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Coronavirus: Queen’s St. Patrick’s Day party went on after health officials urged against it

Queen’s students celebrated St. Patrick’s Day after health officials urged against it
In the wake of the COVID-19 spread in Canada, Queen's, KFL&A Public Health, and Kingston Police warned students not to attend street parties and to stay away from large gatherings in order to stop the spread of the virus.

On Saturday, the University District near Queen’s University was crowded with students as they celebrated St. Patrick’s Day.

In the wake of the COVID-19 spread in Canada, Queen’s, KFL&A Public Health and Kingston Police warned students not to attend the street parties and to stay away from large gatherings in order to stop the spread of the virus.

“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,” said Sgt. Steve Koopman last week.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Queen’s, St. Lawrence suspend classes for a week

Dr. Kieran Moore, Kingston’s Medical Officer of Health, told Global News on Saturday morning that there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Kingston area. He said last week that as a collective group, we need to be cautious of the impact St. Patrick’s Day will have on the health-care system.

 

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“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,” said Dr. Moore last week.

Queen’s University’s COVID-19 special advisor, Dr. David Walker, told Global News’ Bill Hutchins in a sit-down interview last week that it would be unreasonable to think that there would be no St. Patrick’s Day celebrations but urged students to be thoughtful and very cautious as they may pose a risk to those with respiratory illnesses.

KFL&A Public Health posted to social media and on its website that the decisions made by those participating in the St. Patrick’s Day party could have an impact on the limited resources and overwhelming pressures of local emergency rooms during the COVID-19 situation.

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“You might end up with more than a hangover. If you over consume or get hurt, you may require emergency care. This threatens to overwhelm our first responders and our emergency rooms during a time of increased screening and testing for COVID-19,” posted to KFL&A Public Healths website.

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

When students and partiers were asked if they are worried that being in a large gathering could potentially spread the virus, many said they were not afraid and were willing to take the risk.

“I’m from Scotland. I’ve travelled 3,000 miles, and obviously, the fact that the virus is happening is not going to stop me from getting steaming [drunk],” said Cam, who wouldn’t provide his last name.

Not all students were mingling in the large crowd. Sam Levy told Global News that he is taking many of the advised precautions and chose to come down from his dorm to watch the party from a distance with his friends.

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“I’m not touching people, staying away from large crowds. I’m not trying to be party pooper — if you want to go out, go out — but it’s better to be safe than sorry in this case,” said Levy.

On Saturday, a COVID-19 assessment centre opened at Hotel Dieu’s St. Joseph ‘s Building. A sign on the front door reads that you will only be tested for the virus if you meet specific testing criteria set by Public Health Ontario.

The list includes:

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  • Symptomatic contacts of confirmed cases of COVID-19.
  • Individuals requiring hospital admission with respiratory illness.
  • Healthcare workers with respiratory illness.
  • Residents of long term care or retirement homes who have a new respiratory illness.
  • First Nations Community members living on-reserve with respiratory illness.

The centre is open daily from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.