After nearly 2,000 students flooded back to Liberty University fresh off of spring break, the school’s president Jerry Falwell is mounting a one-man stand against the governor, local officials and The New York Times.
The doctor who runs Liberty University’s student health service, Dr. Thomas Eppes, told the New York Times that already at least 12 students were displaying symptoms of the virus. The paper reported that three of them were sent to a local hospital for testing, while another eight were urged to self-isolate.
Falwell, a staunch ally of President Donald Trump, has dismissed the coronavirus pandemic and accused the media of trying to “fan it up” to destroy the economy, and thus injure Trump’s presidency.
Falwell bashed the Times’ reporting as “false” and “misleading” in a statement, saying that Eppes denied ever providing such information, and that the school isn’t aware of any on-campus students displaying symptoms, much less being tested.
Falwell continued that the school asked four students who had been in New York City, along with three others they were in close contact with, to isolate themselves at a vacant hotel near campus. Two of the students did not comply, choosing to return to their dorms. He said that the students were all “asymptomatic.”
He added that another student, living off-campus, returned to Lynchburg, Virginia, where the school is located, with a cough and fever after traveling internationally to a country with many cases. The student was tested and told to self isolate, though he also chose to return to his residence.
Sounding much like the President he so ardently supports, Falwell said that “such media conduct contributes to the public’s record low approval ratings for news media and earns the label ‘fake news.'”
His office did not immediately respond to TPM’s questions.
Falwell also continued his crusade against government officials, both state and local, some of whom have denounced his decision as “reckless.”
He claims that Gov. Ralph Northam (D), along with Lynchburg Mayor Treney Tweedy and City Manager Bonnie Svrcek “thanked” him for alerting them to his post-spring break plan.
“Both the City and the Governor’s office thanked Liberty for this announcement but later each reversed course and sought to criticize it after reading erroneous news stories and opinion articles,” he said.
Tweedy said last week that she was not aware of Falwell’s “reckless” decision to welcome students back to the dorms, only that he was moving most classes online. Northam’s office told TPM that he was “concerned” after hearing reports of Falwell’s decision, and that staffers contacted Liberty’s president directly.
As of Monday morning, Virginia has 1,020 cases of the virus — over three times the number the state’s public health department reported six days ago.