After police officers broke up a college party last weekend where at least 100 people gathered, a South Carolina city is working to enforce social-distancing guidelines at private residences amidst the pandemic of COVID-19. Clemson University is becoming involved, too, even off campus and when in-person classes are canceled.
A Friday evening party at the rental home of a student near downtown Clemson prompted several calls from neighbors to the police department, which eventually dispersed the crowd without issuing charges around 11:30 p.m., police said.
This week, Police Chief Jeff Stone said any more large gatherings will be broken up, even those on private property. He cited the authority given by a 2-year-old "social host ordinance" that requires the host of a social gathering to prevent it from "getting out of control to the extent that the public health, safety, peace and welfare is threatened and/or disturbed."
"We obviously had concerns because of the number of people there," Stone told The Greenville News and Anderson Independent Mail. "And what we've decided to do in the future is to use our social-host ordinance to address it, if we have gatherings like that in the future."
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Current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend no gathering of more than three people to prevent the spread of the highly contagious respiratory virus. This week South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued a home or work order, requiring residents to stay home or at work unless visiting family, exercising or obtaining essential goods or services.
The city of Clemson also reached out to the university to help curb future gatherings, Stone said. He asked Clemson University Police Chief Greg Mullen to help communicate the need for social distancing to students.
"The issue of the gathering ... was it was definitely college students that were doing it, so we did reach out to (Clemson police) to try to help get some information out to avoid this in the future," Stone said.
On Wednesday, the university released a message saying officials were made aware of gatherings of students in Clemson and Oconee County over the weekend, "contributing to unsafe conditions in excess of the numbers permissible under current state regulations."
The university said any student found responsible for gatherings larger than three people are subject to disciplinary action through the university's code of conduct as well as through possible sanctions by local law.
The Clemson code of conduct outlines cause for disciplinary action when, among other things, student action endangers others.
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City sends letter to student's father
After hearing complaints from residents, Clemson City Attorney Mary McCormac sent a letter to the property owner, who is the father of the college student who lives in the Edgewood Avenue home, according to the letter obtained by The News and Independent Mail.
McCormac told the property owner, whose name was redacted, that the city has fought hard to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community and his son's actions threatened the well-being of students and residents.
"Decisions like that made by your son and/or his roommate not only endanger the public health, but can destroy the hard work already done by the community," McCormac's letter states.
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In recent weeks, the city has enacted a number of measures to curb the spread of the virus, including imposing a voluntary curfew between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. and closing public playgrounds.
McCormac urged the property owner to instruct his son and all the party's 100 or more attendees to self-isolate for 14 days due to possible exposure to the virus.
"Thus, given the amount of people present in the house ... you should consider the property to be contaminated with the virus and your son to have been exposed," the letter states.
McCormac added that the city does not want anyone to suffer or die from the virus as a result of the party, "including your son and his friends."
Read the full letter here:
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This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Coronavirus quarantine: Police to enforce social distancing at Clemson