Liberty University's COVID spike causes campus-wide quarantine

The recent surge appears to stem from policies put in place this week

By Jon Skolnik
Published August 27, 2021 5:23PM (EDT)
Liberty University logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Liberty University logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Liberty University announced that it was instituting campus-wide quarantine on Thursday amid a recent surge in the school's COVID-19 cases.

The temporary policy is set to last until September 10, according to the school's Office of Communications. 

"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," said Keith Anderson, executive director of Liberty's Student Health Center and Wellness Initiatives. "We understand the severity of the pandemic and desire to act swiftly to ensure the health and safety of our campus."

"All residential classes will switch to an online platform and all large indoor gatherings have been suspended during this period," the office added. 

According to Lynchburg, Virginia's college COVID-19 tracker, Liberty – which includes 5,000 students and 5,000 faculty members – currently has 159 active cases of COVID-19, a marked spike from 141 last September. The vast majority of these cases are students. 

The recent surge appears to stem from policies put in place this week. The school removed restrictions on mask-wearing, social distancing, and building capacities. The school does not require its students or faculty to be vaccinated, though it encourages the practice.

Outdoor events are expected to go on without interruption, and worship services are set to be relocated at a nearby stadium. 

Liberty made headlines in March of last year when it allowed some students to return to campus after Spring break – a move that contravened nearly every college and university in the country. "I think we have a responsibility to our students — who paid to be here, who want to be here, who love it here — to give them the ability to be with their friends, to continue their studies, enjoy the room and board they've already paid for and to not interrupt their college life," Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. told The News & Advance at the time. 

In April of that year, the school charged a New York Times photographer and ProPublica reporter for trespassing on campus while covering the development. 

Liberty, once described as "the bastion of the Christian right," is a private evangelical Christian university founded in 1971 by Falwell's father. It expressly prohibits practices that run against evangelical Christian ideology, including premarital sex, cohabitation, alcohol consumption. In 2015, Liberty revised its Honor Code to allow students to watch R-rated movies.


Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, AlterNet, and The New York Daily News.

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