With mild weather anticipated on Thursday and the country and province gradually shedding pandemic restrictions nearly two years after the onset of COVID-19, the city of Kingston is hoping its downtown can avoid erupting into nuisance parties.
On Wednesday morning, Kingston Health and Sciences Centre (KHSC) sent out a news release pleading for the community to exercise caution.
The release says although KHSC has plans to expect an increase in patient demand, their patient volume is already high and can only increase so much.
"Although this is the first time that many individuals will be able to legally gather in groups due to relaxed public health measures, it’s important to remember that we are still in the midst of a pandemic and our hospitals are still under pressure," KHSC President and CEO Dr. David Pichora said in the release.
"We continue to see very high-volumes of very sick patients and have very little inpatient capacity, we still are experiencing staffing shortages and our health-care teams are tired after working through the pandemic. We are asking everyone in our community to exercise caution so that we avoid as many unnecessary hospital visits as possible."
KHSC is opening extra room for patients and increasing the number of staff in its Emergency Department.
Queen's University, for its part, says leading up to St. Patrick's Day they have engaged in coordinated efforts to encourage safe behaviours, while reminding students that irresponsible behaviours could come with a cost.
The university will be running an expanded on-campus walk-in clinic to treat minor injuries, hoping to avoid strain on Kingston's emergency workers.
They also announced a "judgement free, non-medical detox zone" called the Campus Operation Room opening at 9 AM.
University staff have been partnering with bylaw officers over the last several weeks going door to door in the university district to warn students of the potential fines for nuisance parties, as well as the sanctions they could face for violating the Student Code of Conduct.
The University District Safety Initiative (USDI) has been in effect since March 10, and will continue until March 20th.
On Thursday, there will be a noticeable uptick in police and bylaw presence in the university district.
In a March 9 release, Kingston Police Chief Antje McNeely says KP and bylaw officers want students to enjoy themselves, but to be smart about partying.
“The 2021 Homecoming celebrations marked a troubling escalation in nuisance behaviour," said McNeely.
"We know many people are excited to celebrate with friends, but it cannot come at the expense of community safety.”
First responders are anticipating large crowds for St. Patrick's Day celebrations, but are hopeful attendees will conduct themselves responsibly and safely.
- Story by Owen Fullerton, YGK News, for the Local Journalism Initiative