(BLOOMINGTON, Ind.) — IU’s efforts to start classes safely on Monday are getting backup from the city of Bloomington, with a tightened rule on mass gatherings.
An order from Mayor John Hamilton limits private gatherings to 15 people, well below a countywide limit of 50, with masks and social distancing required. The order comes a day after IU president Michael McRobbie warned students the university will cancel in-person classes if big student parties which ignore social distancing orders continue.
Hamilton says the tightened limit reduces the chance of a “superspreader” coronavirus event which could force a fresh round of business closures. And if there is an outbreak, the smaller numbers would make contact tracing easier.
But Hamilton says the main reason for the crackdown is concern about an outbreak sweeping through the university. He says the U.S. has already seen how quickly that can happen, with outbreaks shuttering Notre Dame, Michigan State, and the University of North Carolina. Hamilton says the city can’t risk the health or economic impact of IU following their lead.
While the limit applies throughout the city, there are no fines for violations — enforcement of the order will be focused on students. Hamilton says police will work with the university in documenting violations. IU assistant vice president Kirk White says there have already been suspensions over this week’s parties, and students could also lose financial aid or scholarships over violations. He calls defiance of the social distancing orders “extreme cases of disrespect.”
Hamilton says the city will consider exemption requests for events like weddings or funerals on a case-by-case basis. The order doesn’t change the existing Monroe County capacity limit of 100 patrons at bars. Hamilton says those rules appear to be working and don’t need to be tightened.
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