Local officials are bracing for a virus explosion triggered by young people living in tight quarters who disregard social distancing rules.
Earlier this summer, students at the University of Virginia packed bars, rental houses, apartments and fraternity houses as part of Midsummers, a party and reunion tradition of students.
Watching the surge in large gatherings on social media and hearing from concerned residents prompted Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker to call UVA’s plan to bring students back to campus a “recipe for disaster.” At a virtual press conference, Walker said local officials had little power to control student behavior and that their only option would be to work with the university president and Gov. Ralph Northam.
“I, for one, do not understand why the students are coming back into the community from all over the globe and why we would take that chance,” Walker said. She said she was worried that once the students come and then leave, the city will be left “cleaning up the fallout.”
The university ended up delaying undergraduate in-person instruction and residence hall move-in dates by two weeks and scolded students for their recklessness. “If such behavior continues, we will not make it long into the fall semester before a significant outbreak occurs and we then need to send students home,” Dean of Students Allen Groves wrote in a letter to students. “That’s the self-interested motivation to do better.”
Across the country, it’s move-in season for colleges, and while universities are desperately trying to save their academic year and preserve the finances of struggling schools, local officials are bracing for a virus explosion among young people who live in tight quarters, don’t follow social distancing rules and often behave as though they are young and invincible.
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