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Police urge students to stay home on St. Patrick's Day amidst coronavirus outbreak

Novi junior Caleb Ascencio drinks from his hat on Main Street March 17.

Law enforcement agencies are urging Michigan residents to stay home on St. Patrick's Day this year, a holiday largely associated with partying for college students. 

The March 17 holiday comes amidst a COVID-19 pandemic and canceled in-person classes at universities across the country. 

There are more than 40 confirmed cases in Michigan, with the number of positive cases rising daily. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a state of emergency after the first two positive cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on Tuesday. 

CMU officials canceled all in-person classes for three weeks on March 12, shifting classes to an online format until April 6. The university reopened residential halls on March 15 for those who needed a place to stay, but urged students to stay off campus if possible.

As of March 13, President Robert Davies said there are no confirmed positive cases at CMU. Positive cases have been confirmed at Michigan State University and University of Michigan.

Whitmer on Friday ordered a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, which will be in effect until 5 p.m. April 5. Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a statement on Twitter reminding Michigan residents over the age of 21 that they can still drink alcohol or smoke marijuana on St. Patrick's Day, but should stick to the privacy of their own homes.

"I hate to be Dana Downer, but the faster we contain this virus, the sooner we can get back to normal life," the AG tweeted Saturday. 

CMU Police Department is not planning on extra patrols for St. Patrick's Day, said Lt. Mike Sienkiewicz, but the department has the flexibility to add staffing if needed. 

"I expect less students to be in Mt. Pleasant as a factor (of the coronavirus spread) along with St. Patrick’s Day falling on a week day and cooler temperatures," Sienkiewicz said. "We will monitor conditions and adjust staffing if needed."

Local law enforcement said last year's St. Patrick's Day was the slowest police had ever seen at CMU. Because of the city's zero-tolerance policy on nuisance parties, police anticipate another slow St. Patrick's Day this year.

"Fortunately at CMU we have not seen large disruptive gatherings in recent years, and do not plan the type of response needed in other communities," Sienkiewicz said. "CMU has worked collaboratively with our local law enforcement partners in recent years to educate the community on celebrating responsibly and our community expectations, and as a result we have seen less enforcement action needed by police."

Mount Pleasant Police department confirmed there will not be increased policing as a result of the coronavirus,  according to Public Information Officer Autume Balcom on Monday morning.

"Business as usual at this time," Balcom said. "Of course, we have seen things change rapidly so it is a possibility that things could change. But as of now, there have been no discussions of a different type of enforcement."