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UK cracks down on student events during pandemic, works to help make them safer

Posted at 5:09 PM, Aug 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-18 17:28:53-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — With thousands of students back on the University of Kentucky campus, many are looking to connect with their peers.

However, that desire for social interaction has led to overcrowded events, including one on Friday night.

An event hosted by Christian Student Fellowship quickly grew out of control, despite the organization's best efforts.

"We regret the way the evening unfolded," CSF Director and Pastor Brian Marshall said. "Despite our best planning for safety the event simply got out of control."

Marshall said CSF did all it could to prepare for the event, spending hundreds of hours on a plan and thousands of dollars implementing that plan. CSF bought tents, about 50 hand sanitizing stations, and numerous signs that asked students to stay 6 feet apart.

It also required all staff and volunteers to have their temperatures checked before the events and students who attended had to fill out a health screening form before entering.

However, CSF was overwhelmed with students looking to connect with their peers at its "S'more Summer" event Friday night.

"Since it was the first Friday night of school with only three advertised events on campus that the University was promoting, we were simply overrun by students," Marshall said.

He said at one point that night, staff got creative to manage the crowd.

"We literally started handing out $5 gift cards at the gate, asking them to leave and go away," Marshall said.

He added that announcements were also made over the loudspeakers to encourage students to keep their distance. Staff also walked through the event and made the same request.

"We would go around actively asking people to spread out, but controlling human behavior is a notoriously tricky endeavor," Marshall said.

University of Kentucky spokesman Jay Blanton said the following in a statement Tuesday:

"University officials had what we hope was productive dialogue with CSF about how critically important it is to have events that strictly adhere to federal, state and university public health standards in place to protect the health, safety and well-being of everyone. CSF agreed on Saturday night to end an event early when the crowd became too large and when we became concerned about the lack of adherence to those standards. We all want the same things – the health and safety of our students and our entire community. In terms of results from this event or others, we always communicate with the impacted parties or those who have potential exposures as part of the rigorous and robust contract tracing protocol we have in place and as part of our reporting process."

CSF said it will not host any events like this again and that it is working closely with UK to plan safe events in the future.