'The pandemic is not over': WRPS Chief asks students to avoid large gatherings on Homecoming weekend
KITCHENER -- Waterloo regional police Chief Bryan Larkin has renewed the call to students to avoid large gatherings this Homecoming weekend.
The annual event usually draws hundreds of party-goers to the region.
"We also want to remind everyone that our community, our province and our nation continue to be in the midst of a global pandemic," Larkin wrote in a message to the community.
He pointed to rising number of cases over the past few weeks locally and across Ontario. Earlier this week, Region of Waterloo Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said the region has moved into the next wave of the pandemic.
"We continue to be concerned with increased positive tests, as well as outbreaks occurring," Larkin's letter said. "The pandemic is not over."
Larkin asked anyone planning to host or attend a large gathering over Homecoming weekend to reconsider.
"Such gatherings provide the potential for the virus to spread to those in attendance, to their friends, family, and to the community," he said. "The risk is simply not worth it."
The City of Waterloo passed a nuisance bylaw to address large unsanctioned public events at a meeting on Monday night. It gives bylaw officers an added tool to help deter and dispel large crowds.
Larkin also said earlier this week that anyone going to a party could face a fine of up to $750, and hosts could be fined $10,000.
Last weekend, the provincial government lowered the size limits for private gatherings to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
Wilfrid Laurier University has moved its Homecoming events online this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"While we won’t be able to gather in person this year, we have a wide variety of innovative and engaging virtual events planned to ensure the Laurier community can still unite in our shared Golden Hawk pride," WLU officials said in an emailed statement to CTV News Kitchener.
The university said it's main focus is keeping people safe and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
"As students get set to celebrate Homecoming safely, we want to remind everyone we are still in the midst of an extraordinary global health crisis," the statement said. "We are counting on our students to do their part by avoiding gatherings, including house parties, and following public health guidelines. We have been working closely with our partners in public health, municipal government, and the police to manage any unsafe activity."
"Students will be held accountable under the Non-Academic Student Code of Conduct if they break the provincial rules around gathering and knowingly come to campus.”
Last weekend, the school said four students who attend WLU had tested positive for COVID-19.