More than a week after the vast majority of college students in the Lynchburg region embarked home for Thanksgiving and winter break, nearly 60 students remain quarantined at two Hill City universities due to possible coronavirus exposures.
Liberty University, which is scheduled to conclude the fall semester remotely during the next two weeks, reported 56 on-campus students were in quarantine as of Wednesday, according to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard.
An additional 155 commuter students and university employees, all of whom live off campus, have been instructed to quarantine this week, according to the university’s latest update.
Last week, 127 on-campus students were in quarantine. At the time, 164 commuter students and 56 employees had been instructed to quarantine.
Students at Liberty are instructed to quarantine if they have been exposed to the virus or are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19. The university defines an active COVID-19 case as a positive case that has been reported in the past 14 days.
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In-person instruction at Liberty ended last week for much of its 15,000 students. The last week of classes and final exams will be administered remotely. But some students are expected to remain on campus until dorms close Dec. 16.
As of Wednesday, there are 13 active cases among students and 15 active cases among employees.
The university opted for a shortened semester this fall to prevent students from bringing the coronavirus back to campus during the weeks between Thanksgiving and the end of the semester in mid- December. Liberty officials have said university housing set aside for quarantine space will remain open as long as it is needed.
Meanwhile, at the University of Lynchburg, where the semester ended early last week, three on-campus students were still in quarantine as of Wednesday, Michael Jones, associate vice president of communications and marketing for the university, said in an email.
Jones said of the three students in quarantine, one is expected to leave Thursday and the remaining two are expected to depart Friday. The university has provided the students meals throughout their time in quarantine.
In addition to the quarantining students, Jones said there are currently three active positive COVID-19 cases among the university’s about 700 faculty and staff members.
Each “of these employees is off campus awaiting medical clearance before returning to work,” Jones said.
Central Virginia Community College, meanwhile, has reported two positive cases among its students in the past two weeks. The college, which will wrap up its semester later this month, is holding many of its classes online but some students have attended in-person classes.
Sweet Briar College in Amherst County, which began winter break a week ago, concluded the semester with no active COVID-19 cases and no one in quarantine among its about 400 students and employees.
In the Central Virginia Health District, which includes Lynchburg and neighboring counties, the rate of new infections generally has trended upward since the start of the fall. However, the number of new daily cases has been in flux in recent weeks.
The seven-day average for new cases in the district was 34.43 on Sept. 30, according to the Virginia Department of Health. As of Wednesday that figure stood at 77.71.
Health officials have identified 66 outbreaks in the district since the start of the pandemic, one of which was reported in the past week. Exactly half of the outbreaks are in congregate settings, a broad category that includes offices, churches and homes. The VDH defines an outbreak as at least two lab-confirmed cases.
Three outbreaks have been recorded at a college or university and six were identified at K-12 schools, one of which still is in progress at Beacon Academy in Campbell County, according to the VDH.