COVID-19 concerns swirl for Western University students ahead of St. Patrick’s Day

Western University administration emphasizes that the use of the lanyards associated with the new identification system is entirely voluntary. Geoff Robins / The Canadian Press

Despite a growing outbreak of COVID-19 that’s been linked to scholarly peers, some Western University students are hoping for another quiet St. Patrick’s Day in London, Ont.

Wednesday marks the second time the annual celebration will occur amid the pandemic and comes less than a week after a community outbreak of COVID-19 was declared.

The outbreak originally contained 22 cases mainly linked to gatherings among post-secondary students, with Western students making up the majority of infections. That number grew to at least 45 cases on Monday.

First year student Michael Bessonov lives in residence at Western and says he’s not too worried his neighbours will throw any parties, thanks to school officials keeping a tight lid on activity inside.

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“If anything does happen, it’ll last for a few minutes,” Bessonov said.

Bessonov says his concerns lie more with parties happening off-campus, at fraternity and sorority houses where he worries the recent outbreak may have originated.

“If people from residence do go out there, I’m just worried they might come bring it back in to residence,” said Bessonov.

As for himself, Bessonov says he doesn’t know of anyone with plans for celebrating.

“It’s a really busy week for me and my friends, a lot of midterms coming up, so I don’t really think it’s a big priority.”

A first year student living in residence, Michael Bessonov worries his neighbours may go to parties off-campus and come back with an infection.

First year student Michael Mazzetti admitted to Global News that he didn’t know when St. Patrick’s Day was and had not planned to take part in celebrations.

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“Is it (Wednesday)? We have bio midterms coming up,” Mazzetti said, adding that he and his friends likely wouldn’t have time to party.

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Mazzetti says he and his friends have taken precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and have avoided partying for the time being, but still worry for others.

“You never know, some people just don’t care really and just like to go and have fun, so you just gotta hope for the best I guess.”

Fellow first year student Omar Elomari is less hopeful and expects to see a busy St. Patrick’s Day in London.

“I live off-campus and my area’s more like a student neighbourhood, there’s usually parties most nights,” Elomari said.

“It’s probably going to get worse on St. Patrick’s Day … and in a few weeks after we’re going to start noticing the numbers go up.”

First year students Michael Mazzetti (left), Leonardo Cui (centre) and Omar Elomari have maintained a tight social bubble and follow health precautions, but worry others may not do the same. Andrew Graham / Global News

While some students may be staying at home for St. Patrick’s Day, Const. Sandasha Bough says London police will be out and about throughout the day to monitor local celebrations.

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“If anybody was hoping or had planned to attend any St. Patrick’s Day gatherings, we’re asking them to please reconsider, and that’s for the health and safety of our community, as well as our first responders,” Bough said.

Police will work in collaboration with the Middlesex-London Health Unit and city bylaw enforcement throughout the day, but Bough says Londoners should not be calling 911 for COVID-19 concerns.

“If you have any concerns at all, please use the COVID order concern hotline, so the phone number or the email address, and then we’ll be able to tier out those responses based on what the actual complaint is about,” Bough said.

Those concerns can be emailed to the City of London at or sent over the phone at 519-661-4660.

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The email address is monitored 24/7, but the phone line is only open on weekdays between 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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Queen’s University as well as Kingston-area health unit asking some students to get tested

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