Returning students warned not to let COVID-19 crash 'O-week' parties

This year’s orientation week parties will be held in the midst of the pandemic’s fourth wave— drawing a warning from London police.

Officers will make themselves highly visible in student-oriented neighbourhoods, patrolling for noise, nuisance and numbers.

“The numbers that are permitted indoors and outdoors, that’s something our officers will be mindful of when they attend any large gatherings,” explains Sgt. Craig Holland. “We want to keep everyone safe.”

In 2020, several large student parties resulted in fines for violating pandemic restrictions.

Ontario is in Step 3 of its reopening plan which limits gatherings to 25 people indoors, 100 people outdoors.

Holland adds that police are also available to assist students stay within the rules, “Don’t be afraid to call us. If you are having a gathering that’s getting out of control, we are there to help you.”

Project LEARN (Liquor Enforcement and Reduction of Noise) kicks off once again on Sunday and runs until Sept. 25.

It focuses on nuisance parties, open fires, noise, littering, and public urination in the city. Police will step up patrols in the downtown core and in neighbourhoods around Western University and Fanshawe College.

Kieran Drover, a third-year student at Western University is glad to be reuniting with friends and expects O-Week parties will be back this weekend.

“We can’t control what others will do, I’m sure some will get interesting, but we’ll try to keep ours as tight as possible,” Drover predicts.

Second-year aviation student Liam Murphy says students are aware of the risks.

“We’re trying to stick with people we trust, and knowing everyone is vaccinated helps,” he adds.

Fresh memories of the challenges faced during the 2020-21 school year have many students worried about a sudden rise in cases.

“The last thing you want is to let it get worse and have to go home, or not be able to go out at all. It definitely motivates us to want to go out but be safe,” Murphy explains.

Drover and his housemates will take a cautious approach to O-Week, adding, “We’re all vaccinated in the house, so that’s a good start, but we try to keep a close bubble. We have close friends we try to just hang out with.”