Lewisburg lifts social gathering ban

Jaxon White, News Section Co-Editor

The University’s weekends may finally be going back to normal.

As of Feb. 7, the Borough of Lewisburg has lifted the hold on issuing downtown social gathering permits through Buffalo Valley Police Department.

“I initiated the ban because our local hospitals and ambulance services were inundated with patients,” Steve Beattie, community development/grant manager and emergency management coordinator (EMC) of the borough, noted via email. “This was a concern. With the students coming back from winter break, the addition of the student population within the community would have added more pressure to the hospitals and ambulance services.”

“We know that alcohol usage increases ambulance calls and hospital care needs,” Beattie said. “So the challenge was two-fold, more calls for alcohol related incidences would place more pressure on an already stress situation and the chance of longer delay in emergency services places everyone at risk, including students in need of care.” 

Many students were upset with the news that there would be no social gatherings for at least the first month back on campus from winter break.

When asked if he had heard from any of these disgruntled students, Beattie said, “Yes, at least a dozen students have interacted with me during the last 4-5 weeks.”

One of those students is Rachel Milio ’22, a double major in Classics and Italian. She decided to email Beattie because she felt that the ban might have targeted the University community since many student organizations apply for permits every week. 

She explained that if the explanation for the ban was communicated better to students, that campus probably would not have felt as targeted. 

“I think because Bucknell is such a bubble, it’s hard for us to look at the greater community and so most Bucknell students probably feel that because we’re required to be vaccinated and wear masks in class, we should be allowed to do what we want… I think if the policy was better communicated to us rather than us just being told our gatherings are limited because of COVID, it would have come across as less arbitrary,” Milio said. 

“Based on the emails I have received from students, they believe the reason for the order was to slow the spread of COVID among the students. That was not the intention since we know that a very, very high percentage of students are vaccinated and boosted,” Beattie said. 

In regards to the communication of the ban, Beattie said, “I instructed the Buffalo Valley Regional Police (BVRP) via email. As they are the administrator of those permits, the BVRP informs the public of the restriction.”

Milio said that she is happy that the ban was lifted, but knows that the student letters had nothing to do with it. 

“I rescinded the ban based on the lower number of local hospitalizations and the lower ambulance call volumes in recent weeks,” Beattie said in his emailed response. “Students should trust that this decision was not made lightly, that it was not politically motivated, that it was not a way to target the students, and I am fully aware of the impacts this has on everyone… all of that is taken into account prior to a decision being made. The students should also understand that this was a ban on social gatherings that involve alcohol. This was not a ban on social gatherings; I’m not certain that all students understand the inherent safety concerns that arise when alcohol is introduced to large social gatherings.”

Beattie cautions students for the future. 

“If there is another COVID surge in the future that again stresses our local emergency and health care services, I will again review the situation and take the necessary action accordingly,” he said.

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