Photos have emerged of hundreds of university students ignoring coronavirus rules while attending a pool party.
The partygoers, many of whom were students at the University of South Carolina, were busted after they were spotted in the pool area at The Apartments at Palmetto Compress in Columbia flouting social distancing rules and ignoring mask mandates.
Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins told local media he discovered at least 200 people milling around the pool about 6pm Saturday (local time).
He told News 19 he was disturbed by a young man’s excuse for snubbing the rules, who told him “I can’t catch COVID”.
Chief Jenkins added the party had the ultimate conditions for the coronavirus to spread.
“That was just a perfect storm to spread the virus. If someone in that crowd had it, it was just a perfect storm,” he said.
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Protection tweeted on Sunday (local time) there were 1,019 new confirmed cases and 28 new probable cases of coronavirus in the state. It also reported 11 additional deaths.
US nears six million coronavirus cases
The shocking photos of the pool party come as the United States passed six million total coronavirus cases, nearly a quarter of the world’s total.
The US hit five million cases three weeks ago, just 17 days after reaching four million, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker.
The country’s death toll is now just over 187,000.
According to the state’s health department, people are required to keep a distance of at least 1.8 metres and avoid large crowds and gatherings.
People in the state are also required to wear a cloth covering that covers the mouth and nose when around others in public settings.
Chief Jenkins told The State newspaper the pool party was “almost like Mardi Gras”.
“I saw a large crowd in the pool, in the area on the side of the pool, and on top of the pool house,” he said.
“If nothing was going on (like the COVID-19 pandemic), there still would have been too many people in the pool.
“Nobody was practising social distancing. Nobody was wearing a mask. But there was lots of drinking going on.”
University students ‘self-indulgent idiots’
The photos also outraged people on social media, with one tweeting the university needed to “get its students under control”.
Another dubbed them “self-indulgent idiots” who should be banned from the university campus.
“Entitled USC kids,” a third added.
Classes commenced for the new semester at the University of South Carolina on August 20 and The State reports 620 students in total had tested positive, while 553 cases remain active. Six sorority houses had also been placed into lockdown after a number of people tested positive.
In a statement to News 19, The University of South Carolina said it had worked with private apartment complexes housing university students for months to promote safe public health standards.
“Unfortunately, some have chosen not to manage their properties appropriately to protect the community. We also urge our students to remember their responsibilities and please use good judgement, avoiding situations where social distancing isn’t possible,” it said.
The Apartments at Palmetto Compress had not responded to requests for comment.
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