Durham apartment complex changes holiday party plans under pressure from Durham officials
Posted December 29, 2020 11:53 p.m. EST
Updated December 30, 2020 8:11 p.m. EST
Durham, N.C. — When it comes to holiday celebrations this year, state and local leaders have all shared the same message: Just don't do it. They're worried the current surge of coronavirus cases will only get worse.
Despite state and local restrictions on indoor gatherings, one Durham apartment complex had planned to host a holiday party on Wednesday night.
But managers of the Van Alen Apartment Complex, at 511 S. Mangum St., changed those plans Wednesday after Durham officials pressed them on it.
On Sunday, Durham Assistant City Attorney Anna Davis got a call from concerned residents that the complex was planning the New Year's Eve celebration, with more than 60 people expected to attend.
Davis called the complex and spoke to manager, who told her people would be in groups of 10 and would rotate throughout the building, as well as on the rooftop.
Still, she said, she questioned whether the air would be ventilated well enough to limit the spread of coronavirus.
“I certainly applaud him for thinking through how to have a safe party. Unfortunately, that’s just not good enough right now with the way the numbers are," said Davis.
Durham Mayor Steve Schewel agreed, saying that he's dismayed to hear of those planning New Year’s Eve parties while cases rise.
“The statistics bear that right now. We have a 96% ICU capacity at Duke University Hospital," said Davis. "So, what I would ask people in Durham is to remember there are people in the hospital right now who are away from their loved ones during the holidays and to think before you have a party.”
In a three-page letter to the complex on Tuesday, Davis stressed the stark reality that people in Durham are dying and public health officials believe the darkest days are still ahead. She asked the complex to voluntarily cancel the event, or the city would take action.
Van Alen management texted residents Wednesday afternoon to note that the party had been changed to a "grab and go" event, with meals and alcoholic drinks available.
"Exercising an abundance of caution, we are adding safety protocols to our already compliant event," the text reads.
People were required to wear masks and show identification to get into the clubhouse to pick up their food and drinks, and only 10 people would be allowed in the clubhouse at a time.
"We are pleased to see they changed the party format. The city does not have an issue with a 'grab and go' type event if it conforms with state and local orders," Davis said in an email to WRAL News.