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Lynchburg-area colleges report 47 COVID-19 cases as campus infections locally continue to fall
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Lynchburg-area colleges report 47 COVID-19 cases as campus infections locally continue to fall

Liberty University health triage - Dr. Thomas

Dr. Joanna Thomas answers questions regarding COVID-19 testing at the student health triage center at Liberty University on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2020.

Lynchburg-area colleges and universities Wednesday reported a total of 47 active COVID-19 cases among students and staffers — the lowest case total since students began returning to local campuses in mid-January.

For the second week in a row, Liberty University reported 39 total cases, according to weekly updates from the university’s COVID-19 dashboard.

At least 33 Liberty students and 6 employees currently are sick with COVID-19. Last week, the university reported 29 student and 10 employee cases. Liberty defines an active case as an infection reported in the last 10 days.

Liberty, which with 15,000 students is the largest local college or university, began holding in-person classes in late January after students spent the first week of the semester taking online classes to help limit the spread of the virus. The approach was aimed at minimizing a spike in cases in the first weeks of the semester as students from across the country returned to campus.

As of Wednesday, school officials have instructed 110 on-campus students to quarantine due to a potential exposure to the virus or because they’ve developed symptoms associated with COVID-19, according to the dashboard. Last week, 78 on-campus students were in quarantine.

Another 58 Liberty commuter students have been instructed to quarantine at their off-campus homes, down from the 65 commuter students asked to quarantine last week. At least 30 employees have also been asked to quarantine, down from the 36 employees told to quarantine last week.

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Since Jan. 18, 136 students and 59 employees at Liberty have tested positive for the virus. That is in addition to the 999 students and 292 employees who tested positive during the fall semester and winter break.

The number of COVID- 19 cases in the region has been on the decline since new daily infections peaked in the middle of January. The Central Virginia Health District, which includes Lynchburg and the bordering counties, has reported 639 new cases in the past seven days, down from the 885 cases reported a week earlier.

At the University of Lynchburg, there are three active cases among its students and two active cases among its faculty and staff members. Last week, there were 10 student cases and three employee cases. A total of 10 students, eight of whom live on campus, are in quarantine.

Randolph College, which began classes earlier this month, reported just two active employee cases Wednesday. There was one active student case and three active employee cases last week, according to the college.

Central Virginia Community College, meanwhile, has reported no active COVID-19 cases among its staffers in the past two weeks. At Sweet Briar College in Amherst County, there is one active student case and three people are in quarantine.

Health officials have not yet identified any outbreaks on local college campuses since spring semester classes began last month, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Last fall, at least four outbreaks were discovered, including an outbreak at Liberty that was tied to 31 cases. The department defines an outbreak as two or more confirmed COVID-19 cases associated with a particular setting.

In addition to the 47 cases reported locally, colleges and universities across Virginia last week reported a total of 889 active COVID-19 cases among students and employees, up from the 734 cases reported a week earlier, according to a state dashboard tracking cases at some of the largest institutions in the state. The dashboard, which aggregates data from 15 public and private institutions in the commonwealth, does not include COVID-19 case information from any of the colleges and universities in the Lynchburg region.

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