Public health official urges stiffer penalties for parties in Kingston, Ont.

Public health official urges stiffer penalties for parties in Kingston, Ont.
KINGSTON, ONT.—The top public health doctor in Kingston, Ont., is urging local officials to take more drastic action to prevent students in the university town from partying during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Kieran Moore told a Tuesday-evening city council meeting that he believes the councillors should hike fines for those caught gathering in groups of more than 50 indoors or 100 outdoors in violation of public health orders.

The medical officer says students are still gathering in huge groups, in spite of the current $500 fine for “nuisance parties.”

He’s urging councillors to hike the penalty to $2,000 for first-time offenders, who would then be referred to the courts if they are caught again and would face a fine of up to $100,000.

Moore says Queen’s University should start expelling students who violate the order — something he says is permitted under the code of conduct.

He says administrators have been hesitant to take that action, so the school may need a “nudge” to “make the right decisions” when it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“This is already in the student handbook,” Moore said. “We’re not reinventing the wheel. We just want to see it utilized.”

But he said convincing the school to take action will be like “nudging an oil tanker” — city officials and residents will need to work together to achieve anything.

Representatives for Queen’s University did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The mayor’s office could not immediately provide comment.

Moore’s recommendations come as the provincial government announced it will lower the limits on social gatherings in a bid to stem a recent increase in COVID-19 cases.

Premier Doug Ford’s office has confirmed the move but won’t say when the new health guidelines will be released.

Provincewide, there have been 45,383 COVID-19 cases, which includes 2,822 deaths and 40,245 cases classified as resolved.

Kingston has been mostly spared, reporting only 117 cases over the course of the pandemic — 112 of which have since been resolved. None of the five people who currently have COVID-19 are in hospital or on a ventilator.
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