State health leaders react to rise in COVID-19 cases on college campuses

Updated: Sep. 1, 2020 at 10:25 PM CDT
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - So far, the University of Alabama System reports over 1,000 positive COVID-19 cases among students in Tuscaloosa since August 19.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris calls it unfortunate and says colleges can control a lot of things like the classroom experience and, to some degree, the dorm and athletic experiences.

“There’s also a lot of things that are not within their control and I’ve seen some of the same images of lots of people disregarding distancing and face coverings,” Dr. Harris said.

Because of the rise in COVID cases, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox ordered bars shut down for at least two weeks to try and slow the spread. Harris calls that the right move.

Dr. Harris’ message to students going forward is pretty much the same message he and other health experts have been saying for the past six months.

“The very fact that colleges are open again and other things are open again gives people a false sense of security. Really what we need people to do is change their behavior and that’s not just a decision you make one time and it takes care of it. It’s something you have to do all day long everyday, 100 times a day, you got to think about what choices you’re making,” Harris said.

The UA System says the positive cases do not include entry testing and tells us so far, none of the students are in the hospital. We should get an update on where cases stand in Tuscaloosa and other campuses later this week.

UA’s president warns that those who fail to follow health protocols will face serious consequences.

So far, UA has issued more than 400 conduct referrals for COVID-19 violations and in some cases, people were removed from campus.

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