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Towns of Mansfield, Windham ask state to limit gathering sizes as college students return


MANSFIELD/WINDHAM, Conn. (WTNH) — News 8 found UConn sophomores Danielle Falci and Caroline Cassol sitting on a wall outside of the student union on Friday. The pair said they are friends but they don’t live in the same dorm, so they were keeping 6 feet between them.

“We’re sitting distanced apart just so we could take off the mask and really see each other,” said Cassol.

Most UConn students are responsible, but a recent gathering where many were in a crowded dorm with no masks and no social distancing is causing concern on campus and off campus.

“It was just kind of annoying to see students being irresponsible,” said Cassol.

It’s part of the reason why the towns of Mansfield and Windham are working together to take stronger COVID-19 precautions as UConn and Eastern Connecticut State University students return to their respective communities for the fall semester.

The mayors said as UConn and Eastern Connecticut State University reopen, their populations increase significantly.

“Means a massive influx of people from other towns, states and countries,” said Mayor Toni Moran, (D) Mansfield. “The potential for serious COVID spreading is very real.”

“I would be concerned if I was a resident with all these people breaking the rules and potentially leaving campus and going to restaurants,” said Falci.

The two towns have submitted a joint letter to Governor Ned Lamont asking the state to limit public gatherings in the area to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Officials said the current state guidelines allow 100 people during outdoor gatherings, which they believe is too much of a risk for their communities now that thousands of students are moving back in.

Mayors in Mansfield and Windham got together to have a press conference Friday to publicly ask the governor to allow them to issue their own orders limiting the number of people who get together. That would be no more than 25 outside and no more than 10 inside. They’re concerned because these students come from all different parts of the country and maybe even beyond that. And they’re in this community and they want to make sure that everyone stays safe.

“It isn’t enough to break up social gatherings where people aren’t obeying social distancing rules. The gathering itself is the threat,” said Moran.

RELATED: UConn pauses football team activities after 6 student-athletes test positive for COVID-19

“The governor should give us the flexibility to make a decision for our community that is best for our community,” said State Representative Gregg Haddad, (D) Mansfield.

“We were very dismayed by hearing his press conference yesterday in which he talked about treating all communities the same,” said Mayor Moran.

UConn President Thomas Katsouleas told the university community in a letter that the school is currently working with the governor’s office to enact an ordinance banning gatherings of 25 or more people. Students who do not comply once the ordinance is in effect would be subject to a citation or student conduct investigation.

RELATED: Latest number of positive COVID-19 cases at UConn

The UConn campus is within the town of Mansfield but the mayor said there are places off campus in both Mansfield and Windham which are areas of concern.

State police have been going by those places to make sure there are no large gatherings but the mayor said if there is already a gathering in place it could be too late to stop some spread. 

“That’s the problem,” said Mayor Moran. “We need to preemptively tell people you can’t do this.”

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