Mayor warns students could face hefty fines if their social behaviours don't improve
Ed Holder is “disappointed” that London’s COVID-19 case count has risen with return of post-secondary students
London mayor Ed Holder is warning post-secondary students to watch their step as they head to downtown bars and parties that have become part of the city's back-to-school ritual.
Holder told CBC's London Morning Tuesday it's "disappointing" that the COVID-19 case numbers have risen with the return to classes at Western University and Fanshawe College.
At least eight Western students have tested positive in recent days, and five of those cases are related to visits to downtown bars.
"It gets to a point where people have to just start to imagine that the impacts of their behaviours has tremendous potential for fallout with so many, from their families to their friends. And this is a case in point," said Holder.
Holder says he's disturbed by videos and photos on social media, showing students not wearing masks and failing to practice physical distancing.
Threat of fines
And the mayor says it's just a matter of time before the city responds to further incidents with hefty penalties authorized by the province's emergency orders legislation. The fines start at $880.
"Some people only learn that way," he said. "And I think that ultimately, particularly those who think they're invulnerable have got to realize that if we can't educate them through learning, we'll educate them through their pocketbook, and that will be pretty much a wake-up call."
Holder said the fines would likely start "sooner than later if that's what it takes."
Bar owners have an obligation to maintain physical distancing inside their establishments and to obtain personal information from customers to assist with contact tracing, but Holder says they're now going to have to pay attention to the long lineups outside.
"The big challenge is that if these kids, young people, are in the lineups outside and some has [the virus], then the ability to pass that on and for others to contract the virus is very high. And that's why we're really advocating strong social behaviours."
Holder is encouraging Londoners to report any business or individual who is not following COVID-19 orders through the city's dedicated email address (COVIDOrderConcerns@london.ca). Tips can also be reported by phone at 519-661-4660.
The mayor also said bylaw enforcement officers are out in force now that Western University and Fanshawe College have started up again and they may be forced to issue more tickets.
"That's not to be ominous, but that's a reality. And we just have to see the numbers provincially and most recently in the last several days to know that this [threat] is real."
The news that eight of their peers had COVID-19 caused hundreds of Western students to attend a temporary on-campus testing facility Monday. The facility quickly reached its maximum capacity, and hundreds of students had to be turned away after just one day of operation.
While the infected students hadn't attended classes or activities on campus, they had been to downtown bars and restaurants and socialized with students in neighbouring housing units, the health unit said.
Western's associate vice-president of Student Experience, Jenny Massey, was pleased with the turn-out.
"I think this is a really positive sign that our students are taking testing seriously, that they're prepared to make time in their busy days to get their test conducted," she said. "And, as we know, testing is essential to mitigate the spread of COVID-19."