Lynchburg area universities not planning to change COVID-19 policies after uptick in cases

Coronavirus

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Leaders from several departments in Lynchburg held a press conference on Wednesday to urge everyone to take COVID-19 seriously and do all they can to fight the spread.

The area’s higher education institutions — including Liberty University and the University of Lynchburg– were not invited on Wednesday, Sept. 15, but on Tuesday, Sept. 14, Mayor MaryJane Dolan expressed concern over the number of COVID-19 cases at Liberty University.

The two schools have very different policies when it comes to COVID-19 and they don’t plan on changing them.

Liberty University declined an interview, but a representative says the university does not intend to implement any requirements for masks or vaccinations.

The University of Lynchburg says their indoor mask policy seems to be working.

Liberty University is now reporting less than 200 active cases on campus as of Wednesday — a dramatic improvement from last week’s count of nearly 500.

According to Vice President of Communications for the University of Lynchburg, Michael Jones, “I imagine it’s much more challenging to deal with this on a campus as large as Liberty’s.”

The University of Lynchburg reports less than 0.3 percent of cases among its student body and says all but one of those cases is off-campus. Meanwhile, Liberty says 1.3 percent of their population has been diagnosed, down from a high of three percent.

“We hope that we’re being a model to the community,” said Jones. “It’s a very challenging time for everyone. We’re doing our part and we hope everyone else will be doing that.”

During Wednesday’s press conference, epidemiologist Cali Anderson with the Central Virginia Health District reported that the highest percentage of cases is coming from adults ages 19 to 25 and vaccination rates are low.

“The vaccination rate of all five of our counties is below 45 percent,” said Anderson. “Lynchburg city has the lowest percentage of the population fully vaccinated at 39.1 percent.”

Lynchburg Fire Chief Greg Wormser believes there aren’t enough people in the city getting vaccinated.

“We have double the amount of employees in the city today that have COVID than we did last week. Overwhelmingly, the employees that are getting sick and the community that’s getting sick, they’re not vaccinated,” Wormser said.

In a statement, Wormser said that Liberty is taking steps to mitigate community transmission, but didn’t go into specifics.

The Virginia Department of Health says they have been in contact with the university.

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