By Alexandria Hoff

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) — A state of emergency went into effect Friday night in West Chester. What a state of emergency does is expand the powers of local leadership — the mayor in this case — in an effort to reduce transmission rates. This emergency declaration went into effect at 6 p.m. Friday and will last at least the next seven days.

It looks like a festive Friday in downtown West Chester — not quite a state of emergency, but that’s exactly what the borough is now under.

“The rate of infections reported to the Chester County Department of Health over the past 30 days doubled in comparison to the entire prior six-month period,” Mayor Dianne Herrin said.

This spike in COVID-19 cases — mainly among 18 to 22-year-olds living in rental communities — has prompted Herrin to issue the emergency declaration.

“I am putting in two basic measures,” Herrin said. “The one is to limit gatherings to 10 people or less at private residences, both inside and out.”

The other requirement is that all those in the borough must wear a face covering when within six feet of non-family members and when inside any building open to the public.

All known violations will be met with a $300 fine by the West Chester Police Department. This is the first time officers were explicitly instructed to enforce such fines.

“Our police department has observed down in certain areas of our community large gatherings in very close contact without masks,” Herrin said.

Of course, the borough is home to West Chester University, which provided Eyewitness News with a statement reading, in part, “When the first emergency order restricting gatherings in Chester County expired in March, the University continued to enforce police citations for disorderly conduct and our Office of Student Conduct followed-up immediately when details were shared about mask wearing or social distancing. Now that another emergency declaration has just been imposed in our area, the University will support and strictly enforce it.”

West Chester University added that when students enroll in classes, they’re agreeing to abide by local, state and federal guidelines.

Alexandria Hoff