East Lansing, Ingham County set rules for St. Patrick’s Day
EAST LANSING – packed bars, party hopping and lots of green beer.
These are the hallmarks of a typical St. Patrick’s Day for many college students in East Lansing. However, these conditions can also result in a COVID-19 superspreader event.
Because of this, local leaders urge students to celebrate responsibly on Wednesday when a number of new restrictions come into effect. The police are increasing their presence, lines are banned outside bars and parties are limited to 15 people in much of the city.
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Positivity rates – the percentage of tests that came back positive for COVID-19 – have been falling since last month, but officials fear parties could spike it.
“We are concerned and are preparing for St. Patrick’s Day,” said Linda Vail, Ingham County’s health officer last week.
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Damali Kennedy, a Michigan State University student, said she had to work on St. Patrick’s Day and would not celebrate. She is not confident that other students will hold back.
Last year “there were a lot of parties and I still feel like there are going to be a lot of parties that are going to happen,” said Kennedy. When COVID-19 hit the state last March, the MSU had put their courses online and asked students to go home in the days leading up to St. Patrick’s Day.
The upside now is that experts now know more about COVID-19 and how it spreads compared to a year ago, Vail said.
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Alcohol can lead to decreased inhibitions and make people sloppy about social distancing. Even so, it’s important to avoid large gatherings, maintain physical separation, and wear a mask, Vail advised.
Masks are required both inside and out on the MSU campus and throughout downtown East Lansing. They are also needed in bars and restaurants unless people are sitting at a table to eat or drink.
Outdoor gathering limited: Outdoor gatherings in parts of East Lansing are limited to 15 people
Officials expect day drinking, lunchtime celebrations
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations started early in East Lansing, and officials are expecting a certain amount of daily beverages.
“The daytime is usually our busiest,” said Steve Gonzalez, East Lansing deputy chief of police. “Things slow down at night.”
There are fewer students on campus this spring, while MSU is holding most of the classes remotely, and Gonzalez isn’t sure if the crowd on St. Patrick’s Day will be less as a result. But he said the police would be prepared with additional officers on duty on Wednesday. Police are also planning to enforce laws against drunk driving.
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Health jobs limit the size of indoor and outdoor gatherings
And ELPD will be on the lookout for major parties that go beyond public health rules.
In much of East Lansing, outdoor social gatherings are limited to a maximum of 15 people. This limit applies to both downtown and an area on the northern edge of the East Lansing campus bounded by Harrison Road to the west, Hagadorn Road to the east, and Grand River Avenue to the south.
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People at parties are required to wear a mask and be 6 feet away from anyone outside their households, as approved by the city council last week.
Vail hopes the boundaries set by both the county and the city for outdoor gatherings don’t have the undesirable side effect of driving large parties inside.
“The thought is, ‘Why party with limitations in a bar and restaurant and not in a house?'” She said. “We are concerned that they will turn to more indoor house parties.”
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Vail knows students could try to evade the police by keeping silent, and she said the officers will be monitoring traffic coming and going out of the houses.
Throughout Michigan, indoor social gatherings are limited to a maximum of 15 people or three separate households by order of the state health department.
Under Michigan law, it is possible to be charged with a criminal offense for violating a public health code. And under a city ordinance, East Lansing Police Department has the power to fined someone $ 500 for violating a county or state public health ordinance.
To report a gathering that violates public health regulations, call the ELPD non-emergency police line at (517) 351-4220.
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City forbids outside lines, discourages bar hopping
Bar-hopping is not recommended this year, according to East Lansing City Council member Jessy Gregg.
Outdoor queues to enter a bar or restaurant in East Lansing are prohibited due to an Emergency Ordinance that takes effect on Wednesday at 12:01 a.m. and lasts until Thursday at 2 a.m.
Instead, companies are encouraged to take reservations or use a smartphone app to notify people when a table is free. It’s difficult to hop under this system as it would require multiple reservations, Gregg said.
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Harper’s Restaurant and Brew Pub, a popular East Lansing bar, caught international media attention last summer when health officials linked the brewery with nearly 200 coronavirus cases. Photos posted on social media showed exposed people standing in close proximity while waiting to get to the bar, and health officials later said the line could have been a source of virus spread. Harper’s, which eventually reopened with enhanced security, did not respond to a request for comment on its St. Patrick’s Day plans.
Ingham County’s environmental health department will be walking downtown East Lansing on Wednesday to enforce mask rules and table limits for six, Vail said. East Lansing’s community resource specialists will also be in attendance Wednesday to hand out masks and promote compliance, Gonzalez said.
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Some students celebrate ‘St. Training day ‘before the official holiday
The weekend before Ireland’s official holiday, dubbed “St. Practice Day” by many students, may have heralded a quiet week.
Some students gathered outside Greek homes on Abbot Road and Grand River Avenue on Saturday to play beer pong and soak up the sun. Downtown bars were relatively quiet, however, and Gonzalez said ELPD only cited one person for violating a public health order this past weekend.
But Kennedy, an MSU student, remains concerned about an increase in cases.
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After the MSU’s positivity rate hit 1.78%, university officials put down January 30 with a period of “increased physical distancing” that prevented students from leaving their dorms unless they had to work, going to class or receiving food or medical care.
That period ended on February 28th, despite Kennedy fearing a relapse on St. Patrick’s Day.
“I think this could be worse, I’m not going to lie,” said Kennedy.
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East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens, who recently graduated from MSU himself, is more optimistic.
“I think everyone will be responsible and I hope we have a really good day,” said Stephens. “But we want to be prepared and make sure we are doing everything in our power now to contain the spread of COVID-19 on a day of heavy traffic in our inner city.”
Trivia: Rules for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in EL
- Face masks are required both inside and outside in downtown East Lansing. The MSU needs masks both indoors and outdoors on campus.
- Indoor gatherings are limited to 15 people from no more than three houses. In certain areas of the city, outdoor gatherings are limited to 15 people.
- Lines are prohibited outside of bars and restaurants. Masks must be worn in business unless you are sitting to eat or drink.