As colleges and universities across the continent and beyond shut down in-person classes and lectures to do their part in containing the spread of COVID-19, classes will continue as planned at Virginia’s infamous Liberty University, the private evangelical school founded by the late Jerry Falwell.
The school’s president, Jerry Falwell, Jr. (who achieved the position based on merit, no doubt) told Fox & Friends that the virus is an anti-Trump plot.
You know, it’s just strange to me how so many are overreacting. The H1N1 virus, in 2009, killed 17,000 people… And there was not the same hype. It was — you just didn’t see it on the news 24/7. And it makes you wonder if there’s a political reason for that.
It’s — you know, impeachment didn’t work, and the Mueller Report didn’t work, and Article 25 [likely a reference to the 25th Amendment, which allows the president’s cabinet to impeach him] didn’t work. And so maybe now, this is their next — their next attempt to get Trump.
Falwell wasn’t clear on exactly how the COVID-19 experience is being affected by Trump’s enemies. Are they responsible for the actual virus or just the heightened media coverage around it? But as for who’s responsible, he’s got a theory:
The owner of a restaurant asked me last night, he said: do you remember the North Korean leader promised a Christmas present for America back in December? Could it be they got together with China, and this is that present? I don’t know, but it really is something strange going on.
More than 3,000 people have died as a result of the spread of COVID-19 in China. Extraordinary evidence would be required to support the extremely serious allegation that the virus is a deliberate biological warfare tactic.
But, you know, Falwell talked to a guy in a restaurant.
In any case, the question of the virus’ origins is irrelevant to any precautions being taken to avoid its spread. Even Donald Trump himself has acknowledged that the virus is a concern, declaring a National Emergency and advising Americans (however weakly) to take precautions when traveling.
So Fox and Friends co-host Steve Doocy tried to pitch Falwell a softball about scientific data showing that the disease is less likely to harm young people with healthy immune systems.
Well, Jerry, so regarding the fact that you’re going to continue to have classes, and I would imagine that dorm life is going to remain as it is as well, is a component of that the fact that it seems to be that people in their later teens and twenties are less affected by this than people who are over sixty?
Falwell admits that “that is a factor,” citing a 99.7% cure rate for patients under 50 years of age. (The China Center for Disease Control has reported a 1.3% fatality rate for the age group in question, which may be where he’s getting the number, allowing for a bit of muddled math.)
Setting aside the barriers this attitude puts in place for disabled and chronically ill students who might not weather a bout of coronavirus so blithely, young people aren’t involved in social distancing because of their own mortality risk. Canceling classes is a measure to halt the spread of illness for everyone, including at-risk populations like the elderly and immunocompromised.
As one Liberty freshman said:
If I get coronavirus, I can probably beat it, but I don’t want to get in contact with older professors who might catch it from me. I don’t want to be in crowded dorms where it’s spreading all over. This decision really endangers the students and staff.
Another student expressed disgust that Falwell had chosen to ignore the advice of medical experts “because of his political views.”
Fortunately, the majority of Liberty’s student population is already online; some 80.9% of students enrolled at the university take only distance learning courses.
Unfortunately, the ones who aren’t will come back from Spring Break with a tough decision to make: self-isolate and jeopardize their education, or attend classes and pray they don’t come into contact with the virus.