UPDATED 2:27 PM PT — Wednesday, March 25, 2020
A university in Virginia has made the controversial decision to keep its doors open as the coronavirus continues to make its way across the U.S.
Nearly 2,000 Liberty University students have returned to Lynchburg, Virginia, after the school’s president decided it would be safer for them to be on campus. The university has received significant backlash following Governor Ralph Northam’s order to close schools and non-essential business. The order also included a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people.
We are taking aggressive steps to stop the spread of #COVID19.
Effective at midnight tonight:
🚪certain non-essential businesses will remain closed for 30 days
🚫gatherings over 10 people are banned
🍽️restaurants must move to take out only
Learn more: https://t.co/lE8WZdNyA1
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) March 24, 2020
An email sent out to students the week before spring break stated that classes were going to operate as normal, apart from international study abroad programs being cancelled. City leaders, including the mayor, have condemned the move.
The school’s president noted he told officials that classes would be conducted online following the break, but emphasized he never said the dorms would be closed.
“The dorms would be open because we have so many international students, I never told her it would be closed to anyone else. We didn’t have many show up, that’s their choice. The students decide whether they want to be here or study at home. What we can do is make sure they are safe when they’re here.” – Jerry Falwell Jr., President of Liberty University
In a previous interview with one of the school’s convocation leaders, Falwell described plans for the students when they returned from spring break.
“I don’t see us doing the same things that other schools have done,” he said. “You guys paid to be here, you wanted to be on campus and I want to give you what you paid for.”
Virginia has reported at least 290 confirmed cases, as well as one confirmed death from COVID-19. As of Sunday, Liberty University’s website stated the college will be abiding by the governor’s emergency ban.
This morning on CNN, President Falwell spoke about the university's status amid the COVID-19 outbreak. "We decided early last week, when the governor said no classrooms with over 100 people, to go completely online," President Falwell shared. https://t.co/aF1Gzyk0mX
— Liberty University (@LibertyU) March 25, 2020