Ohio University and Athens County officials are urging students to celebrate appropriately following the mass celebrations that occurred along Court Street after OU men’s basketball’s Saturday night upset over Virginia.
Of the hundreds of students who poured into Uptown on Saturday, very few followed facial covering and social distancing measures in place by the university and city. Some students climbed trees and danced on top of cars along Court Street.
Despite advisories against mass gatherings, some feel as though the celebration on Court Street was OK.
“I think what happened Saturday on Court St was pretty awesome as far as seeing everyone come together for our school,” Collin Huffman, a senior studying engineering technology and management, said in an email. “The win was super exciting, and it was honestly the first time since I’ve been a student here that I have seen that amount of school spirit.”
In response to the events of March 20, Patti McSteen, interim dean of students, sent a university-wide email to students, reminding them to be mindful of their celebratory activities, especially if the Bobcats can deliver a victory against Creighton in round two of the NCAA tournament.
“Please remember that we are counting on you to continue doing a good job following public health guidance, including wearing a mask and maintaining a safe physical distance from others, especially as we approach the end of the semester and you begin to prepare to return home for the summer,” McSteen said in an email.
Huffman said he believes the celebration will have a low impact on COVID-19 cases in Athens.
“I think it might impact COVID-19 cases, but I also feel like at this point in the semester we’re all kind of in a ‘bubble,’” Huffman said in an email. “Many students have already had (COVID-19). I had (COVID-19) in November and I am tested every 2 weeks now. Also, those on campus are tested weekly and cases are falling rapidly.”
McSteen also encouraged students to gather with their “bubbles” of ten people or fewer to watch the Bobcats play Monday evening.
Jack Pepper, administrator at the Athens City-County Health Department, said messaging is being sent out by the health department to inform people how to safely celebrate.
Pepper also said he hopes people will find safer ways to celebrate OU’s March Madness run despite the excitement surrounding the event.
Huffman said the celebration on Saturday was inevitable, but it was handled well by the Athens Police Department.
“I think it was going to happen whether they tried to stop it or not,” Huffman said in an email. “I felt like they let it go long enough to let everyone enjoy themselves but didn’t let it get out of hand.”