MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)- For the first time in three years, the cloud of COVID-19 will not loom as heavily over University of Wisconsin students when they gather along Mifflin Street to celebrate the end of another school year – and the Madison Police Dept. is already preparing for this year’s Block Party.
Two years ago, the street was a ghost town. It was just a couple months into the pandemic, the Mifflin Street Block Party was nixed as police warned residents and landlords that any festivities would not be tolerated. On that Saturday, April 25, MPD reported that the “residents in the Mifflin Street area have shown a commitment to public health and safety by forgoing the annual block party.”
A year later, thousands of students did turn out. While the Block Party was not “authorized” (officially, it never is), MPD did not take steps to prevent the 2021 edition of the annual event. However, with Public Health Madison & Dane County’s COVID-19 health protocols still in effect, MPD warned it would strictly enforce any violations.
The virus’ spread had waned from the previous fall’s highs by the time of the April event and Dane Co. was reporting an average of about 60 cases per day. While that figure is less than a quarter of the current average, the emergency order in effect limited indoor gatherings where food and drink are provided to 150 people, and everyone must be properly socially distanced – even if that means reducing the number allowed inside.
Thousands of people did turn out for last year’s party. After the event, MPD reported 31 citations were issued; however, they were mostly for damage to property.
Now, in 2022, MPD’s statement about the impending celebration did not even contain the words COVID-19, coronavirus, or social distancing.
Instead, the police department returned to a message that acknowledged the typical pressures students since time immemorial have faced, saying “that final exams can be a stressful time for many students, and at the end of the year there is a need to decompress.” Its message simply urged them to do so safely and make conscious decisions.
“Please commemorate the end of your school year by making good decisions, being safe and being responsible,” Central District Capt. Harrison Zanders wrote on the MPD Blotter page.
In his message to those who live along Mifflin Street, Zanders added that he, and the Community Police Team have been walking up and down Mifflin Street and through the neighborhood, making sure people understood how to stay safe and out of trouble. He included a pamphlet explaining that latter point as well as what to do if officers do show up and the possible fines offenders may face.
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