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Western Illinois University warns students to stop holding ‘large social gatherings’

MACOMB (WGEM) — Concern is growing over large parties happening at Western Illinois University that may increase the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

University officials warn students to act responsibility so the community moves forward and not back.

There's concern over pictures that show students at Western Illinois University students this past weekend.

The pictures show large parties with only a few masks and no social distancing.

"All of that is really negative and it's really problematic," WIU Interim President Martin Abraham said.

He said this type of behavior creates a challenge.

"Students tend to go out, they tend to have large social gatherings," Abraham said. "If they're of age, there's a tendency to have other beverages involved that reduce their social inhibitions."

Abraham said they're constantly working to make sure students act responsibly.

"If you want to go out, that's fine," Abraham said." Go out in a small group, don't go out with a dozen people."

Local businesses stand behind that message, as owners said they don't want to face another shut down or see students forced to leave campus.

"I'm not saying don't go out," Forgottonia Brewing owner Sean West said. "I'm not saying don't support businesses, I'm not saying don't go out and be with your friends, just do it responsibly."

Freshman student Alexandra Zorniak said she hopes students scale down on parties, so she can stay on campus.

"If people wear their masks, follow the rules, obviously we can all still have fun, we can party eventually in the right way," Zorniak said.

Abraham said before you go out to a large social gathering, think about businesses, think about your roommate.

Think how acting responsibly can help stop the spread of COVID-19.

"One of the things we're finding is the best deterrent, if you fail to obey the rules and you get caught, not by us, but by COVID, now you have a 14-day penalty and it's a pretty significant penalty," Abraham said.

Abraham sayid the campus police and Macomb police department are working together to stop any large gatherings they see.

He said they have gone out and broken up some of these gatherings and sent students home.

Abraham said about 35 students are quarantined in residence halls and many others in off-campus housing and fraternities.

He also said the university is still offering testing for students staff and faculty.

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