Well, no one could see this coming: Liberty University, which reopened after its spring break this month despite a raging global pandemic, is now full of sick students.
The New York Times reports that Jerry Falwell, Jr., avid Trump supporter and abject disbeliever in science and the power of disease, reopened his Lynchburg, Virginia University last week, despite the fact that universities all over the country have shuttered and sent students home in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus. Not Falwell, who repeatedly asserted that covid-19 was an effort to “destroy the American economy” and damage Trump’s reputation.
About 1900 students came back last week, the Times says, where they presumably ate together, slept in dorms together, and touched all the same surfaces (Falwell said classes did move online, at least). As of Friday, about a dozen showed symptoms consistent with covid-19, and several were sent to local hospitals for testing. Several hundred students departed, it seems due to the potential outbreak, but Falwell, who appears to suddenly believe the virus might be real, is concerned for the ones who stayed. “If I were them, I’d be more nervous,” he told the Times. But I thought the pandemic was “overblown”!
Of course, the problem with Liberty University stretches beyond the school itself. Virginia has several hundred confirmed cases of covid-19, including one in Lynchburg, and state and local officials were reportedly furious that Falwell invited students back to the dorms, a move that endangered local residents as much as the students themselves. Falwell claimed he was being attacked because of the school’s conservative Christian values, and not because he was enabling the rapid spread of a deadly virus with no cure or vaccine.
Unfortunately, viruses don’t care what religion you are, and thanks to Falwell, students on campus who did not go home are stuck amid a potential outbreak. The Times says they’re starting to panic:
“I’m not allowed to talk to you because I’m an employee here,” one student living on campus wrote in an email. But, he pleaded, “we need help to go home.”