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University decreases gathering limit to 10 following spike in COVID-19 cases

| Thursday, October 15, 2020

The University announced that informal, outdoor gatherings would be limited to 10 people effective immediately following a large increase in COVID-19 cases on campus, according to an email from the Division of Student Affairs Thursday. 

The limit on gatherings previously was 20 people, according to an Oct. 1 email from vice president for student affairs Erin Hoffmann Harding. 

The University’s HERE dashboard reported a total of 41 cases since Monday, with 18 new cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday. A large number of these cases, the email said, resulted from large social gatherings from the previous weekend. 

“As was true earlier in the semester, our experience demonstrates that transmission occurs in social settings where individuals are unmasked and often sharing food or drink together,” the email said.  

Indoor gatherings may have to be limited according to capacity for physical distancing, the email said. 

In addition to limiting the size of gatherings, the email encouraged students to avoid bars and restaurants that are not enforcing health and safety protocols. 

“The St. Joseph County Health Department is concerned about local trends, and they have increased their enforcement efforts accordingly,” the email said. 

In a video message to the student body Thursday, University President Fr. John Jenkins emphasized the importance of continuing to follow University COVID-19 guidelines. 

“I understand the weariness we all feel after a semester under COVID-19 restrictions and this can lead to laxity as we socialize,” Jenkins said in the video. “Yet so many have worked so hard to bring us to this point. If you have made mistakes — as I certainly have — let us own the mistakes and resolve to do better going forward.”

The email urged students to continue abiding by health and safety measures, including observing social distancing, wearing masks, hand washing, completing the daily health check and attending surveillance testing when selected. 

“Notre Dame students are the most caring, dedicated, resilient, and talented people we know,” the email said. “Please use these wonderful talents to recommit yourselves to our community’s well-being.”

In a new release Thursday, vice president for public affairs and communications Paul Browne said with 37 days left of the semester, community members need to be vigilant in adhering to guidelines.

“By observing these fundamentals, we can finish the semester in person and on campus instead of returning to distance learning,” Browne said in the statement.

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