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Queen’s students told not to gather for St. Patrick’s Day street parties

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WATCH: with St. Patrick's Day approaching, Kingston Police along with Queen's University and KFL&A are warning students not to attend large unsanctioned street parties expected this weekend.

St. Patrick’s Day is fast approaching and Kingston police along with Queen’s University and KFL&A Public Health, are warning students not to attend large unsanctioned street parties expected this weekend due to coronavirus.

“We’re hoping that the message we are pushing out through ourselves [Kingston Police], the City of Kingston, Queen’s University and KFL&A Public Health, does get to some of the people — that it is not worth a party on St. Patrick’s Day to put yourself and, even more importantly others, at risk,” says Sgt. Steve Koopman with Kingston police.

Officials fear that the large street parties, seen in the last few years in the University district, could materialize in the coming days, which would increase the chances of people being exposed to COVID-19.

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“If you’re bringing a large amount of people into a small area that is confined — and some of these people are bound to be from out of town — that really adds an additional risk factor, that we really think is unnecessary,” Koopman says.

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In fact, St. Patrick’s Day parades in Toronto and Montreal have already been cancelled.

In Washington State, parades, concerts and festivals with more than 250 people in attendance have been banned.

“We’ve got to change our behavior,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We have to essentially assume that we are going to get hit.”

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“We want to be very conscious of the impact of St. Patrick’s Day on our health care system,” says Dr. Kieran Moore, Kingston’s Medical Officer of Health.

“We often see 100 patients extra a day in our emergency departments (related to St. Patrick’s Day). When we are trying to ramp up our services for COVID-19 and prepare the health system for any potential impact, now is not the time to be socially irresponsible.”

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But despite the warnings from local, national and international health officials about gathering in large groups, there are indications on social media that St. Patrick’s Day celebrations will happen in Kingston’s University district this coming Saturday.

“To be honest, we didn’t think about it too much until probably yesterday,” says Queen’s student Jack Sivec. “With the NBA shutting down and the WHO (World Health Organization) declaring it a pandemic.”

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Sivec, a fourth-year engineering student, says he is now torn.

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“It definitely might not be a good idea to go out in groups,” says Sivec, “so we are conflicted on that.

“It’s tough being in fourth year and it would be the last one. Definitely a bit challenging for us.”

In the meantime, Kingston police will deploy officers to the University district on Saturday and the city’s nuisance bylaw will be in effect from this Friday until Wednesday, March 18.