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Health officials prepare as thousands of students return to Lynchburg area

Data from the Virginia Department of Health show congregate living produces a bigger potential for outbreaks.
Published: Aug. 19, 2020 at 8:13 PM EDT
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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Cautiously optimistic. That’s how health officials say they feel about the fall semester.

As thousands of students return to the central Virginia region, health officials are preparing for a potential spike in cases. “Centra is prepared and will take care of more patients if we need to,” explained Dr. Chris Lewis, the VP of Medical Affairs. “We’ve prepped for any eventuality with increases in COVID.”

Dr. Lewis says with the unpredictability of COVID-19, determining how the school semester will progress is hard to forecast. But he says with more students living in congregate settings, higher case numbers are likely. “When students live together, there is a higher risk of transmission, but schools know this and they’ve done a good job across the board,” said Lewis.

Data from the Virginia Department of Health show congregate living produces a bigger potential for outbreaks.

At Liberty University, around 8,000 students are moving onto campus this week with an additional 6,000-plus students living off campus. “We feel real good that we’re doing what the government advises, what our peer institutions are doing,” said Keith Anderson, the executive director of health and wellness at LU.

Anderson says that includes daily health screening for students. He says the university will soon have equipment to do rapid testing where results will be available within 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile over at the University of Lynchburg, where students have been back on campus for more than a week, five students tested positive for coronavirus.

Four of the cases are among students on campus. Twenty-one students are in quarantine and another 10 are in isolation on campus. Test results are expected soon for an additional seven suspected cases, according to the university.

The three most recent cases move the University from Alert Level 1 to Level 2, which is defined by three or more active positive cases on campus. Under Alert Level 2, the following changes will take effect beginning at midnight Thursday, Aug. 20, and continue through midnight Wednesday, Aug. 26:

  • All classes move to online delivery for one calendar week from Thursday, Aug. 20, through Wednesday, Aug. 27, with the exception of graduate health programs and students in clinical/hospital rotations.
  • All in-person athletics and student organization programming is suspended.
  • All campus dining options are takeout/delivery only.
  • All indoor recreational facilities are closed.
  • Residential facilities remain open.

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