One week after Liberty University welcomed students back to class, the nation’s largest Christian college is pivoting to virtual learning amid a coronavirus outbreak. The school instituted a campus-wide quarantine that began Monday and will last until September 10, according to news outlets.
“The campus infection rate is higher than at anytime last year, our only local hospital is reaching capacity for ICU COVID treatment, and we project our Annex quarantine capacity to be reached soon,” school officials wrote, according to the Washington Post.
The school counted 159 confirmed cases on campus, 124 of which were among the student body. That’s a sharp uptick from the previous week, when 40 students and staff tested positive. Liberty did not require vaccinations and lifted building capacity restrictions and masking and distancing requirements despite the delta variant surge that is fueling a new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and is projected to cost the U.S. another 100,000 lives between now and December 1.
The Delta variant has thrown back-to-school plans across in the country into disarray, with colleges scrambling to strategize new protocols for safety. Duke University, for example, is requiring students and faculty to wear masks indoors and outdoors, allowing professors to teach remotely and setting up outdoor tents with meals to go for students in lieu of campus dining rooms. Duke faculty and staff must be vaccinated. The university’s positive COVID testing rate is currently sitting at about 1.1 percent, according to the university dashboard.
Keith Anderson is executive director of Liberty’s Student Health Center and Wellness Initiatives. He released a written statement to the university community, in which he stressed that the school was taking the pandemic seriously. “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,” he wrote. “We understand the severity of the pandemic and desire to act swiftly to ensure the health and safety of our campus.”