Halloween party held off-campus
Jessica Guerrucci – Editor-in-Chief
A Halloween party was shut down at Anthony’s Oceanview Catering in New Haven for allegedly violating COVID-19 restriction rules.
“We have yet to determine how many Southern students were in attendance–or indeed if any were at all,” President Joe Bertolino said in an email. “But this incident serves as a timely reminder about the potential for large, off-campus gatherings and parties to be super spreaders of the virus, as they have in college towns across the country.”
The health department shut down the venue on Oct. 30 for violating Phase 2 Safety Guidelines. A video taken at the party shows that no masks were worn and social distancing not taking place.
“As soon as we learned about it, we immediately began to tap our networks to see what we could learn,” said Tracy Tyree, Vice President of Student Affairs.
Tyree said they connected with Police Chief Joseph Dooley, who reached out to the New Haven Police Department to see what they knew about any students involved.
Bertolino reminded students following the event that any student, student organization, athletic or club sport team hosting or engaged in a large off-campus gathering will be subject to judicial action-potentially leading to possible suspension or expulsion under the COVID-19 enforcement policy.
Tyree said they looked on social media and talked to students, especially staff in residence halls, to identify participants.
She said they heard there were possibly pictures taken of parking decals or license plates, but still no evidence was found that could identify specific students.
“We could find nothing that named a student,” Tyree said. “That really needed to be our starting point-which students were involved. We continued with that through the weekend and never identified any students.”
A viewer who sent in the video said it was attended by anywhere between 450 to 525 Quinnipiac and Southern students. according to WTNH.
Tyree said the university tried to identify why it was named in the WTNH article without specific evidence after being unable to identify any students.
Emily Rosenthal, Coordinator of the Wellness Center said “super spreader” events, like the one at Anthony’s Ocean View Catering, can pose a huge risk to both the campus and the community.
“These events are really dangerous,” she said. “They’re happening at the same time we’re seeing trends across the state and the country go up dramatically. Our numbers at Southern are going up.”
The city of New Haven was responsible for contact tracing at the event, which Rosenthal said can be difficult because people are not forthcoming about who was as the party.
While there are some positive cases on campus, she said none can be directly attributed to the party.
She also said positive cases have been slowly increasing over the past weeks, and while there has been no significant uptick, it was expected.
Following the event, Quinnipiac took action to identify students involved. In an email sent out by university president Judy Olian and Chief Experience Officer Tom Ellet, it said they had confirmed the identity of 20 students who attended the event and sent them home for the remainder of the semester.
“With 55 new COVID-19 cases, Quinnipiac made the decision to move online for the remainder of the week until Nov. 6.
“Those numbers [at Quinnipiac] were major almost unbelievable,” Rosenthal said. “We have not had anything like that, thank goodness. I feel like the trend we’ve had going the last several weeks has been slowly but steadily increasing, but nothing so extreme.”
Despite an “uncaring and selfish few,” Bertolino said, everyone has invested too much in having a successful fall semester to see it be thrown away.
Tyree said generally she has seen students being responsible through the entirity of the semester and they have been compliant in mask wearing and social distancing.
When people first returned to campus, she said there was largely a pessimistic view of whether the university would be able to remain open until Thanksgiving, but that outlook has changed.
“We saw so much on-campuses across the country that got off to a bad start,” Tyree said. “It’s been looking at ‘can we do this?’ and make it to Thanksgiving – and we’re two plus weeks away.”
Making it this far, she said, is a tribute to the ways faculty, staff, students and the entire community have taken the virus seriously and been responsible.
With cases rising in the state, Tyree said it will be monitored as needed. She said they will continue to send strong messages to students as well.
Despite being close to the break, Bertolino still urged students to be mindful in the final days on campus and continue to be diligent.
“With a few weeks remaining until the end of on-ground classes at the Thanksgiving break,” said Bertolino in his email, “I urge everyone to continue to play their part in ensuring the health and safety of our campus community.”
Photo credit: Hearst Connecticut Media