Police express confidence students won’t violate COVID rules for Halloween



A group of restaurant goers sit outside of Sweetwaters on Church Street, Oct 23.

UVM and Burlington Police expressed little concern about students potentially violating COVID-19 safety precautions over Halloween weekend, despite rising cases in the state.

UVM Police Chief Tim Bilodeau said he expects students to follow COVID-19 guidelines, and Matt Sullivan, deputy chief of administration at Burlington Police Department, said the city is planning on taking the same approach as they have in the past to student parties.

Our expectation is that students will adhere to the Green and Gold Promise at all times,” Bilodeau stated. “It is important that they don’t let their guard down during special celebrations in order to continue to keep the community safe.”

Students are expected to gather in small groups and keep a 6-foot distance from family, friends and people who don’t live in their household, Bilodeau said.  As always, wearing a mask is mandatory for when students are out. 

Sullivan, of BPD, said the department’s response will be no different this year and that violations will be taken seriously as always.

“There have only been limited circumstances so far where students have violated the executive order related to COVID,” Sullivan stated. “Overall, my impression is that students have been pretty good about behaving responsibly.”

Last Halloween, UVM Police Services reported 14 criminal or alleged criminal incidents on-campus in total, including drug and alcohol offenses, suspicious events and property damage.

Sullivan did note that the department will still address house parties, noise violations and violations of the Governor’s executive order, and students should expect disciplinary action from the University in response.  

On campus, UVM Police Services has responded to 82 COVID-19 compliance incidents since Aug. 1, according to the Crime and Fire Log. 

Governor Phil Scott’s executive order requires all individuals to wear face masks in public. Additionally, Burlington residents cannot congregate in groups no larger than ten indoors and no larger than 25 outdoors.

However, some students are less optimistic that students will follow guidelines for the holiday.

“I feel like if there was something maybe going on to actually go to, I would probably go,” first-year Olivia Tumulty said. “The only thing that I’ve heard of is people dressing up and planning on hanging out on the floor, that’s what they do every weekend.”

Although first-year Zoë Montalto said she doesn’t think students will be partying in the same numbers they have in the past, she thinks students will still make plans to see friends.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about going out.” Montalto said. “I live in the Wellness Environment so it seems like a lot of people around me are planning on doing things like watching a movie in the common room.”

Montalto said she isn’t concerned about police enforcing COVID-19 regulations on campus because they haven’t had much of a presence on campus in her experience. 

“What I’ve seen so far from the police on campus is that they don’t really do anything… so I don’t think that’s a gigantic concern for me.” Montalto said. 

Despite UVM’s low COVID-19 positivity rate, there have been several outbreaks across the state and in Burlington over the last several weeks. 

UVM Vice Provost Annie Stevens sent an email to students Oct. 29, asking them to be safe and take part in UVM-sponsored events.

“We are at a critical point in the semester,” Stevens said. “Vermont cases continue to rise, and these spikes are occurring close to campus. Because we want to continue in-person campus classes and activities, I am asking for your continued commitment to the Green and Gold Promise.”

Case numbers have increased since the beginning of October, and the daily case total reached the third highest instance of new, positive cases in the state since June just last week, according to an Oct. 23 Burlington Free Press article.

The Vermont Department of Health reported 28 new cases of COVID-19 Oct. 24 and 26 the day before. And just last week, hockey and broomball practices led to a 34-person outbreak in Montpellier. 

Saint Michael’s College in Colchester moved to all remote classes after officials reported eight new positive COVID-19 cases Oct. 22, which has now risen to 33.

Despite the spike in positive cases, the city of Burlington recently lifted restrictions on early closing times at bars and can now serve alcohol after 11 p.m. according to an Oct. 6 SevenDays article. 

In UVM Strong’s weekly COVID-19 update email, the University warned students of increasing cases in neighboring areas across the Northeast and around the country and in response has placed restrictions on non-essential visitors to campus.