Whether at a field at a football stadium or even at a Farm Party, the potential for increased deaths due to exposure to the Covid-19 virus in Alabama had never been greater.
Dr. Suzanne Judd, a professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham‘s (UAB) School of Public Heath warned that hospitals could become overwhelmed under existing conditions. Al.com‘s Sarah White-Koditschek wrote that Judd said that death rates due to Covid-19 could be much higher than in the previous year, when masking and social distancing had been mandated. Judd said, “There were no concerts. There were no large sporting events that were not unmasked.”
Tuscaloosa News sports reporter Cecil Hurt wrote that football coach Nick Saban and the University of Alabama‘s Athletic Director Greg Byrne were promoting vaccinations, “in a state that isn’t paying much attention.” The lack of a statewide mandate on mask wearing, social distancing and vaccinations could make attending a football game unhealthy. There could be a 100% capacity at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Hurt observed, “A few things, like the long-running Fan Day, aren’t coming back, but the general attitude is that the tailgates and the crowds and the games and the atmosphere will be back in their old form.”
On July 29, 2021, Al.com‘s Ramsey Archibald wrote that “Alabama now has the highest COVID positivity rate in the United States. Al.com‘s Leada Gore reported that “only one Alabama county is considered to have a low enough COVID risk to fall below Centers for Disease Control and Prevention face covering thresholds.”
According to a July 29, 2021 article in The Washington Post by Yasmeen Abutaleb, Carolyn Y. Johnson and Joel Achenbach, the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines had actually stopped short of what an internal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention slide presentation had called for. Even then, the new CDC recommendations had said that everyone — vaccinated or not — should wear masks indoors in public settings.
In Forbes magazine Michael T. Nietzel wrote that every top university in America was requiring that students be vaccinated. In Science magazine H. Holden Thorp explained why colleges needed vaccine mandates. Thorp warned that during “a powerful cold and flu season this year as masks are removed and viruses come out of hibernation,” the lack of vaccinations could be disastrous.
So, imagine a college campus where large numbers of students are coughing and sneezing, and even bedridden with normal colds and flu. In the absence of a vaccine mandate, it will be impossible for the college to reassure staff, faculty, and local residents that there is not a major outbreak of COVID-19. Further, many of these students who are unvaccinated could very well have severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in addition to whatever else ails them. This could lead to closures or substantial restrictions that could have easily been avoided if a vaccine mandate were in place.
Vaccinations at the University of Alabama are not required.
On July 29, 2021 an update from UAB said that the school would “require face coverings indoors on campus – regardless of vaccine status.” (The state of Alabama‘s mask mandate had expired on April, 9, 2021. AARP‘s Andy Markowitz‘s article showed that Alabama was not alone.)
Other universities throughout the nation, where there were no state laws banning masks, were taking similar steps.
Birmingham Watch‘s Virginia MacDonald and Robert Carter reported that “Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson said he has recommended to local officials that they consider universal mask use.” Jason Morton in the Tuscaloosa News wrote that the Druid City Hospital Health System’s Chief Operating Officer Paul Betz had pleaded for increased vaccinations in the community. Morton reported, “This call for action in Tuscaloosa, where the fully vaccinated rate is 31%, is being made as the number of coronavirus inpatients at DCH Health System facilities continues to rise amid a nationwide nursing shortage.”
Will T-Town experience increased deaths and hospitalizations in the Fall? With low community vaccination rates and a lack of virus mitigating measures it would not seem unlikely.