‘A complete defiance’: Residents raise concerns about large student gatherings in Kingston

“Kingston’s ICU is beyond 100% occupancy..we need you to push through a few more difficult weeks in a provincial state of emergency,” said Jane Philpott in response to the gatherings

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Photo via contributor

Kingston residents took to social media today to express concern over large gatherings among Kingston’s student populations. This comes on the same day that Dr. Kieran Moore, Medical Officer of Health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health declared an outbreak in Kingston’s University District, and on the first day of Ontario’s 3rd province wide Stay at Home Order. 

Residents reacted in shock and dismay to see hundreds of students gathered at Kingston’s Breakwater Park today. “Ontario is locked down and we are encouraged to stay in, and when we do go out to exercise, avoid crowds,” said Matt Salton on social media. Salton posted a video of hundreds of students gathered by the lake today. The video has since garnered over 2,400 views.

“The video says it all- literally hundreds of people concentrated in this tiny stretch of park off Queen’s campus,” said Salton. Some residents called the actions a complete defiance of the declared State of Emergency and Stay at Home Orders. “These people are congregating with people outside their homes in close proximity. Sure, they aren’t inside, which is good, but that doesn’t make *this* okay,” one resident said. 

Other residents targeted the Queen’s University administration, who believe their response has been weak so far. “How does it make you feel to see @QueensU students today with the resulting weak response by @QueensPrincipal when you waited to pick up your child from school,” one resident said.  

In response, Queen’s Principal Patrick Deane has issued a statement asking students to take the new lock orders “very seriously.” “Stay home, do not travel unless it is essential, and do not gather with others beyond your household. It is imperative that we listen to what our health professionals are telling us and that we follow their directions explicitly,” he said.

However, residents quickly responded to the statement by the Queen’s University Principal, demanding action. “It’s time to stop asking for action and enforce it. As an alumni and now ER nurse, this sickens me. Why am I working my tail off everyday just to see this? Do something now,” one user said. 

Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Jane Philpott also sent a blunt message to students today. “We are in the worst of it, more and more young people are being hospitalized,” said Philpott. “Kingston’s ICU is beyond 100% capacity..we need you to push through a few more difficult weeks in a provincial state of emergency,” she added. 

According to Kingston By-law officers, no fines were given today as they believe that all individuals were with a group of five people or less. 

Some residents didn’t have an issue with the large gatherings. “I was down there. Some were swimming, many working out, playing Frisbee and throwing footballs or playing volleyball. The minority were “partying”. If people are terrified of getting covid from the waterfront, avoid the waterfront,” one user said.

The current outbreak in the University District has been declared among young adults between 18 to 29 years of age, as they make up 70% of positive cases in the KFL&A community. There are 69 active COVID-19 cases in the Queen’s University community, over 20 of which have been confirmed in the past few days.

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