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Northam urges Liberty University to reconsider allowing students to return to campus

Liberty University is allowing students to return to campus from spring break as COVID-19 spreads through Virginia. Health officials are urging people to stay home.

LYNCHBURG, Va. — In his daily press conference addressing efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam mentioned the hundreds of students being allowed to return to Liberty University.

Liberty began ushering hundreds of students back to the campus as they return from their spring break. The university has moved its classes to online instruction, except for some programs, but is welcoming students back to campus anyway.

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Northam and state health officials are urging citizens to stay home and practice appropriate social distancing during this time. He implored President Jerry Falwell to follow suit.

"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."

A news release on Liberty's website cites how the administration made the decision to allow students to return to the school.

Falwell said the decision came down to extending spring break, which the university thought could create the opportunity for students to contract COVID-19 and bring it back to school, or create a strategy to follow state guidelines and allow students to return.

“I was on a conference call with other college presidents and representatives from private colleges, and we listened to what other schools were doing. Many were throwing their hands up and saying they would just close and others were going to extend their breaks. At that time, we were on Spring Break, so we had time to work on it,” Falwell said.

Liberty University is one of the largest evangelical institutions in the country. Northam pointed to a Bible scripture while discussing Liberty's actions to justify his call for solidarity.

"As we are told in 1 Corinthians, it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. Proving faithful means providing clear and consistent guidance and it means respecting the duty that Liberty University has to its students, its staff, the Lynchburg community, and our Commonwealth," Northam said.

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