The notoriously homophobic university set off a media sensation last week when it announced it would reopen, even as the number of COVID-19 cases skyrocketed in the US. Approximately 5,000 students attend Liberty University.
Now The New York Times reports that an outbreak of the virus has already taken hold on the campus. At least a dozen students have come down with symptoms characteristic of COVID-19. Three had to be hospitalized over the weekend, and of those three, at least one has a confirmed positive for the virus.
“Liberty will be notifying the community as deemed appropriate and required by law,” said University President Jerry Fallwell, Jr. of the outbreak.
Fallwell’s words also come on the heels of a New York Times report that the head of student health on campus, Dr. Thomas W. Eppes, had warned Fallwell of the impending disaster, should the school reopen. Eppes confirmed to the Times that though he did not insist Liberty remain closed, he did tell Fallwell the school had “lost the ability” to control COVID-19.
Fallwell has also earned notoriety for his denial of the COVID-19 pandemic, calling it a conspiracy to unseat Donald Trump in the fall. “It makes you wonder if there is a political reason for that. Impeachment didn’t work and the Mueller report didn’t work and Article 25 didn’t work, and so maybe now this is their next attempt to get Trump,” Fallwell told Fox & Friends earlier in March.
Falwell had also previously said that COVID-19 would not pose a threat on campus. “We think Liberty’s practices will become the model for all colleges to follow in the fall, if coronavirus is still an issue,” he told reporters last week.