More than 1,000 students at the University of Alabama’s Tuscaloosa campus have tested positive for COVID-19 since in-person classes resumed, according to the latest update to the college’s live dashboard.
On Friday, the university reported 492 new cases linked to students across its three campuses between Aug. 25 and 27. While the Tuscaloosa campus makes up the bulk of the cases (481), there are nine student cases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and one student case at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. The university said that no students have been hospitalized as of Friday.
“We have the most robust testing regimen of any entity in the state, giving us a clear picture of virus spread and informing our decisions. Fortunately, our isolation occupancy is below capacity, and the number will be adjusted as students complete the isolation period,” University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis St. John said in a statement. “We are closely monitoring our data daily, and we will continue to adjust operations as the situation warrants.”
Dr. Ricky Friend, the dean of the College of Community Health Sciences, noted that there was “no evidence of virus transmission due to in-person class instruction.”
“We remain satisfied that the precautions implemented prior to the resumption of classes – including masking, distancing, and a blend of in-person and remote instruction – are appropriate and effective,” Friend added.
The city of Tuscaloosa closed bars for two weeks and suspended bar service at restaurants after the spike in cases at the university.
“We remain concerned that off-campus transmission is our greatest risk, which is why we asked Mayor Maddox to consider that action,” St. John added. “We thank him for making that difficult decision to protect our campus community and Tuscaloosa.”
The university added that the benefits of the bar closing measures will “not be reflected in testing data for several more days” due to it taking “several days after exposure for an individual to test positive.”
The University of Alabama is the latest college to struggle with an increase in cases following its decision to bring students back to campus for the fall semester.
In addition to the University of Alabama, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Central Florida have all reported spikes in cases. Meanwhile, both Towson University and North Carolina State have made the decision to move all classes online.
Maddox noted in the order that the University of Alabama is “a large economic engine” for the city and that a potential move to virtual classes could “devastate our local economy and spell disaster for our service industry establishments.”
According to the state health department, there are more than 115,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,000 coronavirus-related deaths. In Tuscaloosa County, there are more than 5,000 cases and 89 coronavirus-related deaths.