The University of Alabama has reported that 1,043 students at its Tuscaloosa campus tested positive to COVID-19 since the school started in-person classes on August 19. There were also over 150 cases at its Birmingham campus and 10 at its Huntsville campus as well. Mayor of Tuscaloosa, Walt Maddox, said the unprecedented number of infections at the university is a threat to the local economy.
The university has 38,000 students and their impacts on the local economy are very significant, Maddox hinted. He noted that with almost 1,300 coronavirus-infected students at the university, the healthcare and economy of the city may take a direct hit. This indicates that the communities surrounding the university may be at risk given that many of the students live off-campus and contribute to the local economy.
“We don’t know what the community spread maybe,” Maddox said. “We’re also talking about thousands of jobs that are at risk in our community if there aren’t in-person classes. There’s a lot on the line.”
As a first step to curtail the spread of the pandemic, the mayor ordered bars to be shut down for two weeks, while the university authorities equally suspended all physical students’ activities and limited attendance to Greek houses. Meanwhile, the authorities have provided facilities for quarantining positive students while contact tracing has commenced. As it stands, no student has been hospitalized as a result of the pandemic and the university said infection did not spread in classrooms.
“Our top priority at the University of Alabama is the safety of our students, faculty, and staff,” said Monica Watts, a university spokeswoman. “As we prepared for the fall semester, we developed one of the most comprehensive testing and entry programs in the nation. We continue to update the plan and fine-tune our strategies daily.”
Howard Forman, a public health professor at Yale University, expressed worries for the students at the University of Alabama, faculty staff, and workers, as well as the surrounding communities. A student, Amalia Halpin, said she is dropping out of the school because the university is converting her dorm to an isolation facility, and the same has been reported in other universities across the country.
With almost 180,000 already dead from coronavirus in the United States, more than 46,500 new infections were reported nationwide on Saturday alone.