Maybe what T-Town may have dodged might be better characterized as shotgun pellets, rather than a bullet.
The crowd of thousands that gathered on The Strip to celebrate the University of Alabama‘s football team’s National Championship could be considered a “super-spreader” event. People on The Strip after the game were shouting at the top of their lungs and packed together like sardines on January 11th, 2021. There have been many documented incidents of groups of only hundreds, such as wedding parties, that have caused Coronavirus infections in a community.
Jason Morton‘s reported in his article in the Tuscaloosa News “COVID-19 cases hold steady in Tuscaloosa one week after title celebration”:
So far, no community spikes in COVID-19 infections related to last week’s celebration of the University of Alabama’s latest football national championship have been reported at local hospitals.
But, Mayor Walt Maddox said on Tuesday, this potentially could change in the coming days.
On the week following the celebration in the street there was an uptick in hospitalizations at DCH with a new high of 199 coronavirus inpatients, as the Patch‘s Ryan Phillips reported. Whether that would become a trend was not known.
Martin Andersen, an assistant professor of economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, in September 2020, co-authored a paper that linked community Covid-19 cases to college reopenings. Jillian Berman in Market Watch quoted him as having said:
“We’re sitting on a powder keg right now, between these new, more contagious variants of COVID-19 that are circulating, everyone having gone home for the winter break and having come back. We’re already in a bad situation and this has a risk of making it extremely bad.”
Such a study may have been one of the reasons why a labor union at the University of Alabama was so concerned about the student celebration. In the University of Alabama‘s student newspaper The Crimson White, Grace Schlepis and Javon Williams reported:
UA Provost James Dalton announced a remote learning option for the first two weeks of the semester after Monday night’s championship celebration was deemed a possible superspreader event by Alabama health officials.
After Monday night’s events, United Campus Workers (UCW), a labor union representing UA employees, emailed Dalton and UA President Stuart Bell on Tuesday to demand a remote learning option.
The University said in a statement on Tuesday that the spread of the virus is “almost nonexistent” in classrooms.
In its most recent meeting, Faculty Senate President Rona Donahoe reported that 90% of COVID cases were contracted off campus.
Bell later said the gatherings on The Strip “underscore[d] the need for continued vigilance and caution by every member of our community.”
UCW said that Monday night’s crowds “suggest that it is inevitable last night’s celebrations could lead to a local spike in new COVID-19 cases both within the City of Tuscaloosa and on our campus”
The nature of the Coronavirus is that college aged people have milder cases of the disease as pointed out in John Hopkins Medicine‘s Health bulletin. They are less likely to be hospitalized because of COVID-19 or to die from it. But they are also more likely to transmit the virus than others.
Seventy-five percent of students at the University of Alabama live off-campus. Only those who lived in dorms or fraternity houses on campus were required by the University to participate in Spring 2021 Reentry Testing. Since a large number of the students who participated in the championship celebration lived in student apartments near The Strip, they had likely not been tested. Perhaps fortune shined on T-Town and in that crowd of people, many of whom who had just returned from various cities in the United States, there were no Covid-19 carriers. However if there were Covid infected students, the extent of their proximity to people living in the community could be eventually reflected in hospital statistics.
3 thoughts on “Did T-Town dodge a Covid bullet?”
The University has only mandated testing of returning on-campus students, which only consist of 25% of the student body. Whether the rise in cases since the Strip event that has been reported truly reflects the number of student cases is not certain.
Ryan Phillips (The Patch): “The University of Alabama System says 205 students enrolled at the University of Alabama’s Tuscaloosa campus tested positive for the coronavirus from Jan. 13-21, following the beginning of the spring semester and in-person instruction last week. Along with the new student virus cases, 22 faculty and staff also tested positive during this time.
“‘UA System data consistently reflects increases in employee and student positive cases during campus closures, signifying there is greater safety on-campus than in the community,’ the system said in its COVID-19 Dashboard update on Friday. ‘The number of positive cases has dropped significantly since the resumption of on-campus activities. We continue to test all members of the campus community, whether on- or off-campus, who request the procedure.’
“What’s more, the university system also claims record numbers of off-campus positive cases over the holiday break showed that experts correctly predicted post-Thanksgiving and winter break surges.”
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