Liberty University Acting President Jerry Prevo on Tuesday apologized for hosting a campus snowball fight during which dozens of unmasked students and employees were accused of violating coronavirus precautions.
“We made a mistake in not enforcing the guidelines that we have followed routinely and sincerely for these many months,” Prevo said in a statement. “We have had a strong record of compliance and containment of COVID-19 from the start, and we want our community to know that Sunday’s snowball event was not done with a heart of defiance. The mistake was one of being caught up in the moment of the day.”
Hundreds of students participated in the Sunday melee after a storm dumped more than four inches of snow on the Lynchburg region. Prevo himself organized the event. In a Twitter post, he encouraged students to join him at the center of campus for an early afternoon snowball fight in the freshly fallen snow.
The event quickly sparked outrage on social media after Liberty officials shared images from the snowball fight online, including photos of a maskless Prevo huddled in a crowd of students. The since-deleted images show several dozen students clustered together in close proximity outside the Montview Student Union. Just a handful appear to be wearing masks.
“I messed up,” Prevo, a 76-year-old former Alaskan pastor, said in the statement. “We did not think through or communicate the need to wear facial coverings and remain 6 feet apart in compliance with Virginia Governor’s Executive Orders for the suppression of the spread of COVID-19 or even our own COVID-19 Operations Plan. And the size of the group was not in compliance either.”
Concerned the event could help spread COVID-19, frustrated residents flooded local health officials with complaints this week. According to records obtained by The News & Advance, at least 118 formal complaints about Liberty have been lodged with the Central Virginia Health District since Sunday.
Many of the complaints take aim directly at Liberty’s leadership for encouraging throngs of students to convene in the same spot on campus, according to the complaint records.
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SOURCE: The News & Advance, Richard Chumney