University of Guelph and the Guelph Police Service is making sure safety precautions are in place Saturday for what would traditionally be Homecoming weekend.
Sergeant Gregory MacDonald said the GPS substantially increased staffing this weekend in preparation for any potential large gatherings or parties either at the university of in south end neighbourhoods.
He said they wouldn't be trying to preemptively shut down the traditional Chancellor's Way gathering from happening, as was the case last fall, but would have an increased presence focused on making sure rules and protocols were followed.
“Our focus is not preventing gatherings, but ensuring that any that take place are complying with legislated size limits and safety measures,” said MacDonald.
“We understand that residents and visitors want to have fun, but we also expect that they will be safe and responsible.”
Deirdre Healey, communications coordinator at the U of G, said the university significantly reduced the number of spectators for the first football game of the season Saturday night at Alumni Stadium against Western University by only allowing the stadium to be filled at 50 per cent capacity to ensure physical distancing.
“Everyone attending must wear a mask and complete the University's COVID-19 screening form. All spectators must leave the stadium as soon as the game is over,” said Healey.
“We will also have an additional 15 private security officers. They will help in terms of crowd control and moving people out of the area after the game is over.”
Ward 5 Councillor Cathy Downer said the city, university representatives, and the police have had regular meetings and are anticipating a gathering.
“They’re prepared,” said Downer about the GPS and the university.
Downer said she hasn’t heard any community concerns about the upcoming weekend but the ward sent out a newsletter highlighting that students are back and what numbers to call if problems arise as a result of gatherings.
The U of G currently has 14 positive COVID-cases reported between Sept. 13 and Sept. 20.
There have been at least two incidents of large parties at the U of G the past two weekends.
Between 500 to 750 students gathered outdoors on Sept. 10 and around 1,000 students were at gathering last weekend.
On Thursday, medical officer of health Dr. Nicola Mercer, U of G president Charlotte Yates and mayor Cam Guthrie released an open letter addressed to students that touched on worrying trends of large and unsafe gatherings on campus.
“We are still in the middle of a pandemic, and people are still getting sick and dying.You can do your part in protecting yourself and preventing infection from spreading to others,” read the letter adding that while vaccines are the best way to protect oneself from the virus, safety precautions are still important.
“Drinking, eating, shouting and singing in crowded spaces all increase the odds of transmission. Reconsider your party plans. Socialize in small groups and with people you know. Stay home if you are unwell. Continue to wash your hands often, physically distance and wear masks even outside if you cannot keep two metres from others who may be unvaccinated,” read the letter.
It also stated that those who host parties face a fine of up $10,000, those who attend face a $880 fine and that U of G's policy on non-academic misconduct applies to behaviour on and off campus, and contravention can result in fines, non-academic probation, suspension, and eviction from residence.