The city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama is shutting down its bars and restaurants, effective immediately, following a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases at the University of Alabama. Since the school reopened five days ago, there have been 566 new cases of COVID-19, reported CBS. Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox announced that the unprecedented uptick in coronavirus cases could threaten Tuscaloosa’s healthcare system and its local economy if it goes unchecked.
If COVID-19 cases at the school don’t start dropping, the city can’t afford to keep the university open and students will return to remote learning. "The truth is that fall in Tuscaloosa is in serious jeopardy," Maddox told CBS. University officials agreed. "The rise in COVID cases that we've seen in recent days is unacceptable and if unchecked threatens our ability to complete the semester on campus," Stuart Bell, University of Alabama President told CBS.
These new cases don’t even include students who tested positive for COVID-19 when they initially arrived at school. All U of A students were tested upon reentry to campus, and the university reported on August 19th that 310 students tested positive. The on-campus COVID-19 tracker shows that there have been 566 new cases since then. That’s almost 900 positive cases in less than a week in a very small city, y’all.
How did the 'rona spread so fast in Tuscaloosa? Well, social media suggests that the problem was probably partying. David Byrne, the athletic director at University of Alabama posted a Twitter pic on August 16th — before classes even began — that shows students spilling out of a bar in Tuscaloosa with the plea, “Who wants college sports this fall?? Obviously not these people.”
Love of Crimson Tide, the school’s beloved football team is the stuff that Hollywood movies are made of, literally. College sports are basically a religion in the deep south, and while I am unsurprised that students might put themselves at risk to party, I am a little shocked that they might do anything that could disrupt the football season.
It’s easy to blame students for this surge in COVID-19 cases, but the truth is that the brains of 18-21 year olds are still developing. It definitely doesn’t help that the University of Alabama is steeped in conformity demanding greek culture, and that sororities and fraternities have been organizing 100 person group photo shoots amid the pandemic.
“We encountered many students who have been exposed since returning to campus, particularly in the Greek system," Ricky Friend, dean of college of community health sciences at U of A, told CBS. Here’s to hoping that students get to chant their “Roll Tide” mantra from their classrooms and not their hospital beds this year.