Reprinted From This Week’s
Hometown Oneonta, Freeman’s Journal
Question: Can Students Safely Return?
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Mayor Gary Herzig has a message if returning Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta students go out on the town – follow the rules, or the fun stops.
“We will enforce the state regulations,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “If you’re not at a table, you need to have your mask on. You can’t be elbow-to-elbow at the bar. We will send the police, code enforcement or the state Liquor Authority in to respond to complaints.”
As the colleges announced reopening plans for this fall, Herzig plans to meet with the two college presidents, Hartwick’s Margaret Drugovich and SUNY Oneonta’s Barbara Jean Morris, to lay out the city’s new approach.
A first complaint against a bar, Herzig said, will result in what he called an “educational visit,” reminding them of social distancing and occupancy protocols. The second or third violation could result in a fine, or a revocation of a bar’s liquor license.
“We will not hesitate to revoke a license when an establishment is not following the rules,” he said. “Shutdowns are not where we want to go, but we need to protect all of our safety.”
Already, Morris said, students are modeling responsible behaviors. “About half of our students remained in off-campus housing after we shut down in March,” she said. “We saw no outbreaks or hot spots, which felt good. It means our students are behaving responsibly in the community.”
Returning students will have to sign an “Affirmation of Responsibility,” which mandates a daily self-screening symptom check-in, face masks in all public spaces on campus and social distancing. Failure to adhere to the signed pledge, she said, can result in judicial process.
Similarly, at Hartwick, Drugovich created “Our Social Compact: A Healthy Hartwick College,” which all students will have to sign to return to campus.
However, Morris said, bars and other nightlife in the city would be tasked with enforcing their own regulations. But some bars, including the Red Jug Pub, are having fun with the new regulations.
“We’ve got the velvet rope and stickers 6 feet apart on the sidewalk,” said Hayley Dower, manager. “We can only have 50-percent capacity, so that’s 45 people at a time.”
That bar will require groups to stay together and to wear their masks until they’re seated. “If you come with your friends, you have to stay with your friends,” she said.
And though they’re notorious for their funky T-shirt designs, they plan on expanding their offerings. “We’ll be selling masks,” she said. “We’ve got some cool designs.”
House parties, however, are a different matter. “The colleges are reducing the dorm density, but what happens when you have a party of 50 or more young people in a small space?” said Herzig.
Concerned citizens are encouraged to contact the Oneonta Police Department if they believe that a bar, restaurant or city dwelling is failing to adhere to the guidelines.
Hartwick’s pledge also asks students to remain on campus as much as possible for the semester, but reminds them that “Students who leave campus are subject to all local, county and state guidelines for social distancing, face coverings and other health guidelines.”
But the colleges and the downtown are not the only ones who need to step up. “It’s a community effort,” he said. “If students come downtown and see that we’re not respecting the precautions, then we cannot expect them to respect them either.”
“Everyone wants to get back to normal,” said Herzig. “But we have to remain really cautious.”