Chapel Hill, UNC-CH leaders seek to improve strategies for enforcing COVID-19 rules

Orange County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Chapel Hill town leaders and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill officials are working together to develop a plan for better enforcing COVID-19 restrictions after hundreds of students stormed Franklin Street on Saturday night.

After the Tar Heel’s defeated Duke’s men’s basketball team on Saturday night, between 500 to 1,000 UNC fans flooded Franklin Street, and several were seen not wearing masks.

More than 300 of those individuals have been identified and are being investigated by the University for violating the state’s mass gathering restrictions.

Some students could be kicked off campus or expelled, however, officials say students often get warnings for their first offense.

Many people who live and work in Chapel Hill are concerned for their safety after a “super spreader” event happened in their community over the weekend.

“It’s going to get even worse for us because, after that event, we have to take extra precautions because of what they did,” said Alejandro Valero who works in Chapel Hill.

On Wednesday morning during a weekly meeting between town officials and the University, officials discussed how they can better enforce COVID-19 restrictions and prevent something like this from happening again.

“We knew that this was a tradition but we also thought the messaging was going to deter folks,” said Pam Hemminger, mayor of Chapel Hill. “We have to find a different strategy.”

UNC-CH will play Duke again on March 6, and town and University leaders are planning how they will be better enforce the COVID-19 rules.

“We’ll definitely have a more visible presence,” Hemminger said.

In addition to more of a police presence, Hemminger said they are also looking at coming up with an alternative way for students to celebrate.

Hemminger said they are also looking at ways to improve their message to students about the dangers of COVID-19 and the punishment they could face for violating the mass gathering restrictions.

“We all want a normal college experience, we all get that, we totally understand that,” Hemminger said. “But right now we’re in a pandemic, and people are dying and that’s the message that needs to be out there. As word gets around that there are actual suspensions going on, I think that will be a huge deterrent.”

Hemminger also said they are working on an agreement for enforcing community standards off campus.

Currently, there is no word on when UNC-CH will complete their investigation.

Town and University leaders will meet again next Wednesday to talk more about how they plan to better enforce the COVID-19 restrictions.

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