A CLOSER LOOK: Universities across Alabama dealing with COVID-19 surge

A Closer Look

University of Alabama website photo.

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — University of Alabama (UA) students returned to campus on August 19 for the fall semester amid the pandemic. In the first week, COVID-19 cases increased at a quick clip.

On Friday, August 21, UA’s President Stuart Bell sent a message about the virus and harsh consequences at other universities, “which have been forced to close abruptly because safety protocols were not followed.”

Bell sent another message on Wednesday, August 26, about wearing masks in class, at home, or out in the city and social distancing, in order to have a successful semester. “These measures … are mandatory. Those who ignore them will face significant consequences, including suspension.

More than 25,000 students did the required COVID-19 testing and yielded a less than 1% positivity rate on August 16, according to UA’s Communications Department. However, in a matter of days, UA had 568 cases, and that campus was not alone.

The university is aware of the spike in cases and has a plan to hopefully mitigate the situation.

“All metrics will be monitored continuously by our Situational Response Team, which includes individuals with epidemiological, medical, and operational expertise, and who will rely on the medical and other experts working with the UA System Health & Safety Task Force.”

UA Associate VP for Communications Monica Watts

According to the New York Times COVID-19 tracking data at U.S. Colleges and Universities, three of the top five universities for COVID-19 cases are in Alabama.

  • University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), 531 (NYT reports 972 cases which includes medical school, medical center, teaching hospital or clinical setting).
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 835
  • University of Central Florida, 727
  • University of Alabama, 568
  • Auburn University, 557

In recording the data, the NYT states the survey is comprehensive — but it is an undercount. “Among the colleges contacted by The Times, many published case information online or responded to requests for case numbers, but at least 600 others ignored inquiries or refused to answer questions. More than 150 have reported zero cases.”

The Mayor of Tuscaloosa has temporarily closed the city’s bars in order to hopefully curb the spread. The Executive Order began last week.

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox

Auburn University had 203 cases for the week ending August 21. The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) had 531 cases as of August 19. And, there are at least seven four-year universities that do not report COVID-19 data in Alabama:

  • University of North Alabama
  • Samford University (posts some data)
  • Alabama A&M University
  • University of West Alabama
  • Auburn University at Montgomery
  • Alabama State University
  • Athens State University

ARKANSAS SCHOOLS AND COVID-19

Arkansas Secretary of Education Johnny Key said updates for new case numbers in the state’s public, private and higher education system will be provided on Mondays and Thursdays.

There are 480,000 students across the state, per Governor Asa Hutchinson.

There are 222 confirmed cases (the total reflects districts with five or more cases) in public school districts, and 41 active cases in colleges and universities.

ARKANSAS UNIVERSITIES

The University of Arkansas reports 15 new cases after just re-opening on Monday, August 24. By Friday, August 28, there are 52 new cases, according to UARK’s COVID-19 dashboard, bringing the total to 98 since the school began tracking data on August 10. The NYT lists Arkansas universities with active cases.

  • Southern Arkansas University, 47 cases
  • Arkansas State University, 7 cases
  • Arkansas Tech University, 6 cases
  • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, 4 cases
  • University of Arkansas Community College Rich Mountain, 2 cases

SIDE NOTE: The University of Arkansas Razorbacks hosts UA Crimson Tide on December 5, according to the Southeastern Conference (SEC) schedule, as of now.

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