University of South Carolina suspends students after pandemic pool party

Credit: Columbia Fire Department

Credit: Columbia Fire Department

School president ‘concerned’ with growing number of positive coronavirus cases

The University of South Carolina has suspended 15 students and charged six Greek letter organizations with student conduct violations after a weekend pool party in which hundreds of students gathered despite city coronavirus mandates for masks and social distancing, according to several news reports.

Nine Greek Village houses — six of which are sororities — were in quarantine after Saturday’s party at The Apartments at Palmetto Compress in Columbia, where the city’s fire department dispersed at least 200 revelers who crammed into a gated pool area, according to The State.

“It was almost like Mardi Gras,” Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said of the scene at the complex, The State reported. “I saw a large crowd in the pool, in the area on the side of the pool and on top of the pool house.”

The first day of fall classes was Aug. 20. As of last Thursday, 620 students had tested positive for the coronavirus, with 191 new infections added to the toll a day earlier. At least four staff members were also diagnosed, according to reports.

“Am I concerned? Yes, I am,” USC President Bob Caslen said after the release of the report last Wednesday, according to The State. “Is it acceptable? No. It’s not. I don’t know if you can sustain 191 positives.”

No fines were issued at the party, and students were allowed to go home with just a warning. The management could face fines if another incident is reported, the State reported.

“If nothing was going on (like the COVID-19 pandemic), there still would have been too many people in the pool,” Jenkins said. “Nobody was practicing social distancing. Nobody was wearing a mask. But there was lots of drinking going on.”

The news comes at the same time as another SEC school, the University of Alabama, reported more than 1,000 confirmed cases among students, faculty and staff.

At Auburn University, 207 new positive cases of COVID-19 were reported between Aug. 15 and Aug. 21, including 202 students and five employees, according to the school’s Campus-Specific COVID-19 Data.