Liberty University Will Make Teachers And Students Come Back, Coronavirus Be Damned
The state of Virginia won't say how many ventilators they have, but according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, they only have 2.1 hospital beds per 1,000 people, lower than the national average of 2.8 per 1000, which itself is lower than the 3.1 beds per 1000 they have in Italy, where the system is currently overwhelmed and doctors have been having to make decisions about whose life is worth saving.
Now, the notoriously "pro-life" Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, is encouraging students to come back to class and requiring professors to do so. Pretty much every school everywhere else has closed up its campus and is holding classes online in order to encourage social distancing and flatten the curve, but Liberty University is not every school.
In an interview Sunday night, Falwell said somewhere between several hundred to more than 5,000 students are expected to live in campus dorms, where they will continue coursework online rather than in classrooms.
Meanwhile, hundreds of professors and instructors without a valid health exemption will come to campus to hold office hours.
"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," Falwell said.
Falwell then explained that everything will be fine because students are too young and healthy to get coronavirus (screw the professors), and because if anyone gets sick, he's got an old hotel he can stick them in.
Falwell, who has publicly downplayed the threat of the virus in recent weeks, said he is confident the school has taken the proper steps to prepare for a campus outbreak. He said Liberty officials have identified an old hotel owned by the university as a place to quarantine students who fall ill.
"I think we, in a way, are protecting the students by having them on campus together," he said. "Ninety-nine percent of them are not at the age to be at risk and they don't have conditions that put them at risk."
We have, of course, been aware for at least a week now that younger people are making up a larger percentage of coronavirus hospitalizations than anticipated.
It is unlikely that this is not linked to Trump's increasing demands that everyone go back to normal so that the economy can recover for a while before it really crashes when mass numbers of people die. Falwell and other Trump acolytes have something of an obligation to follow him off of a cliff if that's what it takes to normalize his bad ideas. They have an obligation to make him look good and not like a crazy person. If he says "Everyone go back to normal now!" and Falwell were to defy his order, Trump would look foolish. He already looks foolish to us, but he'd look even more like a giant ass if no one backed him up. His people know this. This is why they have all been backing him up yesterday and today, declaring that they would be willing to die to "save" the economy.
It doesn't matter that it's a bad idea. It doesn't matter that Trump already looks stupid to us. There's safety in numbers. You see someone walking down the street wearing a lacy thong around their head, you're gonna think that person is nuts. You see 100 people walking down the street wearing lacy thongs around there head, you're more likely to think "What a fun party!"
Of course, when I say they have an "obligation" to back Trump up, that doesn't mean they have to go along with it. They could take a stand. They could go against the grain. But they're Republicans so they probably won't. Here though is one nice exception I bet you didn't see coming!
And it is a surprise, because most Republicans are willing to fuck up the planet for a chance to profit now. They are willing to let millions of people die for a chance to profit now. They have long been willing to forego having a national healthcare system (which would have been really helpful right now) in order to keep insurance companies rich. They're not much for preventative medicine, either figuratively or literally. They're not much for having a little less now in order to have more later. They want their oompa loompas and they want them now.
Any conservative who does not go along — other than Tucker Carlson, who arguably has more right-wing social capital than Trump and is therefore the only one allowed to disagree with him without losing any — would put their career and their entire reputation at great risk. (Good ... luck Cheney?) Falwell is making a calculation that making Trump look good right now will benefit him down the line more than standing up to him will, even if the latter saves a lot of lives.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse