A bombshell report from the New York Times has suggested that almost a dozen students at Virginia’s Liberty University have come down with coronavirus-like symptoms after Jerry Falwell Jr decided to allow students back into Liberty campus dorms.
As of last week, around 1,900 students had ventured back to campus on the orders of Falwell, despite the rampant spread of COVID-19 and the widespread guidance to stay at home. According to the Times, at least one of the students has tested positive for the virus and a number of others are in self-isolation with symptoms.
Falwell’s decision to keep Liberty’s doors open has attracted criticism from members of his own staff. “This decision runs contrary to the three other residential schools in our area that have closed their dorms, allowing only those with nowhere else to go to remain,” wrote Liberty English professor Marybeth Davis Baggett in a recent op-ed at Religion New Service. Baggett noted that university staff are “expected to hold office hours and welcome students for face-to-face interaction” despite the viral outbreak.
As for the latest NYT report, Falwell insisted that the paper was lying about the extent of infections amongst his students.
“The Times attributed this erroneous conclusion about 12 students with symptoms to a local doctor who has consulted with Liberty,” read an official statement from Liberty under the headline: “New York Times misleads public about extent of COVID-19 symptoms among Liberty University students”
“The truth is a far different story. Both the numbers and the sequencing are wrong.”
The statement added that Liberty was “not aware of any students in its residence halls testing positive for COVID-19 or, in fact, being tested at all.”
On Twitter, Falwell attempted to clarify some details about the situation. “There have been no cases of any on-campus student testing positive for coronavirus,” he wrote.
* there have been no cases of any on-campus student testing positive for coronavirus. (2/5)— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) March 30, 2020
“Four were told to self-isolate even though they had no symptoms solely because they had returned from New York. One off-campus student who never left Lynchburg has tested positive from local contacts in the community.”
* One off-campus student who never left Lynchburg has tested positive from local contacts in the community. (4/5)— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) March 30, 2020
Falwell added that Liberty was “being supportive and embracing its responsibility to care for students instead of running away and pushing the COVID problem off on others.”
He concluded: “LU is blessed that we have no cases on campus but is committed to providing proper care regardless of what happens!”
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Alex Wong/Staff
Will Maule is a British journalist who has spent the past several years working as a digital news editor. Since earning a degree in international relations and politics, Will has developed a particular interest in covering ethical issues, human rights and global religious persecution. Will's work has been featured in various outlets including The Spectator, Faithwire, CBN News, Spiked, The Federalist and Christian Headlines. Follow him on Twitter at @WillAMaule.