Downtown parties banned by Lewisburg Town Borough

Anna Fazio, Contributing Writer

On Monday, Jan. 10, a week before students were set to arrive back on campus after a month-long winter break, downtown homeowners received an email from one Lisa Wolfe. The message concerned a notice from Steven Beattie, the Emergency Management Coordinator for the Lewisburg Town Borough.

Beattie had put an order in place to immediately discontinue the town’s Social Gathering Permits, held by fraternity and sorority “downtown houses,” in response to the nationwide COVID-19 surge of the Omicron variant. Omicron has resulted in an increased spread of COVID-19 cases in the Lewisburg area and an unprecedented number of hospitalizations in local hospitals such as Evangelical Community Hospital. 

This order stated that no more social gatherings would be allowed to occur downtown for at least 30 days when the ban will be revisited and it would be determined whether a change is warranted. Typically, the individual(s) who live in downtown houses and intend to have gatherings register their house with the Buffalo Valley Police Department a week before the intended gathering. This allows these individuals to have parties in their downtown houses without getting in trouble with the police unless, of course, a safety incident occurs.

The downtown area includes all the off-campus houses on Seventh Street, James Alley, St. Catherine Street, Bell Alley, Sixth Street and more. This ban came as a surprise to the University student community, who are required by the school to be fully vaccinated and boosted. Moreover, students experienced a relatively social life in the fall semester, at least compared to the previous year, and were hoping for a similar experience this spring semester. 

According to the University’s COVID-19 dashboard, 97.5% of University students are fully vaccinated. In contrast, only 53.3% of the Lewisburg community has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine; less than half of the town has been fully vaccinated. Additionally, the spread of Omicron COVID-19 has increased the frequency of “breakthrough infections” – so named because they “break through” a vaccinated individual’s heightened immune defenses. 

The CDC has noted that healthy and fully vaccinated 18 to 22-year-olds are at lower risk of catching COVID-19, developing symptoms or facing hospitalization. As previously mentioned, most Bucknell students fall under these criteria, except for nontraditional students and those who have submitted approved exemptions from the mandate.

University students are confused by the logic behind the ban mandate and whether it accurately fulfills the goal of limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Charlotte Casey ‘24 argued that “downtown gatherings are important to students who are vaccinated, and this social ban will no doubt negatively affect the mental health of students who work hard during the week and then are unable to see their friends outside over the weekend.”

“I’m upset and frustrated because I did everything right to protect myself and others but am still feeling the effects of the coronavirus in my daily college life more than two years later,” said Chloe Burraway ‘24.

It is noteworthy to add that many seniors, who are above the age of 21 added that they have frequently been visiting the bars downtown due to the downtown gathering ban. 

The Lewisburg community has also not taken other common measures to ensure limited COVID-19 spread before implementing this ban. Currently, there are no bans on gatherings among Lewisburg residents, besides the downtown ban, and masks are required in some K-12 schools.

Correction 2/4/22: This article was updated from its original version to reflect the fact that some K-12 schools require universal masking, regardless of vaccination status.

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