State Watch

Liberty University students report symptoms that suggest coronavirus: report


Around a dozen students at Virginia’s Liberty University have reported being sick with symptoms that are consistent with the coronavirus. 

The school’s director of student health services told The New York Times in an interview that nearly a dozen students had reported symptoms similar to those experienced in confirmed coronavirus cases, with three of those students later being sent to hospitals for testing. No cases of the virus have been confirmed on the school’s campus.

Liberty was in the news this week after students began returning to the Virginia campus despite the increasing number of coronavirus cases across the nation.

Students returning to campus are now reportedly being directed to self-quarantine for two weeks, while Liberty’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., told the Times that around 800 of the 1,900 students who initially returned to on-campus housing for spring semester had voluntarily gone home. It was unclear, Falwell said, how many remained in off-campus housing.

The director of student health services, Dr. Thomas Eppes Jr., told Falwell that the school had “lost the ability” to control how many students would be infected should classes resume on campus.

“We’ve lost the ability to corral this thing,” Eppes said he told Falwell, according to the Times.

But he stopped short of telling Falwell to send students home. “I just am not going to be so presumptuous as to say, ‘This is what you should do and this is what you shouldn’t do,'” Eppes said.

Falwell, a public ally of President Trump, has publicly derided concern over the coronavirus outbreak and criticized other universities that have sent students home or moved to online classes to avoid in-person gatherings.

He told the Times in an interview that the school would continue to notify its community of developments related to the coronavirus but did not indicate that the school would send students home.

“Liberty will be notifying the community as deemed appropriate and required by law,” Falwell told the Times.

On Friday, he announced that students who wished to withdraw from classes for the semester would received a $1,000 credit towards next year’s classes.

“I think we have a responsibility to our students — who paid to be here, who want to be here, who love it here — to give them the ability to be with their friends, to continue their studies, enjoy the room and board they’ve already paid for and to not interrupt their college life,” he told The News & Advance.

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