Last year, Ezra street’s St. Patrick’s Day party hosted over 33,000 people on Mar. 17 — this year, Waterloo Regional Police Officers were the only ones at the scene.
“It was very quiet, basically no one attended that day. The city and its partners extend a huge thank you to everyone that took the advice of medical experts and stayed away,” Tony Lavarone, director of communications at the City of Waterloo, said.
The Waterloo Regional Police Service planned to have a large presence on scene and were prepared to clear out anyone who came to the unsanctioned street gathering.
Fencing and billboards were installed by the city, warning party-goers from gathering on the street and the dangers of doing so.
One such sign read, “PUBLIC NOTICE FOR TODAY: Use of roadway for gathering is not sanctioned by the city of Waterloo, and may present a safety hazard.”
The day went “amazingly well,” according to Waterloo Region Police Chief Bryan Larkin. The statement was made during a livestreamed press conference held alongside acting medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m.
“Thank you for rising to the occasion. Thank you for putting the health of our community, the care of our citizens, as our top priority and your top priority. We have been working very hard over the last number of days, weeks, and in fact months to ensure safe festivities,” Bryan said.
“But in the last seven days much has changed. We are in uncharted territory, unprecedented times and what we saw [on Mar. 17] was an unprecedented community response.”
The city applauds students for making the decision not to attend the annual street party in light of a state of emergency issued by the Provincial Government of Ontario concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There was a strong, concerted effort on communication from everyone – from the city, to all of the post-secondary schools, to the students themselves to stay away, and I think people also used their own good judgement and did not attend. Our local students are among the smartest anywhere, and they did the right thing,” Lavarone said.
Along with these precautions, the city had also planned on setting up pods — devices which they tested during homecoming gatherings – to help control and monitor the flow of crowds.
“The pods are set up with some scaffolding and allow officers to look over the crowd. It also disrupts the flow of having everyone congregated in one area, and helps to split up the crowd,” Andre Johnson, Constable with the Waterloo Regional Police Service said.
“In the case that students did show up to Ezra on St. Patrick’s day, the city had prepped by installing hand sanitizing stations across the street; although the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 was to avoid attending the street gathering altogether which is exactly what happened,” Lavarone said