Liberty University will continue steadily to hold in-person classes when students return from spring break March 23, even while a wave of other colleges across Virginia and the country have closed their campuses because of the growing coronavirus threat, President Jerry Falwell Jr. announced Friday. “I don’t see us doing a similar thing that other schools did,” Falwell said in a very taped interview streamed online with campus pastor David Nasser. Falwell said the university has canceled “virtually all gatherings of large crowds” on campus and can livestream convocation from the studio for another several weeks rather than hosting the twice-weekly assembly within the 10,000-seat Vines Center. Regardless of the moratorium on large gatherings, Falwell also said the university still plans to carry a patio graduation ceremony May 9. The university previously announced U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will deliver the commencement address. Graduation is “something we’re not likely to deny our graduates who’ve worked so difficult to attain that milestone,” he said.
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Falwell said he’s got been flooded with messages from students in recent days who’ve pleaded with him never to cancel classes. “You guys paid to get here, you wished to be on campus and I wish to give you everything you covered,” Falwell said of this nearly 15,000 students who attend classes on campus. No cases of COVID-19, the condition due to the novel coronavirus, have already been confirmed locally. But on Friday, the Virginia Department of Health announced the amount of confirmed and presumptive cases had increased to 30. A lot of the cases come in Northern Virginia, though one case has become identified in nearby Prince Edward County. The rising number of instances in hawaii prompted Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday to declare circumstances of emergency and led several Virginia colleges to cancel in- person classes, like the University of Lynchburg, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech.