An engineering professor at Arizona State University who doesn’t believe COVID-19 is a “real pandemic” was criticized by his students after he violated university requirements that social distancing be observed in classrooms, even as coronavirus cases at the school are rapidly rising.
ASU has already reported more than 800 COVID-19 cases among students and staff since classes resumed last month.
A post about the professor, identified as Dr. Thomas Seager, appeared on an ASU section of the website Reddit, where it quickly gained attention from users who called the professor a known “COVID denier.”
ASU said administrators have already spoken to Seager about the incident.
“The situation has been addressed with this professor and he has been reminded of our physical distancing protocols and that they must be adhered to in the classroom,” an ASU spokesperson told Arizona Mirror. “Students with concerns can contact [email protected].”
One Reddit user said that the professor asked students to move to the front of the class, even as some were reluctant to do so.
“He asked again, and many on the zoom call told him that this was not a good idea, but he continued to demand students move,” the user said.
A similar post about Seager also appeared on his profile page on the website RateMyProfessor.com.
“During COVID he literally made the class move to the front two rows against social distancing policy,” the post says.
Seager had the class move during a class project and it was not their normal seating arrangement, according to an ASU spokesperson.
Neither Seager nor the anonymous student who posted on Reddit immediately returned messages seeking comment.
On Twitter, Seager has spoken out against mask use in public and has written about how he has not worn a mask while shopping.
In other posts, the professor has said that COVID-19 isn’t “a real pandemic” and that the government and media had fabricated death statistics from the illness, claiming that there is no danger to students or teachers from the disease. Nearly 185,000 Americans, including 5,065 Arizonans, have died from COVID-19 and more than 1,000 new deaths are reported each day.
If COVID were dangerous to children, would the media make a national news story out asymptomatic children who die of unrelated or accidental causes and claim (after the fact) that it was COVID?
— Thomas P Seager, PhD (@seagertp) August 9, 2020
He also said coronavirus tests don’t have medical value and that hospitals are using the illness to get rich.
Seager has also reposted and defended articles by himself and another woman that falsely claim COVID-19 has been in the United States since November 2019 and the curve has “already been flat.” The article in question was removed by the site Medium for giving improper medical advice, and there is no evidence that the novel coronavirus was in the United States at that time.
Seager has since re-published the piece on a website dedicated to a company he owns that creates ice baths.
Neither Seager nor the woman who co-authored the article, A.J. Kay, are trained in medicine or public health. Seager has three engineering degrees and Kay has a degree in psychology.
While COVID possibly arrived earlier than initially realized, experts say it most likely arrived in the United States in late December 2019, and there is no evidence that it was here a month prior to that.
ASU has reported 775 students and 28 staff members infected with the virus as of August 31. Of those cases involving students, 323 are in isolation at the Tempe campus. The cases of coronavirus at ASU have even prompted Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, to weigh in.
“Positive cases of #COVID19 at ASU have increased by over 300 since Friday, now at over 800,” Salman said on Twitter, sharing a letter she sent to ASU President Michael Crow about her concerns. “We are all in this together & ASU must do its part to protect public health on & off campus.”