Photo by Wikimedia Commons
Last week, West Chester Mayor Dianne Herrin made a statement on nextdoor.com addressing the off-campus student body in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The statement, posted by West Chester Borough Chief Communication Officer Dave March, urged off-campus students, especially those who have ignored the national calls to practice “social distancing,” to avoid parties and social gatherings in the borough.
“We are aware that some students who remain in our community have chosen to ignore the calls for social distancing and are continuing to host off-campus social gatherings. This is not acceptable in a time of crisis, when your friends, neighbors, professors, University employees, parents, and grandparents may be at grave risk.”
In the comments of the Nextdoor post, some borough residents reported seeing student parties and gatherings in the borough. While students living on campus have been made to evacuate their dorms, many of those living in the borough have evidently elected to stay.
Herrin’s comments echo those made by many health professionals around the world advocating for social distancing; in short, limiting exposure to groups of people reduces the avenues through which COVID-19 has the potential to spread. According to sccphd.org, the practice was developed by examining the spread of influenza during the 1957-1958 flu pandemic. As part of social distancing, people are encouraged to stay at least six feet from one another and refrain from hosting or attending social gatherings.
In addition to showing support for social distancing, Herrin lauded Governor Tom Wolf over Twitter for ordering the closing of non-essential businesses. “Thank you @GovernorTomWolf for ordering all non-life-sustaining businesses in PA closed, this time with the backing of enforcement.” Wolf’s order went into place on March 19 and specifically cited social distancing as a required practice for businesses that will remain open through the COVID-19 crisis.
The announcement warned that “enforcement action” would be taken against all non-essential businesses that remain open past March 21, and that food and beverage vendors would be limited to carry-out and delivery only effective immediately.
In a “borough brief” released on March 12, Herrin stated that she intended to provide regular updates on West Chester’s novel coronavirus measures. In this brief, she gave two “Critical Actions We Must Take Now” – protecting the elderly/immunocompromised and practicing social distancing. The brief also gave some current actions the borough was taking to protect its police force and exercise social distancing in borough facilities, as well as stating that Herrin was prepared to issue a state of emergency if the need became evident.
“I will communicate all information to you as it becomes available,” the release concluded. “I know each and every person who lives and works here will come together and support each other in every way. West Chester has always been and will continue to be a community characterized by its compassion, resilience, and unity.”
It seems that like many Pennsylvanians, some off-campus West Chester students are struggling to keep to themselves as we continue through a time of national uncertainty. With U.S. cases exceeding 21,000 and our federal government only beginning to respond, the immediate impact of the COVID-19 virus remains to be seen.
Brendan Lordan is a third-year student majoring in English and minoring in journalism. BL895080@wcupa.edu