Frat party linked to new cases; Wedding pastor hires lawyer

DURHAM, N.H. (AP) — More than 10 cases of COVID-19 have been traced to a fraternity party where people did not follow public health guidelines, the president of the University of New Hampshire said.

In a Sunday letter to the university community, UNH President James Dean said more than 100 students and non-students attended the Aug. 29 party at the Theta Chi fraternity.

“Let me be clear: this is reckless behavior and the kind of behavior that undermines our planning and will lead to us switching to a fully remote mode,” Dean said in the letter.

He called the party “reprehensible” and said student conduct charges would be pursued against the organizers of the party and all students who attended the event.

The fraternity was placed under interim suspension and Dean ordered a moratorium on any in-person gatherings of any size within the fraternity, or sorority system or other social groups.

Meanwhile, the university says anyone who attended the party should self-quarantine and contact UNH Health & Wellness.

___

MAINE

The Maine pastor who presided over an East Millinocket wedding whose crowded reception has been linked to more than 140 virus cases has hired a lawyer known nationally for defending the religious rights of churches.

The Portland Press Herald reports Todd Bell of the Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford held in-person services on Sunday, but it was unclear whether the service complied with the state’s 50-person limit on indoor gatherings.

Videos posted online of the church’s services had shown that Bell has continued to hold in-person services without masks or social distancing.

Calvary Baptist itself has found at least 10 virus cases among its congregation.

In a Friday radio address, Bell said he is now working with David Gibbs III of the National Center for Life and Liberty to defend the church’s religious rights. The organization describes itself as “a legal ministry that protects the rights of churches and Christian organizations nationwide.”

___

RHODE ISLAND

University of Rhode Island officials say student gatherings in violation of rules designed to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 “will not be tolerated” and violators face removal from campus.

The Providence Journal reports that videos posted over the weekend on social media have shown large gatherings of students.

“Those who ignore or challenge the standards the university has set to protect the health and safety of the community run the risk of serious sanctions, including suspension and immediate removal from campus,” URI Spokesman David Lavallee said in an email.

He said the gatherings officials seen on social media run counter to the school's efforts to "offer a dynamic in-person experience for our students this fall.”

He says the school has planned activities such as a beach day, evening movies, dodgeball games and tours for students aimed at preserving student and community health and safety.

“The non-sanctioned gatherings do not represent what we are about here at URI," he said. "We have seen large gatherings and parties at other campuses derail in-person classes at those schools.”

___

VERMONT

On Monday, the Vermont Department of Health reported three new confirmed virus cases.

The new cases bring the statewide total since the pandemic began to just over 1,650.

The new cases were reported in Bennington, Windsor and Orange counties.

The number of statewide virus deaths remains at 58.