January 23rd, 2021

Student party ignores virus concerns

By Shurtz, Delon on April 15, 2020.

Delon Shurtz

lethbridge herald


Shane and Jan Roersma have had to deal with wild, drunken parties before in their otherwise quiet neighbourhood in Six-Mile Coulee.

Watching someone urinate on the street or throw up on the lawn is nothing new to them, but such antics at a time when there’s a deadly virus going around shocks them even more.

“We have had issues with this behaviour occurring over the past year and a half at this residence,” Shane says. “However, considering present circumstances, this is a new level of disrespect and utter disregard for the safety of our community.”

Shane is referring to a party last Thursday which he estimates was attended through the night by as many as 45 people, mostly college students, who obviously aren’t as concerned about the coronavirus or the order by Alberta Health Services that people not congregate in large groups. Shane and his wife watched in horror and disgust as partiers in the neighbour’s front and back yards, and even in the street, tossed liquor containers and urinated and vomited wherever they happened to be standing at the time.

It reminds him of the U.S. college students who disregarded government directives concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. Nothing was going stop them from participating in their Spring Break rituals on beaches in Florida and Texas, not even the deadly virus, which many of the revellers said they believed was blown out of proportion.

“If I get corona, I get corona,” one of the partiers, Brady Sluder, said in March. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying.”

Some of those Spring Break partiers subsequently caught the virus, and are likely regretting their decision.

Jump ahead a few weeks to Lethbridge, and Shane is just as shocked at the behaviour he witnessed next door, which, he suggests, is not acceptable even without the presence of a virulent disease.

“Most disconcerting was the fact that we, including my young child, witnessed five incidences of public urination and two instances of vomiting in the streets.”

Disgusting behaviour aside, Shane is troubled by the disregard for COVID-19 protocols intended to keep people safe during the pandemic, and why police did not fine anyone for breaching restrictions on large gatherings.

Since March 25, law enforcement agencies have had the authority to enforce the public health orders, which prohibits gatherings, indoors or out, of more than 15 people, and requires people to maintain a distance of two metres from one another. Violators can be fined $1,000, while the courts can levy fines up to $100,000 for a first offence, and $500,000 for a subsequent offence for more serious violations.

Shane says he called police twice during the evening, and during their first visit police only issued a warning.

“This is alarming considering the COVID-19 laws set in place by Alberta Health,” Shane says.

As more cars arrived, Shane called police again, and an officer broke up the party and ordered everyone to leave.

Lethbridge police Insp. Jason Walper confirms that police visited the residence twice that night in response to noise complaints, but actually dealt with a different party each time.

The first party was compliments of the renters living on the main floor, who promised to end the party after they received a warning. When police responded to a second noise complaint – it was not a complaint of non-compliance – they found a party hosted by renters living in the lower level of the residence, and they shut it down.

Walper says police are authorized to levy fines for anyone breaching the public health order, but they prefer to issue warnings first. He said officers who attended the parties reminded the residents of the prohibition against large gatherings, but chose not to fine them because they were co-operative.

“Our goal is not to ticket if we get compliance,” Walper says.

Shane wishes something more had been done, however, given the aftermath of the parties and the risk of spreading the virus.

“Allowance of such behaviour sets a terrible example for those that are diligently following COVID-19 protocols and are struggling with the impacts of self-isolation,” he says.

He says a few of the renters were told to clean up the cans strewn around the property, but “that did little to address the bodily fluids that remain on public spaces; those same spaces where kids will be playing and families will be taking walks to counter the effects of cabin fever.”

Anyone observing violations of the public health order can phone 1-833-415-9179 or submit a complaint on the Alberta government’s website.

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