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Liberty president apologizes for maskless snowball fight

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LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — A Virginia university president apologized Tuesday for hosting a campus snowball fight over the weekend where dozens of attendees were seen unmasked and not following coronavirus precautions.

Liberty University Acting President Jerry Prevo said the school made “a mistake” by not enforcing coronavirus guidelines, which includes wearing face masks and practicing social distancing, news outlets reported.

“I messed up,” Prevo 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.”

Prevo organized the snowball scuffle through a Twitter post, encouraging students to join him at the center of the campus Sunday afternoon after a storm left 4 inches (10 centimeters) of fresh powder.

The event snowballed into community fury as since-deleted photos posted online showed some students clustered together and maskless.

Residents contacted local health officials to launch complaints against Liberty’s leadership and raise concern over the potential virus spread the event may cause, The News & Advance reported. At least 118 formal complaints about Liberty have been lodged with the Central Virginia Health District since Sunday, the paper reported.

Lindsey Lockewood, health district population health manager, said officials were aware of the complaints but it’s unclear whether actions would be taken over the alleged rule violations.

Prevo, a 76-year-old former Alaskan pastor, has served as chairman of the school’s board of trustees since 2003. He was named acting president last summer after former president Jerry Falwell Jr. resigned amid a series of scandals.

At least 58 students have contracted the disease as of Jan. 26, the university reported last week.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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