Stillwater city leaders rethink COVID restrictions as OSU starts classes

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STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) – It appears that social distancing was thrown out the window over the weekend as video of people at a bar reportedly right off campus in Stillwater shows dancers cheek to cheek, many without masks. With OSU starting classes on Monday, Stillwater City officials are meeting to reportedly talk about new COVID safety guidelines.

“I sort of heard it from my apartment sort of how loud it was over there,” said OSU student Ryan Novozinsky. 

Novozinsky says it happened at Outlaws on the OSU Strip. We called the club, they didn’t answer the phone. We knocked, they didn’t answer the door.

“It’s disappointing to see so many folks out,” said Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce.

Stillwater was one of the first cities in the state to have a mask mandate.

The Mayor says the Stillwater City Council will discuss on Monday night ways to make sure that scene doesn’t happen again.

“We are considering a new ordinance that will allow certain bars and restaurants to expand their outdoor areas into some of the public rights of ways, so that we can hopefully move some of those folks outside and spread them out a little bit better.” said Joyce.

The scene at the club is coupled with news over the weekend that 23 sorority members testing positive for the virus.

“It made me sad. We have gone so many months without seeing our sisters. So it’s unfortunate that when we are all together this happens,” said OSU student Imani Jennings.

And this weekend, Weedstock, a three day music fest, is slated to kick off at the Tumbleweed Dance Hall, just northwest of town. Thousands are expected to attend.

“I think that’s a risky event, I think a lot of people will go there but they won’t wear masks,” said OSU student Jacob Christian.

“I feel like there is a chance it will get out of hand and cases my rise overall but I think they may have enough precautions to keep everyone safe,” said OSU student Jacob Stewart.

The owner of the Tumbleweed told KFOR last week he had spent an extra $15,000 on safety measures for his event.

Payne County Commissioners say there is nothing they can do about Weedstock. The mayor says he is working with the city attorney to see what they can do to stop it.

OSU President Burns Hargis also released a statement conveying his disappointment in the weekend’s activities:

Oklahoma State University is disappointed in the behaviors exhibited by some of our students off campus over the weekend. Attending large dance parties where neither mask wearing nor social distancing occurred showed a clear disregard for the protocols set forth by both the university and the city of Stillwater. OSU and city officials have communicated behavior expectations to limit the spread of COVID19, and a successful, in-person instructional experience requires everyone to take personal responsibility. 
We ask that our students follow university and city protocols, avoid large gatherings, practice social distancing and wear masks, and appreciate the vast majority of those who are taking our guidelines seriously as evidenced by a .7% positive rate on move-in day. The in-person campus experience we all love here at OSU depends on it this semester.

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