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‘I messed up’: Liberty University president admits to failing coronavirus guidelines in massive snowball fight

‘I am truly sorry for how this activity may put our students and university in a negative light.’

Photos show a lack of mask wearing during the snowball fight.
Photos show a lack of mask wearing during the snowball fight.

UPDATE (2:24 p.m. Feb. 2, 2021)

LYNCHBURG, Va. - Two days after a massive snowball fight at Liberty University, President Jerry Prevo is admitting mistakes were made.

“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,” wrote Prevo in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.

“I am truly sorry for how this activity may put our students and university in a negative light, potentially diminishing the hard work of many dedicated employees and volunteers,” Prevo continued. “We rededicate ourselves to our solid commitment to communicating and reinforcing to students, faculty, and staff the mandate to comply with all COVID-19 policies, including physical distancing and the wearing of facial coverings.”

He also said that the social media posts about the snowball fight have since been removed from the university’s accounts.

Below is the full statement from Prevo:

This past Sunday morning as I opened the curtains and looked outside, I saw a Liberty University campus covered in deep snow. Having lived in Alaska for the past fifty years, I own a lifetime of memories of joy spent in outdoor winter fun with friends. Lynchburg hasn’t seen a good snow in over two years and much of our student body comes from areas of the country that never see snow at all.

I donned my gloves and coat and headed outside and immediately engaged in some snowball fights with a few students. From that small beginning, I invited them to meet on the front lawn to continue the fun with more students. The student body took to the idea, they showed up in large numbers and had the snowball fight. I stood front and center and led this event.

I messed up. 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.

We made a mistake in not enforcing the guidelines that we have followed routinely and sincerely for these many months. 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. I and my leadership team apologize for not leading our students to abide by COVID-19 protocols during this event. I am truly sorry for how this activity may put our students and university in a negative light, potentially diminishing the hard work of many dedicated employees and volunteers. We rededicate ourselves to our solid commitment to communicating and reinforcing to students, faculty, and staff the mandate to comply with all COVID-19 policies, including physical distancing and the wearing of facial coverings.

In conjunction with this announcement, we have also taken down the social media posts about this event, which could tend to undermine a culture of compliance.

I am firmly committed to the health and safety of our students at Liberty University, as well as their spiritual and emotional health. We hope to foster more fun and excitement for our students in the days ahead, but we will do so while abiding by our health and safety protocols.

Liberty University President Jerry Prevo

ORIGINAL STORY

A Facebook post from Liberty University’s snowball fight is causing a fight of its own.

The pictures are going viral because people don’t appear to be following COVID-19 guidelines.

You can see hundreds of students standing shoulder-to-shoulder and many without masks.

Acting President Jerry Prevo is also pictured standing arm-in-arm with students.

Kendall Covington, a Liberty student, said she’s not surprised, “It’s really like we’re not allowed to talk about [the guidelines], and there’s this unspoken rule that no one is allowed to talk about why they’re necessary, ask people to put on masks.”

She claims guidelines are rarely enforced.

“When people are asked to put masks on by the faculty, which is rarely, they either put it on and take it off minutes later, they put it on incorrectly by just covering their mouths and not covering their noses, or they just don’t,” Covington said.

The university declined to comment.


About the Author:

Tim Harfmann joined the 10 News team in September 2020 and works at the station's Lynchburg bureau.