Liberty University orders campus-wide quarantine amid COVID-19 spike

Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia has ordered a campus-wide quarantine after an increase of COVID-19 cases among students and staff amid the start of fall classes.

The school’s "temporary mitigation period" will go into effect on Aug. 30 and will expire on Sept. 10. The university had begun the fall semester last week by no longer requiring face masks on campus, no longer requiring physical distancing and lifting capacity restrictions, according to its website. It also doesn’t require the vaccine but encourages students to get the shot.

Under its new policy, all classes will switch to online learning, all large indoor gatherings will be suspended and indoor dining locations will provide a takeout option as well as expanded outdoor seating.

"The university will continue to encourage social hygiene practices that aid in reducing the spread of disease, including physical distancing and wearing a mask," the school said in a bulletin. "The university will also be announcing upcoming vaccine clinics to be offered on campus."

RELATED: More than 230 University of Virginia students ‘disenrolled’ over vaccinations

According to the school’s COVID-19 dashboard, there are 159 active cases of COVID-19 among faculty and students as of Sunday. The school has seen a steady increase of positive cases since Aug. 15. 

As the delta variant of the coronavirus sweeps across the United States, a growing number of colleges and universities are requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for students to attend in-person classes. But the new mandate has opened the door for those opposed to getting the vaccine to cheat the system, according to interviews with students, education and law enforcement officials.

Both faculty and students at dozens of schools interviewed by The Associated Press say they are concerned about how easy it is to get fake vaccine cards.

RELATED: California State University system to require COVID-19 vaccines for in-person activities this fall

While dozens of Virginia colleges and universities have implemented COVID-19 vaccine mandates for the fall semester, a newspaper report found loopholes that mean those requirements are sometimes going unenforced.

As the first week of college classes came to a close Friday, it was clear some mandates were being treated more like recommendations, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

For instance, Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond announced in June that all students who come to campus would have to be vaccinated. But the school is not removing non-compliant students.

When asked why, a VCU spokesperson did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment.

Virginia Union University, also in Richmond, announced in July that students should be vaccinated two weeks before arriving on campus. A school spokesperson told the newspaper the university hasn’t removed any non-compliant students and did not respond when asked if VUU was checking to make sure its students were vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the University of Richmond is allowing exemptions for "personal convictions strongly and sincerely held."

Other schools are enforcing their mandates more strictly. The University of Virginia recently disenrolled 238 students, less than 1% of the student body, who did not report their vaccination status. Virginia Tech did not allow non-compliant students to enroll this fall.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.