Queen’s must act to reinforce COVID-19 guidelines on its students

Discussing the University’s role in preventing a second wave

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Journal File Photo

The pandemic is not over.

After a brief decrease in cases, back-to-school season has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases. To prevent a second wave, Queen’s University must act to reinforce proper social distancing measures.

The first week of school in Kingston brought the shutdown of the Gord Downie Pier and countless videos of partying. Visuals of large crowds have made their way to TikTok and other social media platforms. While this desire to reconnect with friends is understandable, it’s not safe for students or the general Kingston community as positive case numbers in Ontario continue to climb.

Western University recently experienced an outbreak; as of now, 28 students have tested positive over the past week. It’s reasonable to wonder whether Queen’s will be the next hotspot given the large crowds and lack of social distancing at house parties.

Doug Ford is under pressure to act now. The influx of positive cases corresponds with the timed return to school, particularly as students return to university and college campuses across Ontario. More irresponsible behaviour could force a shutdown or regression back into stage two.

It’s currently not mandatory to get tested when moving to Kingston, nor is it compulsory to self-isolate once moved. As a result, Kingston has seen its positive case total rise to five. Students have a role to play in ensuring the situation doesn’t get worse.

While most Queen’s classes are online for both fall and winter terms, a full shutdown would have a negative impact on many students. Those in labs conducting research or training with sports teams in restricted capacity would suffer most from a shutdown. Students living in residence could also be sent home to prevent further spread of the illness.

Some American universities are expelling or suspending studentsrefusing to comply with their COVID-19 guidelines, while others are monitoring social media for inappropriate partying and other forms of irresponsible behaviour. As it stands, those who are partying and ignoring social-distancing rules at Queen’s are currently experiencing no consequences.

Queen’s is liable for the safety of its students and the Kingston community, a known retirement hot-spot with a consequently vulnerable population. While it can be argued that more young adults are getting sick, it’s unfair to put the rest of the city at risk by allowing irresponsible gatherings to go unpunished.

As it stands, Queens has begged students for responsible behaviour and put forth vague threats of academic discipline. Meanwhile, Kingston has increased the fine from $500 to $2,000 for first time offenders; repeat COVID-violation offenders could net themselves a fine up to $10,000.

A student recently testing positive for COVID-19 will likely force Queen’s to adapt, especially considering that student was potentially in close contact with 40 people. The University could send students home to alleviate the risk or revoke tuition as punishment. It’s all on the table as the Queen’s Code of Conduct applies to those in residence, as well as off-campus housing.

If Queen’s wants to avoid a similar situation to Western, it must crack down on its students before it’s too late—even if it means making good on threats of expulsion or sending the entire student body home until things are under control.

Students must understand their reckless partying behaviour is jeopardizing community health and gambling with their education. In this pandemic, the actions of a few can affect the lives of many. There will be plenty of opportunities to party and socialize over the coming year. But for now, it’s imperative to stay home and wear a mask whenever possible.

Lives depend on it. 

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