Trent University officials say recent outdoor student parties are putting the Peterborough campus and community at risk amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Several videos and photos on social media show large outdoor parties last week near the campus with students not wearing masks or practicing physical distancing — both health concerns for the university and its student association.
One video occurred on Tuesday at the foot bridge at Nassau Mills Road, where campus security intervened, according to Nona Robinson, Trent’s Office of Student Affairs associate vice-president students.
“I think we’re all really disappointed that this has happened,” Robinson told Global Peterborough on Monday.
The Trent Central Student Association (TSCA) and Trent University issued a joint letter to students calling the parties “significant unsafe behaviour” and noted that in one case the number of people exceeded the provincial limit of 100 people in an outdoor setting (the limit indoors is 50 people).
“This puts the Trent and Peterborough community at risk, and jeopardizes the campus reopening,” stated TSCA president Ann-Majella McKelvie and Robinson.
“The hard work that’s gone into creating a safer space on campus — putting in the proper protocols, everyone wearing masks — it definitely feels like it has been severely impacted,” said McKelvie.
However, Robinson told Global on Monday the behaviour exhibited in Tuesday’s incident does not represent the student body as a whole.
“I do want to give a shoutout to, what I would say are the significant majority of students, who are being very, very careful about safety precautions, about wearing masks, about physical distancing, all of those things.”
Several students on campus shunned the behaviour on Monday.
“I just feel kind of disgusted that people aren’t taking into considerations the implications of their actions,” said Julie Wechsler.
“It’s just incredibly irresponsible, like, putting everybody at risk,” added Pearce Fisker.
The letter advises students that COVID-19 can spread quickly in group events, so students should remain in small groups on and off-campus, stay physically distanced, wear a mask and not share food or drinks.
The Peterborough Police Service says there were no complaints related to Trent students on the weekend, according to Staff Sgt. Dan Maclean.
However, Trent University confirmed to Global News that campus security has seen other gatherings where they have “reminded students to abide by the protocols around physical distancing and masks, and students have been responsive.”
On Monday, Peterborough Public Health advised anyone in the community who is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or feels like they may have been exposed, to consider getting tested.
Late Monday afternoon, the health unit reported three new cases, increase the overall active cases to four for the region. Since the pandemic was declared in March, there have been 109 cases overall and two deaths in the health unit’s jurisdiction of Peterborough, Peterborough County, Hiawatha First Nation and Curve Lake First Nation.
Medical officer of health Dr. Rosana Salvaterra issued a letter to students on Aug. 31, advising them to quarantine for 14 days if they had arrived from another part of the province where cases were prevalent or they were from another country.
She also noted people between the ages of 20 and 29 are currently the most at-risk group for becoming infected with COVID-19.
“This is because young people who are infected often have mild versions of the COVID-19 illness, and can unknowingly spread it before they know they are sick,” she said. “This affects the larger community, including older family members and people at high risk of serious illness because of other health conditions.
“The choices you make and the efforts you take to follow public health advice will keep all of us safe. The community is grateful to you for doing so.”
— More to come