Ottawa

Kingston's top doctor calls for harsher penalties to curb student parties

The medical officer of health for Kingston, Ont., is urging city officials to take more drastic action to prevent careless partying among post-secondary students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

KFL&A medical officer of health Kieran Moore wants minimum fines of $2K

Young people gather at the Breakwater Park, near Gord Edgar Downie Pier, without any physical distancing in Kingston, Ont., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. Within a week the beach area was closed and rules tightened around gathering in city parks. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)

The medical officer of health for Kingston, Ont., is urging city officials to take more drastic action to prevent careless partying among post-secondary students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Kieran Moore of KFL&A Public Health told city councillors on Tuesday he believes they should hike fines for anyone caught violating public health orders by gathering in groups of more than 50 indoors or 100 outdoors.

Moore said university students in particular continue to gather in large groups in spite of the current $500 fine for "nuisance parties."

He's urging councillors to hike the penalty to $2,000 for first-time offenders, who would then be referred to the courts if they're caught again, where they'd face a subsequent fine of up to $100,000.

Kieran Moore, KFL&A Public Health's medical officer of health, is seen in a screen grab from a video update in late June. (KFL&A Public Health/YouTube)

Moore also urged Queen's University to begin expelling students who violate the order, something he said is permitted under the school's of conduct.

He said university administrators who have been hesitant to take that action may need a "nudge" to "make the right decisions" when it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

"This is already in the student handbook," Moore said. "We're not reinventing the wheel. We just want to see it utilized."

However, Moore likened convincing Queen's to take that action to "nudging an oil tanker." 

Representatives for Queen's University did not immediately reply to a request for comment by The Canadian Press. The mayor's office could not immediately provide comment.

Lower limits coming in some places

Moore's recommendations come as the provincial government announced it will lower the limits on social gatherings in a bid to stem a recent increase in COVID-19 cases.

Premier Doug Ford's office has confirmed the move but won't say when the new health guidelines will be released.

Kingston has been mostly spared, reporting only 117 cases over the course of the pandemic as of Tuesday — five of them known to be active and none in hospital.

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