Tulane students warned of suspension or expulsion for partying in groups larger than 15

A sign welcomes students to Tulane University in New Orleans in  this file photo.

(CNN)Tulane University in New Orleans may be among the most famous "party schools" in the country, but students gathering in groups of more than 15 during the pandemic now risk getting suspended or expelled.

"Do not host parties or gatherings with more than 15 people, including the host. If you do, you will face suspension or expulsion from the University," Dean of Students Erica Woodley cautioned -- in bold and all-caps text -- in an email sent to students on Tuesday and posted on Tulane's website.
Gatherings of any size will require social distancing and participants "should wear masks," according to the email.
"There is no room for error here. People's lives depend on your adherence to these rules," Woodley wrote.
The stern warning was sent in reaction to photos and videos posted to social media that showed Tulane students holding large parties over the July Fourth weekend without wearing masks or observing proper social distancing, according to the email.
These actions, in Woodley's words, "were very publicly disrespectful to the Tulane University community and to the people of New Orleans, and have the potential to undermine our significant progress against this deadly disease."
Woodley went on to define the students' behavior as "disrespectful, selfish and dangerous" and "indefensible and truly shameful."
"Do you really want to be the reason that Tulane and New Orleans have to shut down again?," she wrote.

Concerning trends in New Orleans

Gatherings in bars and restaurants are causing concern for leaders in New Orleans, who worry that community spread might bring the city back to Phase One, or to a full shut down.
"Since entering Phase Two, and predominantly since reopening bars in New Orleans a few weeks ago, we have seen an increase in the number of large parties and gatherings taking place," said Sarah Babcock, director of policy and emergency preparedness for the New Orleans Health Department.
"These events have been particularly attended by young people, and that seems to be correlating with large percentages of people age 18 to 29 who are testing positive for Covid-19 in both New Orleans and across Louisiana," Babcock told CNN.
According to Babcock, on July Fourth weekend, the city of New Orleans received 100 large-gathering complaints and 169 business complaints, at least 32 of which involved bars.
On Wednesday, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced new restrictions on restaurants and bars in the city to curb community spread as cases rise. Starting on July 11, indoor seating will be limited to 25 patrons, and bar service will be prohibited.
Tulane students are not the only New Orleans residents congregating in bars or throwing parties. Babcock also mentioned bars in the LSU area and high school graduation parties around town.
"Bourbon street worries me," Mayor Cantrell said in her remarks on Wednesday.

Covid-19 doesn't only affect the elderly

Young residents should be aware that Covid-19 doesn't only affect the elderly, according to Babcock.
"Many young people are getting sick, we are seeing people in their twenties and thirties dying, having strokes, having very severe complications," she said.
People ages 24 and younger are testing positive at higher rates, New Orleans Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said on Wednesday, and Babcock said her team is now focusing on analyzing hospitalization data to learn more about the full extent of the problem.
"We are currently looking at our hospitalization rate because the number of young people being hospitalized in New Orleans is starting to increase," she said.
Babcock praised Tulane University's strong stance against parties and large gatherings.
"We are proud to have local universities taking our guidelines seriously and partnering with us to slow the spread of Covid-19 in our community," she said.
"A lot of our students live off-campus in apartments, they are living in the community with other people, and their actions have consequences for our entire community. That includes bartenders and service industry employees that they may be around."
Mayor Cantrell also commended Tulane's leadership approach to the issue: "I'm hoping that other institutions will follow so there will be a unified message," she said.

Looking ahead to the fall

Dean Woodley's message to Tulane's students comes as the university plans to reopen for the fall semester on August 19.
Among the measures announced in May by university president Michael Fitts are frequent testing for people on campus throughout the year, adjustments to the capacity of classrooms and dorms, and an on-campus infirmary to care for students who test positive for the virus.
Woodley emphasized how partying has no place on campus as things reopen.
"The calculation is simple -- If you want to have a residential experience at Tulane in the fall, you have to behave differently," the Dean's email reads.
Students are encouraged to use an online reporting system or call Tulane University Police to hold their peers accountable.

What the students think

Sam Broth, a rising junior at Tulane studying math and computer science, said Woodley's email to the student body was "great."
"Hopefully it shows the surrounding community that not all Tulanians are trying to destroy the progress New Orleans has made as a city," Broth told CNN via Twitter.
States with serious coronavirus problems need to consider shutting down again, Fauci says