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A socially distanced St. Patrick's Day: MSU and city officials cite concern

March 15, 2021
<p>Dublin Square Irish Pub &amp; Restaurant has St. Patrick&#x27;s Day decorations on the outside of the building. Shot on March 14, 2021.</p>

Dublin Square Irish Pub & Restaurant has St. Patrick's Day decorations on the outside of the building. Shot on March 14, 2021.

Photo by Jillian Felton | The State News

In the past years, the city of East Lansing has seen a number of crowded house parties and packed bars as people celebrate St. Patrick's Day. The festivities last year though were slightly tamer due to the beginning of a global pandemic.

Although Gov. Whitmer had placed statewide probation on gatherings of over 50 people and temporarily shut down the bars by March 16, the "Stay Home Stay Safe" order placing Michiganders under quarantine was not announced until March 23.

The celebrations this year are looking a lot different with COVID-19 restrictions already in place and residents following the guidelines for months now. According to EL City Manager George Lahanas, these guidelines should be commonplace by now. 

“At this point, people have been in this environment for a year now, so to make sure they are doing what they know they’re supposed to be doing," Lahanas said.

Lahanas advised residents to remain socially distant and wear their masks continuously as he hopes they associate with people from their own household and limit exposure to other people.

"Of course, avoiding large group gatherings (and) house parties of any sort would be great,” Lahanas said.

One common concern among the officials is the formation of lines outside of downtown bars. 

MSU Spokesperson Dan Olsen advised the students if they are visiting bars and restaurants on St. Patrick's Day, to make sure they aren’t forming any lines outside of those businesses.

"Many of them have line apps that patrons can use to hold their place in line," Olsen said. "Then they’ll contact you when a table is ready.”

Olsen also emphasized the importance of staying in place when inside a bar or restaurant and avoid walking around or gathering with other individuals.

“If you have to get up to go somewhere make sure you have your face covering," Olsen said. “The best thing you can do to keep yourself safe and others safe is limiting gatherings, so it’s important that we not only keep ourselves safe but our fellow Spartans safe and our community safe.”

City Council Member Lisa Babcock also cited caution over congregating in the downtown area.

“We will also have health inspectors and public health folks out milling around, we hope to keep the crowd sizes down, and masks on,” Babcock said. 

As for the students living on campus, while the previously placed enhanced physical distancing guidelines may have been lifted, most other restrictions still remain in place. Director of Communications Bethany Balks for MSU Residence Education and Housing Services (REHS) said students can have one additional person in their living space.

"So this applies if you’re in a residence hall room ... (or) if you live in an apartment that's one extra person in your full apartment," Balks said. "We’re still asking that students really be considerate about if they need to have in-room guests."

Balks cited concern over the 6-feet-apart rule of physical distancing being unattainable if more than one guest is present in most of the on-campus housing.  

“They’ve (guests) been discouraged since the beginning of this academic year, and overnight guests are prohibited per the on-campus housing handbook terms and conditions,” Balks said as a reminder to students.

Babcock advised students and residents to keep practicing social and physical distancing guidelines as— noting her Irish roots— she joked about the Irish not being very physically affectionate anyway.

“Celebrate St. Patrick’s the Irish way,” Babcock said. “Stay home, wear a thick sweater and read James Joyce novels until you fall asleep.”

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