The University of Alabama on Monday reported that more than 550 people on campuses have tested positive for coronavirus since classes began less than a week earlier.
Of the 566 new cases at the University of Alabama’s campuses and facilities, 531 of them were reported in students, faculty and staff at the university’s main campus in Tuscaloosa, according to the school’s tracker, released Monday.
Those numbers don’t include the 310 students who tested positive before Wednesday, Aug. 19, upon returning to school at the Tuscaloosa campus.
Kellee Reinhart, senior vice-chancellor for communications and community relations at the university, told NBC News that “the University has an ample amount of quarantine space for COVID-positive students.”
“Many students have chosen to go home to recuperate,” she added.
Selwyn Vickers, dean of the School of Medicine at UAB and co-chair of the UA System Health and Safety Task Force, said that “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. That trend prompted the decision to take further steps to reduce the chance that the COVID- 19 virus will escalate dramatically.”
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox announced Monday that bars would be closed for two weeks, beginning Monday night. Restaurants would also have to eliminate bar service for two weeks. Alcohol can only be served at tables.
“The goal of all of these protocols is to keep our students on campus, and allow our classes to be delivered in that way, and by doing that we’re able to flatten this curve and move forward in our semester. This is a very dynamic situation. We value our students’ health, their ability to get the most out of their Tuscaloosa and Alabama experience,” University of Alabama President Stuart Bell said during a news conference.
Gov. Kay Ivey said she appreciated Maddox and University of Alabama leadership “tackling a serious problem as quickly as possible” and making “tough decisions.”
“As our students adjust to being back on campus, Tuscaloosa leaders and university officials are focused on helping to ensure their health and safety,” Ivey said. “If we do not act expeditiously, it leaves the potential for a situation to get out of hand, which would require even tougher, longer-lasting decisions to be enacted.”
Universities across the country have been struggling with bringing students back to campuses amid the coronavirus pandemic. Auburn University, also located in Alabama, reported 207 coronavirus cases for last week. Alabama has reported more than 110,000 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, and more than 2,000 deaths.