SG prompts review of off-campus eateries

Student Government urged the university to contact restaurants like Campus Gas and Earl’s

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Signs pasted to the entrance of Campus Gas (pictured) require entrants to wear a mask and keep groups to under six people (Aine Pierre/Old Gold & Black)

Aine Pierre, Assistant News Editor

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across Winston-Salem, the state of North Carolina and the country at-large. North Carolina on Oct. 15 reported over 2,000 new cases, its highest single-day total yet. In this crisis, the state of public health relies wholly on a public willing to follow guidelines and institutions willing to enforce them.

According to Student Government (SG) president and senior Miles Middleton, many students have approached him with concerns about off-campus gatherings at places such as Campus Gas and Earl’s. 

“[The conversations] were … about asking questions and clarifying whether or not we were actually doing something about it, and I think that prompted us to get involved,” Middleton said. 

Middleton brought up these concerns to the General Assembly during its Oct. 6 meeting and called for increased vigilance.

“We’re obviously talking to Earl’s and Campus Gas and saying, ‘Hey, we really need you to help us out here in terms of straining out the COVID-19 restrictions that are still in place,’” Middleton said. 

Thus began a series of conversations between Middleton and Vice President for Campus Life Penny Rue. In the end, per Middleton, Rue’s office agreed to contact both Campus Gas and Earl’s regarding COVID-19 guidelines. According to Middleton, the Office of Campus Life confirmed that they have been in touch with Campus Gas, but did not make similar confirmations for Earl’s.

The Office of Campus Life, for its part, denies that it has made contact with either establishment.

University Police, however, confirmed that they are in occasional contact with the establishments, as well as with Winston-Salem police, who patrol  establishments near Wake Forest regularly.

“Everyone is working toward the goal of being compliant with public health guidelines [like for] social distancing, mask wearing and group sizes,” said Regina Laweson, chief of University Police.

At the Oct. 6 meeting, Middleton also called for “increased patrol” at these establishments, according to the Old Gold & Black’s report of the meeting. This appears to be impossible, however, as the university does not own the restaurants.

“These places are not ours to patrol, and we will not be doing so,” Rue confirmed to the Old Gold & Black  by email.  

Outreach by the University Police, however, seems to have been effective. Middleton says that he has observed improvement at Campus Gas, as he has noticed fewer large gatherings there. In addition, Campus Gas appears to be taking the COVID-19 threat seriously, as signage on its door prohibits groups of more than six to enter the establishment. 

“Passing by Campus Gas, it looks better, and I’ve gotten word from the administration that Campus Gas has been obviously doing their best and kicked out those who didn’t have a spot … you can’t just hang around [at the establishment],” Middleton said.

As far as students go, it is easy to understand how institutions with even somewhat relaxed rules could attract large groups looking for fewer restrictions, but even though these events are off campus, one superspreader event could send students home.  

“It took a lot for the administration, most notably our University Police to reach out and say … ‘students are coming [in] a lot, can we make sure COVID-19 restrictions are being followed?’” Middleton said. 

Middleton added that students also need to do their part.

“Continue to be smart, wear a mask and do the right thing,” Middleton said. 

As of Wednesday night, the university has 52 cases reported over the past 14 days, up from 32 cases on Tuesday afternoon.