Students make plans for the St. Patrick’s Day weekend in San Luis Obispo as COVID-19 restrictions are rolled back, but safety enhancement zones and health concerns remain.
As Cal Poly rolls back COVID-19 related regulations on campus with plans to drop the mask mandate in classrooms and labs starting in spring quarter, students wonder whether the university will be as worried about social gatherings as last year.
“I don’t know how much they care now,” graphic communication freshman Jackie Bostock said.
Some students said that people will want to go out and penalties for social gatherings related to COVID-19 likely won’t be effective.
“I feel like there’s nothing they can really do to prevent [the partying]. It’s going to happen no matter what, even if it’s not the best decision,” Environmental management and protection freshman Grace Favro said.
According to University Spokesperson Matt Lazier, the only gathering restrictions around COVID-19 currently relate to mega events. An event is considered a mega event when there are greater than 1,000 attendees when indoors and greater than 10,000 attendees when outdoors, according to the California Department of Public Health.
The City of San Luis Obispo will have a Safety Enhancement Zone in effect, starting at midnight on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, until 7:00 a.m. on March 18, according to a city council ordinance. During this time, fines will be doubled for unruly gatherings, noise, public urination and open container violations.
The weekend prior to St. Patrick’s Day will not be included in the Safety Enhancement Zone, but there will be enhanced patrol by San Luis Obispo Police Department, according to Neighborhood Outreach Manager Christine Wallace.
Regular fines are still in place over the weekend, starting at $350 and maxing out at $1000, according to Wallace.
“Related to COVID-19, our ask is that anyone who is sick or exhibiting symptoms to please follow the public health guidelines of testing and quarantining if they test positive,” Wallace said in an email.
Cal Poly sent out information regarding St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in a campus-wide email from the Office of the Dean of Students on Thursday.
The university reminded students to be proactive bystanders and make safe choices, including: plan for a safe ride home, stay with a buddy, don’t leave drinks unattended and eat and stay hydrated, if they choose to partake in festivities.
A ‘Party Safe’ Booth will be set up on the corner of California Blvd. and Foothill Blvd. from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Saturday, March 12, according to the email. The booth will have snacks and hydration as well as trivia and St. Patrick’s Day themed stress balls.
Free breakfast burritos will be available until they run out outside of the Vista Grande Dining Complex, starting at 5 a.m. on Saturday, according to the email.
Reflecting on last year’s ‘St. Fratty’s’ weekend
Last year, before vaccinations were required for students, large gatherings occurred over the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day. Posts on social media showed a large group of students partying without face coverings or social distancing.
The university cannot give out specific student conduct matters as it would present a potential violation of student privacy, according to Lazier in an email.
However, Lazier said that the Office of Students Rights and Responsibilities (OSSR) appropriately handles all reports it receives of possible student conduct violations.
OSSR issues sanctions relative to the violation, meaning that the consequences students face should be proportionate to the violation that occurred. This approach is aimed at addressing student behavioral problems in a developmental and educational manner, according to Lazier.
“I think there’s an ability for the festivities to be done safely,” agricultural business senior Grace Thomas said. “I feel like with everything that’s been lifted and what the CDC has said, I’m not too worried about it causing a spike.”