Another video of University of Kansas college students partying went viral this weekend as a professor raised concerns that attempts to stop the spread of the new coronavirus in Lawrence are not working.
Ward Lyles, an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs and Administration, was on a walk Saturday night when a large, loud gathering caught his attention. He proceeded to post a series of videos to Twitter of a crowded party in the 1100 block of Mississippi Street, just off campus.
One of the videos shows a porch area filled with dozens of people who appear to be standing close together without masks on. It had more than 56,000 views as of early Sunday afternoon.
“Masks? Social distancing? Nope,” Lyles tweeted. “Super spreader event? Yep.”
The Lawrence videos are among many recordings circulating online, showing college students around the country defying rules put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed almost 194,000 people in the U.S. this year.
At KU, hundreds of people have tested positive for the virus since students returned to campus three weeks ago. Despite university recommendations for students to wear masks and avoid large crowds, the parties have continued.
Lyles also observed two ”massive” parties on Alabama and Kentucky streets.
He said he tried to take the videos far enough back that faces couldn’t be made out. Lyle’s intention wasn’t to get individual students in trouble, he said, but rather to show how the systems in place to prevent such gatherings aren’t working.
As of Sept. 1, 546 members of the campus community had tested positive for COVID-19. The majority are students, with 332 cases at that point coming from Greek life alone. In a video update last week, KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said the Greek community was testing positive at a rate of about 10%.
The most recent university update showed 799 members of the campus community had tested positive as of Thursday.
“The damage is not just done and over by any stretch of the imagination,” Lyles said of the continued spread of the disease.
“I’m not trying to be a rogue agent here,” Lyles said. “KU set up a reporting portal and is asking the whole community to report these behaviors. My aim is elevate discussion and dialogue about system failures that can be addressed by doing something other than just asking students to do stuff they’re disinclined to do.”
Police stopped by the home while Lyles was there, but they told him they couldn’t do anything about the crowd, which fell into the health department’s jurisdiction, not the police department’s. Lyles noted that the health department is closed on weekends.
Over the course of a 1.5 mile walk around the neighborhood, he saw two parties that definitely violated the county health limit on gatherings of more than 45 people, and two parties that he said at the very least “violated common sense.”
But, Lyles added, he also saw about 30 groups outside other homes do what they’re supposed to do: wear masks, keep crowd sizes small and social distance.
The university campus is expected to remain open for in-person classes through Nov. 24, at which point students will finish the semester remotely.
Girod has said it is “unlikely” campus will close before Thanksgiving, though he didn’t indicate that switching to online classes only was out of the question.