on-campus partners, Central Virginia Family Physicians (CVFP), and our Liberty University Health & Wellness professionals, we are attending to our asymptomatic and symptomatic campus members as quickly and thoroughly as possible,” Anderson said.
The announcement comes a few days after the University of Virginia disenrolled 238 students, mostly undergraduates, for not complying with the public university’s COVID-19 vaccination policy.
“These students received multiple communications from Student Affairs via email, text and phone calls reminding them to update their status by deadline,” a UVA spokesperson told student newspaper The Cavalier Daily.
University data shows that as of Aug. 18, over 96 percent of UVA students have shown proof that they are vaccinated, including 97 percent of students living on campus.
The UVA also reiterated its mask mandate, requiring both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals to wear masks when inside campus facilities, including academic buildings, libraries, dining halls and labs, with the exception of inside dorms and private housing or when people are alone in closed spaces, such as an office.
Several other Virginia universities and colleges are requiring vaccines for the fall semester, including George Mason University, Virginia Commonwealth University, College of William & Mary, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.