KENT, Ohio — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise throughout the state, Portage County officials are worried that they may rise to a Level 4 or the highest risk of community spread. With Halloween around the corner, Kent State University’s reopening committee chairman, Manfred Van Dulmen’s message is clear: no parties.
Kent State University is known for its Halloween.
“The downtown is packed. People having a great time, all the bars are packed, all the streets are packed, but it is crowded and that really shouldn’t happen,” said longtime Kent resident, Merri Rosen.
Students Nicholas Clementi and Giovannni Coletti still think some students will hold parties.
“It’s Halloween. It’s Kent State. Something is going to happen up here,” said Clementi.
Coletti, a freshman, echoed his sentiment.
“Yes, students are not abiding by it, but the school is doing what they can so I don’t know what the next step would be,” he said.
Van Dulmen and other Kent State officials are working on that next step right now. Van Dulmen said if cases were to rise to categorize the county as Level 4, then most of Kent’s classes would be moved from in-person to online.
There were 63 new cases of COVID-19 last week at the university.
“I would be lying here if I said I wasn’t concerned,” said Van Dulmen.
Van Dulmen said they’re working with Kent police regarding citing parties and violators, especially during Halloween.
“People from out of town will be asked not to come to Kent,” he said.
Rosen said the rise in case numbers is concerning.
“It’s challenging as a college student because, of course, you want to have the full college experience and, unfortunately, people can’t behave the way they would like to behave because their actions have consequences for others,” said Rosen.
But Jeff Crowe, the owner of Erie Street Kitchen in downtown Kent, said it’s not just the students that are contributing to the rise in cases.
“I’ve seen a lot of adults acting as stupid as the kids. So, people blaming it on them are totally not out in public seeing what’s going on,” he said.
Crowe said, like any business, they’re struggling. But he is prepared if restrictions got stricter, to go to a full takeout menu. He said 90% of his business sales are through to-go orders.
“People are coming to get our food and take it home and eat it,” he said.
Both Crowe and Rosen are asking everyone to be smart these next couple of weeks.
“Have fun, but just be careful. Be sensible,” said Rosen.