Officials, parents, students seek to stop large teen gatherings—including ‘pandemic party’ in ‘the woods’


Socialization is a vital part of being a human. Especially in the teen years, when clubs, sports, social gatherings, even getting an education involves socializing.

But in the face of a modern pandemic, with a virus as easily communicable as COVID-19, actions are being taken at different levels to prevent these gatherings.

On Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its advice to recommend ending gatherings of more than 50 people.

Pelham School District Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ and the Pelham Manor Police both sent direct messages to the young people of the town.

In her email Saturday, Champ said, “It is crucial that students not congregate during this time so as to mitigate the spread of disease.” The Manor police echoed Champ’s message, saying in a Nixle message the department “fully supported her statement.”

Amid social media reports reports of a St. Patrick’s Day teen gathering Saturday night in Pelham Bay Park near Split Rock—called “the woods” by teens—some Pelham parents expressed condemnation and anger. According to sources, several students tried via messaging to stop the get together, which was alternately being called “the pandemic party.” The Pelham Examiner could not confirm whether the party occured, and if so, how many attended.

Pelham parent Todd Cross referred to parties at this point as being “about the most selfish, stupid thing I can think of people doing right now,” noting that “the National Guard is stationed (less than) 2 miles away.”

Cross said he hoped leaders would step up to help make people realize the importance of social distancing, saying there is a need for someone who can “speak in basic, direct language people can readily understand and respond to.”

Pelham Memorial High School senior Sophie Xu, writing to her fellow seniors via a grade-level communication platform, asked them to make safe decisions, if not for their own sake, then for everyone else.

“The problem is never about one person or even a dozen having it, especially at our age,” Xu wrote. “The problem is the spread.”

“Please take this seriously because it concerns you,” she said.

Pelham Examiner staffer and senior Ellianna Bryan furthered Xu’s concerns in an opinion piece published Sunday, writing, “What we do or don’t do over the next few days will have a massive impact on our small community and the national trajectory of coronavirus.”

The government and at least some students and parents had one clear message as Pelham and the country attempt to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic: Avoid gatherings, for your sake and the health of everyone around you, or the medical consequences could be severe.