"Look, I was in college, too. We would have had parties like that as well and kind of made a joke of it," said Governor John Carney Tuesday. "It's not funny. And it really is putting people at risk."
Carney said he was happy with Newark officials making the decision to implement tighter restrictions on gatherings, especially with the University of Delaware in town, as reports begin to pour in regarding school reopenings and COVID-19 spread at colleges around the country.
Carney said young adults are prone to not being as careful about wearing masks and socially distancing, especially as they gain the freedoms associated with leaving home and heading back to college.
"The Newark restrictions make a lot of sense....It's out in bars and restaurants, brushing up against one another too much, [which they] shouldn't be because of our current restrictions," he said. "This is not just a Delaware phenomenon. This is a something that we're seeing...in states across the country, and we're seeing it again in higher education."
Wanting to see Delaware's educational institutions also spared, school officials agreed. UD's Dean of Students Adam Cantley and Director of Student Health Services Tim Dowling issued a letter Tuesday, detailing some of the expectations for students, both on- and off-campus, this fall, despite most of the semester's classes being virtual.
"This semester, more than ever, it is important to remember that we are a community –– we each have the responsibility to make personal choices that keep ourselves and others safe. Right now, that means limiting the size of our in-person gatherings and following other public health guidelines wherever we are this fall. All Blue Hens must do what is necessary to 'Protect the Flock' so that we can all be together again as soon as possible."
The letter detailed both school initiatives and citywide initiatives, which included:
- Requirements for 6 feet of physical distance and face coverings for all individuals when engaging with others outside your household.
- Testing for COVID-19, completing a daily health screening questionnaire and following signage if visiting campus.
- Where to report violations of these guidelines, as disciplinary actions will apply to any student who does not comply with these policies.
- Indoor gatherings at private residences are limited to 12 attendees, including the residents of the home.
- Outdoor gatherings at private residences are limited to 20 attendees, including the residents of the home.
- Anyone found hosting or attending an unlawful gathering may be fined up to $500 and required to perform up to 20 hours of community service. Repeat offenders will face criminal charges.
Newark City Council voted to make the city's private gathering limits tighter than statewide…
With an apparent invincibility complex, students at universities across the nation have brushed off the recommendations of officials as not pertaining to them, believing they couldn't possibly fall victim to the virus or contribute unknowingly to its spread, but UD officials acknowledged how this kind of approach is leading to outbreaks in a number of large college populations.
"We know that limiting your in-person interactions during this time is not easy. All of us are feeling a sense of loss for the fall semester we had envisioned," the letter read. "However, recent COVID-19 outbreaks at University of North Carolina, Notre Dame University, University of Kansas, Michigan State University and many others have shown that large gatherings are the single greatest risk to students’ health and safety and to our ability to fully reopen the campus. We need you to step up as Blue Hens and do your part by following UD’s health and safety guidelines."
Students or campus organizations found in violation of any of the rules laid out by the city of Newark's gatherings ordinance could be subject to sanctions and face the possibility of suspension or expulsion.
"Campus parties that get out of control; Alcohol is involved; More than 20 people, you can imagine the number of students," Carney said. "[A] 64-year-old telling college students what they should or shouldn't do is probably not the way to get the message across, but putting a restriction like that and enforcing it, I think, will make a difference...it'll prevent the spread of the virus more broadly in the community and, ultimately, maybe save lives."