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Liberty University Finishes Semester with Zero COVID-19 Cases Despite Reopening

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A Christian university in Virginia says it finished its semester without any coronavirus cases despite receiving sharp criticism over its president’s decision to keep the campus open for students.

Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. was widely condemned for his decision to reopen his campus to students who had nowhere else to go in March.

“We have a campus built for 16,000,” Falwell said on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” in May.

“Twelve hundred students came back to stay in the dorms for seven weeks and they were students who either didn’t have high-speed internet, had elderly relatives living at home or were international students,” he said.

As the semester comes to an end, Falwell announced that there were no cases of COVID-19 on campus.

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“We are thankful to God that nobody who lived in a campus residence hall or who worked in a campus office tested positive for the virus,” he said in a farewell note, The College Fix reported.

“No positive COVID-19 test anywhere in our region was linked to Liberty students who returned to their dorm rooms after Spring Break.”

Falwell added that the only cases of the novel coronavirus in the university community were employees working from home or off-campus and “their infections were all traced to contacts in the local community.”

After students were welcomed back in March, health specialists inspected the campus amid concerns from the community, according to WDBJ-TV in Roanoke.

Do you think more universities should follow Liberty University's example?

The Central Virginia Health District did not find any violations of Virginia’s executive order that restricted certain businesses and organizations’ operations during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Food in the areas, including the buffet line, was being served by employees. Usual self-serve products, like bags of chips, were relocated behind countertops, while condiments were given in single packets,” the local report read.

“Staff were sanitizing equipment like soda machines and utensil dispensers every fifteen minutes.”

Despite passing the surprise health investigation, Falwell still received a lot of criticism from the mainstream media and commenters on social media.

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“Well, if you’re a conservative college president, be careful because they’ll come after you,” he told Laura Ingraham in May.

“It’s totally political. It was totally political. And it was just so reprehensible how they did it. They spent days on campus. The New York Times reporter and the other reporter [from] ProPublica. And even though there were ‘No Trespassing’ signs everywhere, [they] never called to ask us for any comment. Never talked to our on-campus doctor.”

Although the residential halls and other campus buildings were opened, Liberty held online classes and restricted the number of people in buildings.

“There were no places to sit and relax as all tables, chairs and booths were taped off and closed due to the virus,” senior Carter Chapman told The College Fix.

Falwell said universities have an obligation to their students and institutions need to consider that when deciding whether to reopen campus in the fall.

“I think colleges have an obligation to do whatever they can to continue the student’s education. That’s what we did,” Falwell said.

“We do it in a safe manner. We really became the model. We had all takeout at our restaurants. We had social distancing. All the academic buildings were open so they could spread out. And … it worked perfectly.”

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Birthplace
Tucson, Arizona
Nationality
American
Honors/Awards
Graduated with Honors
Education
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Location
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith




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