A Tweet by the band Velcro Pygmies was widely circulated in social media in T-Town. Included in the Tweet was, “You’re being reckless. You’re going to get everyone killed.” That was a sentiment shared by many of the people who shared the Tweet.
According to Jason Morton in the Tuscaloosa News the city of Tuscaloosa had only just loosened up the rules for Tuscaloosa bars. “As college football season approaches and local hospitals are not yet overwhelmed by coronavirus patients, Tuscaloosa city leaders are taking steps to allow more business at bars and restaurants.”
Three days later, Tuscaloosa’s mayor Walt Maddox expressed concern over crowded bars. Al.com‘s Mike Cason‘s article “Mayor Walt Maddox says tighter enforcement needed for crowded Tuscaloosa bars” Cason wrote: “In August, Maddox shut down Tuscaloosa bars for two weeks to slow an increase in the spread of the virus on the University of Alabama campus. He announced that decision after discussions with UA officials.” He included Maddox‘s Tweet on Friday, September 26th which said that several bars had exceeded their occupancy limits and the city would have a “heavier presence tonight.” He identified Rhythm & Brews, where the Velcro Pygmies had played, as one of the bars that the city had received complaints about.
Tuscaloosa‘s approach to maintaining social distancing has been based on occupancy limits. Currently as many as 150 people can gather in bars, as the “Good News & Bad News” FSB recently explained.
It is remarkable how at Harvard University, rules for indoor events on campus limit the number to 25 people, stipulating “for indoor gatherings, participants should be limited to 25 and must also have no more than 8 people per 1000 sq feet accessible space; overall, we discourage any indoor gatherings at this time.” These regulations are based on Center for Disease Control and Prevention‘s (CDC) guidance. According to an article by the United State Fire Administration, the radius of the 6 feet (which is recommended by the CDC for social distancing) is equal to approximately 113 square feet per person.
Tuscaloosa‘s regulations based on occupancy limits obviously had no effect on social distancing at the Velcro Pygmie‘s performance at Rhythm and Brews. But such regulations, if based on the state’s order, are likely to be inadequate for restaurants as well. The state’s “Safer At Home” order states that “Insofar as such establishments offer on-premises consumption of food or drink, they shall limit the party size at tables to no more than eight persons and maintain at least six feet of separation between people seated at different tables, booths, chairs, or stools.” Because of anticipated difficulty in enforcing the required social distancing, the city established occupancy limits.
As soon as Tuscaloosa relaxed its rules on bars, there was a great deal of jubilation expressed at bars. In CBS/42 Tim Reid‘s article “Tuscaloosa bars hope to cash in on Alabama’s first game of the season,” it was reported:
Nick Snead is the manager at Innisfree Irish Pub. He admits many bars, including his, have struggled since March because of COVID-19. He is hoping he and his staff will have a busy day Saturday with lots of customers ready to watch college football.
“We know it’s not going to be what it should be during a normal season but, anything is better than nothing at this point. We get to see the kids, the kids get to enjoy football and that’s why we are here for the students and the city of Tuscaloosa,” Snead said. “We are here and open for them to have a place to come watch the game.”
In many areas of the country, such as Michigan and Florida, there has been much concern over the Coronavirus being spread by students. Nisa Khan of the Detroit Free Press wrote about the number of coronavirus cases at Michigan colleges creating spikes in Michigan counties. In Florida the Sun Sentinel‘s Cindy Krischer Goodman and Lois K Solomon wrote, “In Florida, the number of young people with coronavirus is soaring, driven by college towns where super-spreader students want to live normal lives and show no fear of getting sick.”
In Florida, the Herald Tribune‘s John Kennedy reported that Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis had dismissed the role of students and parties in spreading Coronavirus. He wrote:
On Thursday, DeSantis condemned as “draconian” the decision by Florida State University to suspend students who test positive for the virus but fail to isolate, or who attend or host large gatherings on or off campus. The policy was promoted by FSU President John Thrasher, a former Republican lawmaker and one-time head of the state Republican Party.
DeSantis, however, dismissed the impact of parties in spreading the virus, saying, “That’s what college kids do.”
Al.com‘s Michael Casagrande wrote about how Bryant-Denny Stadium would only allow “under 20,000 fans as part of the social distancing requirements.” Even though tail gating has been prohibited on campus, there is no way to predict the number of football fans who will converge on T-Town for the Alabama-Texas A&M game. Those attending the game will probably socially distance and wear masks before entering the stadium. But during and after the game on October 3rd, it is questionable if they will. Just how many off-campus house parties, before and after the game, will take place is also unknown.
In its Tweet, the Velcro Pygmies band documented how people in bars can ignore rules on social distancing. It could reasonably be asked if the first home game for the Crimson Tide in T-Town will turn out to be a super-spreader event?