Last week, in the face of widespread criticism, nearly 1,900 students were allowed to return to Liberty University after spring break, and now at least one of those students has tested positive for COVID-19, reported The New York Times.
The physician who runs Liberty’s student health service told the Times that after 11 Liberty students were sick with symptoms suggesting COVID-19, three were referred to the hospital. One student tested positive and eight were told to self-isolate. As of Sunday evening, one student still awaited results.
“Liberty will be notifying the community as deemed appropriate and required by law,” Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr. said in an interview yesterday, adding that any student returning to campus would be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
However, Falwell Jr. also told ABC News that The New York Times article was false. He said the university has prepared a statement, parts of which ABC News cited:
“The New York Times ambushed Liberty University to publish a false and misleading story claiming that, ‘students started getting sick’ after the University received students back after spring break,” said Liberty’s statement. “The Times attributed the reporter’s conclusion about the scope of the COVID-19 symptoms being about a dozen students to a local doctor who has consulted with LU. The truth is a far different story. Both the numbers and the sequencing are wrong.”
Since last week, nearly 800 students of the 1,900 who came back to campus have returned home. Falwell Jr. said those who remain are mostly “international students who have nowhere else to go. The governor should understand that.”
Both Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who is a physician, and Lynchburg Mayor Treney Tweedy have been vocal about urging Falwell Jr. to change his course of action.
“I would suggest that President Falwell look to the actions of the leaders of Virginia’s flagship universities for how to set a strong example in this health crisis and to please reconsider his message that invites and encourages students to return to campus,” said Northam in a news conference last week.