The University of Alabama has reported 531 COVID-19 cases at its Tuscaloosa campus since classes resumed last week as the city’s mayor announced bar closures to stem the spread of the potentially deadly bug.
The school published a new Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus dashboard Monday, which showed that across the entire University of Alabama System (UAS)—including campuses in Birmingham and Huntsville—there were a total of 566 confirmed cases of the virus between students, faculty, and staff since Aug. 19.
“Over the past week, due to student behavior, we have seen a spike in the number of students who have sought re-testing because they became symptomatic or were exposed to a COVID-positive individual” said Dr. Selwyn Vickers, co-chair of the UAS Health and Safety Task Force, in a statement (pdf).
“That trend prompted the decision to take further steps to reduce the chance that the COVID- 19 virus will escalate dramatically,” he added.
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox on Monday issued an executive order (pdf) closing bars and bars inside restaurants until Sept. 8, noting their “unique risk for the spread of COVID-19 based upon the length of time people spend in close proximity indoors and the inability to wear a face covering while eating and drinking.”
Citing a “dramatic increase in positive COVID-19 students” since the University of Alabama resumed classes last week, Maddox said the restrictions are needed to protect the healthcare system capacity and to avoid having to cancel in-person learning on campus.
“The University of Alabama is a large economic engine for the City and a move to virtual classes for the fall semester of 2020 would devastate our local economy and spell disaster for our service industry establishments,” he wrote in the order, adding that university has taken steps to curb the spread of the virus that include canceling non-academic events, closing dining rooms, and restricting access to fraternity and sorority houses. The mayor added in a tweet that there is also a fear that the infection will now spread to vulnerable populations.
UAS Chancellor Finis St. John said all enrolled students have been tested for the CCP virus, with an aggregated positive percentage Systemwide of less than 1 percent.
“Our goal from the outset of the pandemic has been to develop a comprehensive health and safety plan that would enable our students, faculty, and staff to return to on-campus operations for the fall semester,” he said.
Kellee Reinhart, a spokesperson for UAS, said the dashboard would be updated weekly.