Officials express COVID concerns after students rush field post Clemson game

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SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- Before the highly anticipated Notre Dame football game against number 1 ranked Clemson, University President Rev. John Jenkins released a video asking students to turn up their efforts in following safety protocols after a rise in coronavirus cases in St. Joseph County.

Just two days later, after Notre Dame defeated Clemson in a 47-40 double overtime, hundreds of Irish students fled the football field to celebrate.

While the victory was exciting, Jenkins vocalized his disappointment in a message sent to Irish students Sunday, saying there was a widespread disregard to safety protocols in weekend gatherings. Other local health officials also expressed concerns.

“It’s a little bit like watching a train wreck in slow motion,” St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox said. “Any setting where there’s this escalating energy and people gather poses challenges...it’s a real challenge of how do we gather, can we gather safely, can we celebrate in large groups safely and for where we are in the county right now, the answer is no.”

Over the last few months, the university has experienced a spike in coronavirus cases with more than 1,000 positive cases reported since the Fall semester began, and more than 200 active cases reported on Friday.

St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox said he worries that some students are undermining how easy it can be to contract COVID-19.

“What people don’t know is that we have see reinfections, true documented reinfections in as early as two and a half months,” Dr. Fox said. “Part of me worries that some students may have overestimated oh I already had it in August I’m still good, so I can party in large groups without masks and then I’m protected.”

Dr. Fox said he’s also concerned with what these recent mass-gatherings could mean for the county that’s already seeing a surge in cases right now.

“It gives me concern over what the next couple weeks could look like,” Dr. Fox said. “I’m worried about an increase in cases in the Notre dame community as a result in all of this but we already have widespread community transmission. I assume that a lot of people were attending similar events and gatherings and watching the game somewhere and having a similar level of excitement even if they didn’t have the field to storm.”

These gatherings over the weekend, leaving University leaders no choice but to add immediate rules in place for Irish students.

In the same message Jenkins sent to students, he also included that the university will now place a registration hold on records to any student who doesn’t show up to mandatory testing, students aren’t allowed to leave South Bend until exit test results are received, and that students could face “severe sanctions” if they don’t adhere to CDC guidelines.

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