The Bama Covid Experience 2021

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In May, 2020 a FranklinStoveBlog post “A Bama Covid Experience” dealt with how the University of Alabama would reopen in August, 2020.

A national public heath emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic had been declared in February 2020.

In March University of Alabama President Dr. Stuart R. Bell announced that the University had a Spring semester completion plan, which included no further person-to-person classroom instruction. Students were told not to return to the campus after Spring Break. The plan stated that:

Residence halls and Greek residential houses are closed. Recreation facilities are also closed. Dining halls, food courts, libraries and other services will not be readily available.

In order to provide for further social distancing, a staggered plan to retrieve your belongings from the residence halls and Greek houses is being developed and will be communicated at a later date. Students are not authorized to return to campus outside of this plan and any who show up without authorization will not be accommodated.

After the Spring semester had ended, there were unsubstantiated rumors of Covid parties that students participated in during the summer of 2020. There had been, as a consequence, a good deal of uncertainty about what it would be like when thousands of students returned to campus.

In the Fall of 2020, “every student and employee was required to be tested for COVID-19 and receive a negative result before returning to campus for the fall semester or participating in any campus activity.” Less than 1% had positive results out of the 25,000 University of Alabama students who had been tested as of August 16th. Many T-Town residents were relieved by such low figures.

But after classes resumed on August 19th, there was an an explosion of Coronavirus cases. CNN reported that “more than 1,000 students at the University of Alabama have tested positive for Covid-19 since classes resumed on the Tuscaloosa campus less than two weeks ago.”

On August 24th, there had been a two week closure of bars in Tuscaloosa. Montgomery Advertiser‘s Melissa Brown reported, that in less than 72 hours after school had resumed classes, the University’s President Stuart Bell announced that he was “deeply disappointed” in student behavior. Bell issued new campus directives that restricted student behavior.

Football games were played in Bryant Denny Stadium with a reduced seating capacity along with mask requirements. Other sports events were held under similar conditions.

A proposed Kappa Delta Farm Party was cancelled in November 2020, due to concerns about Covid-19.

The University conducted a Sentinel Testing program which involved the random sampling of all asymptomatic students, faculty and staff. (Other schools frequently tested all students on a mandatory basis.) A March 2021 article by Meghan Schiano in the University’s student newspaper The Crimson White reported that there had been “a record low number of COVID-19 cases among employees […] and another week of low student cases.”

An article in the Crimson White by Javon Williams provided information on the upcoming 2021 Fall Semester at the University. He reported that students returning to the campus would not be tested. There would be person to person instruction, without classroom occupancy limits. No mask requirements were planned for the Fall. The football stadium would be full. Williams wrote:

A transition to remote learning after last year’s spring break marked the beginning of more than a year of lasting impact. Now, as the statewide mask mandate has been lifted and vaccines become available for students, faculty and staff, the University is adapting its safety policies.

KMIZ/ABC17‘s Meghan Drakas was among the many who have reported that some colleges may require that students be vaccinated. She said, “Colleges and universities across the county have started to announce coronavirus vaccine mandates for students attending classes.”

Kaiser Health News reported:

The number of colleges and universities that will require students be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 is suddenly escalating. In just the last few days, Duke University, Brown, Northeastern University, the University of Notre Dame, Syracuse University and Ithaca College all announced that students returning to campus in the fall must be fully vaccinated before the first day of class.

Every year, colleges across the country require students to get vaccinations for diseases such as Measles and Tetanus. Now, one year into the coronavirus pandemic, vaccines against the virus are becoming available for college-age students.

In April, 2021, only 15% of the residents of Tuscaloosa County were reported by USAToday to have been fully vaccinated. Herd immunity was thought to achievable only when 75-80% of the population had been vaccinated. (UAB‘s Dr. Suzanne Judd‘s idea of achieving herd immunity in May, 2021, was considered to be wildly optimistic. But more recently she elaborated on her position. See comments below.) T-Town has a population of over 100,000. There are approximately 30,000 university students living in the community. Even in the unlikely scenario that 75-80% percent of its permanent residents are vaccinated, there will potentially be tens of thousands of student residents from throughout the country and world who are not vaccinated.

There was a legitimate concern about public safety in T-Town, with thousands of unvaccinated University students no longer wearing masks and gatherings such as the Farm Party becoming commonplace. Many people in T-Town were apprehensive about just what the new iteration of Bama Covid experience would be like.

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5 thoughts on “The Bama Covid Experience 2021

  1. Whatever happened to Dr Suzanne Judd’s claim that herd immunity would be achieved in May? In an article by Virginia Martin in Birmingham Watch, is one of the “major events” that Judd is worried about The A-Day Game, where the stadium capacity for the game has been set at 50 percent, or about 50,000 fans?

    “UAB School of Public Health professor Suzanne Judd said vaccinated people could feel confident returning to their pre-pandemic lifestyles when the rate of cases drops to 5 per 100,000. That is likely to happen when 70% of the population of the state, or about 3.5 million people, has immunity to the novel coronavirus.

    “It will be September to October before Alabama hits 70% immunity from vaccines, Judd said. The state could reach that level in June or so if people who have had the disease are included in the count. However, evidence shows that having the disease confers immunity for only three to nine months, Judd said, so the true level of immunity in June will be questionable.

    “The concept of ‘herd immunity’ has gotten a lot of attention since the pandemic began. But Judd said the country is unlikely to achieve true herd immunity when it comes to COVID. An example of herd immunity would be the measles, according to Judd. The vast majority of people have been vaccinated, and cases are rare. When a case does occur, outbreaks tend to be small and isolated.

    “Judd also said that several large-scale events set for this weekend have her nervous. The state isn’t anywhere near any definition of a group immunity at this point, she said. For every 1,000 people at a gathering, at least one person has COVID, she said.

    “So she’s concerned that returning to major events now could cause another spike in cases, which would delay the progress the state has made.

    “Alabamians are being urged to continue wearing masks through the summer and to continue social distancing until they have had both vaccinations plus two weeks, the minimum period of time it takes for the vaccines to become fully effective.”

  2. Was the A-Day football game on April 17, 2021, a harbinger of future nonchalance over safety precautions. The Tuscaloosa News reported, “Saturday’s attendance of 47,218 is the highest at any U.S. sporting event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Yahoo! Sports.”

    Most of the fans didn’t wear face masks, regardless of the fact that the Alabama football A-Day 2021 fan guide stated; “Facial coverings are required for entry into the stadium and to be worn at all times except when eating or drinking.”

    UAB’s epidemiologist Suzanne Judd had just warned about large gatherings, saying for “every 1,000 people at a gathering, at least one person has COVID.”

    The CDC had issued its advice about how unsafe it would be for fully vaccinated people to attend medium or large gatherings. The CDC said that fully vaccinated people should continue to wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet apart from others, and avoid crowds.

    In the Fall, with the stadium packed with 100,000 fans, things will likely be worse. The idea that herd immunity will have been established in Alabama by September is based on wishful thinking.

  3. UAB‘s Dr. Suzanne Judd clarified her statement about the possibility of herd immunity being arrived at by September. WBRC/6‘s Lauren Jackson reported that Judd said that the 70% needed to reach herd immunity would only be likely obtainable if all residents of Alabama, twelve and older were vaccinated.

    “We actually really need to get the population as young as 12 at least 70% vaccinated,” Judd said. “That’s what gets us to herd immunity and that piece will be critical. Now that is out of our hands, that is in the FDA’s hands, but we really need this vaccine to be taken up by at least 70% of the population that is 12 and older.”

  4. A post on the Tuscaloosa Police Department‘s Facebook page included an image taken from an elevated police tower of the large crowd that had aggregated on Saturday night on the Strip after the A-Day game. It was reminiscent of the images taken after the National Championship game. The street was so overcrowded by midnight that the crowd was dispersed. The game took place in the middle of the day. The young people who were shown in the image were packed together like sardines and were not wearing masks. Will this be a typical situation on gamedays in the Fall?

    Al.com‘s Carol Robinson reported on the weekend’s activity.

    From the TPD Facebook post:

    “Over the weekend, Tuscaloosa Police stationed multiple officers on the University Strip to patrol anticipated crowds following the University of Alabama’s A-Day game.

    “Overcrowding prompted Chief Brent Blankley to order people to leave the area, which was already closed to vehicle traffic as part of game day operations.

    “Everyone on the street was required to either go inside a business or leave. Section 17-152 of Tuscaloosa’s municipal code gives the police chief the authority to close streets to maintain public order and safety. Video posted and shared widely on social media this morning shows officers breaking up the crowd around midnight.”

  5. Pingback: The Bama Covid Experience 2021 Redux | franklinstoveblog

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