While schools and school systems across the U.S. shut down in an attempt to stem the spread of the Coronavirus, which has already claimed the lives of what’s fast approaching 700 Americans, one school is bringing students back to its campus in large numbers after spring break. Liberty University, which is in Lynchburg, Virginia, and is led by prominent Trump defender Jerry Falwell Jr., has already welcomed some 1,900 students back after a break, the school revealed, and they’re apparently preparing for as many as 5,000 students to flood back in. That’s around one-third of the school’s student body of around 14,000-15,000.
People pushing to reopen business:
— Republican lawmakers
— Conservative economists
— The WSJ editorial board
— Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein
— Treasury Secretary Mnuchin
— Larry Kudlow
— Liberty University
— Fox News hosts
People saying not to do that:
— Hamza Shaban (@hshaban) March 24, 2020
The school-orchestrated return flies in the face of public health officials’ demands in Virginia and across the country. Just this week, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) issued an order that “bans gatherings of more than 10 people and goes into effect just before midnight on Tuesday,” CNN explains, which joins a long list of similar actions by governors across the U.S., including plenty of Republicans. In Virginia, all K-12 schools will also be closed for the rest of the school year, as has also happened elsewhere. Do officials at Liberty University think public health demands don’t apply to them?
14.4 percent of everyone in Lynchburg — about 12,000 people — is over the age of 65, if you want a sense of how many people Jerry Falwell Jr. is putting at risk. https://t.co/b1UisuEELk
— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) March 24, 2020
In a statement explaining their decision, the school said that extending students’ time away from campus could supposedly “risk students having a longer time to become exposed to the virus” — although bringing thousands back to all live on the same campus could spread the virus rapidly among the student population, if one of them happened to have contracted the virus already (and over 52,000 Americans already have). The school also cited a concern to let students “use the campus dining services that they paid for,” but suggesting that access to a cafeteria is worth risking safety and lives is questionable at best. Apparently, all classes will now be conducted online, but the dorms and other campus services will still be in use.
We all know Jerry Falwell is not pro life. He will use god to convince others to get sick and die. If you are staff, faculty, or students at Liberty DO NOT GO until your safety and right to life is protected. https://t.co/cWQk9WdbEK
— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) March 24, 2020
Lynchburg Mayor Treney Tweedy commented:
‘I was very surprised and disappointed to later learn of President Falwell’s most recent decision to allow students back on campus. We are in the midst of a public health crisis. I am concerned for the students, faculty and employees at Liberty University, and I am also very concerned for the residents of the Lynchburg community.’
Lynchburg city manager Bonnie Svrcek has revealed that Falwell failed to be “totally transparent” with her and Tweedy. He indicated that the majority of classes would move to online instruction — and he failed to mention that thousands of students would come back to campus anyway, apparently.
“Many students, faculty, and staff have health conditions that would make #COVID-19 difficult to fight” AMEN Professor speaking truth to power!
“I work for Liberty University. Jerry Falwell Jr. is taking an extreme path that threatens lives” https://t.co/ksRWl6RhKR
— Christine Pelosi (@sfpelosi) March 24, 2020
Although reports have often tied susceptibility to the Coronavirus to elderly populations, everyone is, essentially, at risk, and there have been plenty of circulated stories about people nowhere near elderly who’ve succumbed to the virus and died.
The Liberty University mess is unfolding as Trump himself clamors for the economy to re-open and people to get back to work, even if that means spreading the Coronavirus further than it would go if social distancing measures were left in place. If it does spread and large numbers of people get sick, the economy could largely grind to a halt anyway.