“Safely” reopening T-Town

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It’s an entirely new ball game in T-Town now. Alabama’s Governor Ivy updated the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH)’s “Safer at Home” order.

City of Tuscaloosa’s Mayor Walt Maddox repealed the April 28th Executive Order that adopted the Reopen Tuscaloosa plan, as reported by Jason Morton in the Tuscaloosa News.

Now restaurants, bars and other businesses can operate under restricted conditions.

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There already have been cases of the patrons at bars not observing the ADPH’s order.

Mayor Walt Maddox Tweeted his concerns.

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He was joined by the West Alabama’s Chamber of Commerce Jim Page:

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Some University of Alabama students have returned to Tuscaloosa already.  Of course some never left. Many had legitimate reasons, including concerns over moving back to a hometown that has been more heavily affected by the Coronavirus than Tuscaloosa. Some students who have come back to Tuscaloosa, even before the University has laid out its specific plans about on-campus learning, were doubtlessly bored. In off campus neighborhoods students have been observed in violation of the ADPH orders. Now that bars have been reopened there will doubtlessly be additional problems.

There have been repeated violations of fire codes due to overcrowding at bars that cater to students. There may be some kind of appeal to many people of the idea of being packed like sardines into a smokey bar. More so than restaurants and other businesses, bars and “hybrid bar/restaurants” have thrived on crowded conditions.

South Korea, which has been exemplary in combating the spread of the Cononavirus, had to walk back its plans after a spike in cases was largely attributed to the reopening of bars and nightclubs. Its capitol Seoul ordered the closure of all clubs and bars over concerns of a second coronavirus wave of infections.

The University has formed a task force to look into what kind of learning environment should exist on campus when the school reopens. Off-campus behavior is an entirely different matter. There are legitimate concerns over returning students undoing the efforts that have been taken by Tuscaloosa residents to “flatten the curve” of Coronavirus cases.

Sophia McCollough reported for San Diego’s 7-NBC that the University of California is implementing a “ground breaking coronavirus testing program for roughly 65,000 of its students, staff and faculty.”

One permanent resident of Tuscaloosa has reservations about the efficacy of such testing if it occurred at the University. “Let’s assume 25,000 students return to UA from all over the world. They would need to quarantine completely for two weeks in order to assure they didn’t bring the virus to campus.”

She said that “testing only gives a snapshot of the persons health at the moment of the test.” Furthermore, “Once tested, a person can be infected the next moment if they come in contact with someone. It almost gives a false sense of security which I think is not helpful. Especially with students who will think a negative test is a license to go back to their usual routines.” She added that “monitoring fever and continuing social distances is the best we will be able to do until there is a treatment. That would mean no sorority rush, no parties, limiting class sizes. And many other precautions.”

Whether the University of Alabama’s football team will return to Bryant Denny Stadium, along with tailgating on the Quad, has yet to be decided. The University must make any kind of commitment at least six weeks before the season would normally begin, in order to adequately prepare.

Neil Paine in FiveThirtyEight wrote about what it likely would take for sports fans to feel safe. He based his conclusions on national polls that had been conducted. Many fans felt that the virus must be controlled before the resumption of any games. Some people actually favored games being played in empty stadiums or arenas without fans.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has claimed that football is the ‘perfect set up for spreading’ COVID-19 virus. Al.com‘s Mark Heim wrote that “Dr. Anthony Fauci believes if the season were scheduled to start today, it would ‘impossible’ to play football.”

Some Crimson Tide fans would likely be willing to risk their lives and the lives of other fans and football players in order to have things returning to normal with a stadium full of over 100,000 people screaming “Roll Tide.” And the impact on Tuscaloosa’s economy of a truncated or cancelled season would be significant.

Just what steps the City of Tuscaloosa can take to enforce the ADPH’s orders will be a matter for its legal department to determine. A question may remain about the capacity of its police force to handle the much greater than normal public safety burden. Perhaps a joint effort in terms of communication and law enforcement between the city and the University can be made? The jurisdictions of town and gown now seem more blurred than ever before.






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