Could Alabama basketball superfan Luke “Fluffopotamus” Ratliff have been looking down from heaven during the Crimson Tide‘s opening basketball game?
In the Tuscaloosa News, Daniella Medina reported that: “Alabama basketball will honor Ratliff, who died April 2 of complications related to COVID-19, at its season opening double-header on Nov. 9 with a tribute and the presentation of a plaid jacket to the new Crimson Chaos president, the university said in a press release. The tradition will continue in Ratliff’s honor.”
Basketball fans might have better honored Ratliff by wearing plaid face masks.
The Crimson White‘s (CW) Ainsley Platt wrote that on November 5, 2021, that the University of Alabama would no longer require masks for vaccinated individuals on campus. Platt wrote:
While many students celebrated the announcement, some faculty members voiced concerns. Rebecca Britt, an associate professor in the College of Communication and Information Sciences, pointed out the difficulty of enforcing a mask mandate that only applies to those who are unvaccinated.
“I don’t approve of the mask mandate being lifted,” Britt said. “UA states that unvaccinated individuals will still be required to wear a mask indoors or during outdoor activities with close contact, but how will they be checking that? It’s not been clear from the University what the guidance is on that. Although I’m vaccinated, I’ll still be wearing a mask, because I’m not confident in the University’s policies, and I feel I need to do my small part in protecting community health.”
62% of the university’s students had, as of November 1, 2021, received at least one dose. (The percentage of fully vaccinated students at the University of Alabama had not been provided on the University of Alabama System‘s dashboard.) The state of Alabama‘s legislature had outlawed “vaccination passports” on May 17, 2021, as reported by Associated Press‘s Kim Chandler. Basketball fans had been allowed to forgo masks on a good faith basis.
Even while masks had been required to be worn indoors at the university, some students may not have complied. In Platt‘s CW article a student was quoted as having said about the new policy: “I’m excited about it. I think it was past due, and a lot of people in my classes stopped wearing them anyway, so even my teachers were not wearing them. It was tiring to have to remember to carry a mask around.”
The scientific basis for the University’s decision might have been considered dubious. The Lancet published an article about how vaccinated people can still spread the virus:
Vaccination reduces the risk of delta variant infection and accelerates viral clearance. Nonetheless, fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections have peak viral load similar to unvaccinated cases and can efficiently transmit infection in household settings, including to fully vaccinated contacts. Host–virus interactions early in infection may shape the entire viral trajectory.
And the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had warned that in areas where there were low vaccination rates the wearing of masks was advisable:
Risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, severe disease, and death is reduced for fully vaccinated people. However, since vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing infection, some people who are fully vaccinated will still get COVID-19 infection. Fully vaccinated people who do become infected can transmit it to others. Therefore, fully vaccinated people can further reduce their risk of becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2 and transmitting it to others by wearing a mask indoors in public in areas of substantial or high community transmission.
Many universities had been requiring measures to mitigate exposure at basketball games. Schools that had been requiring proof of vaccinations or mask wearing included Gonzaga, Duke, Xavier, UNLV, St. Bonaventure, Vanderbilt, Nevada and Wichita State.
The Nashville Post‘s Michael Gallagher wrote that at Vanderbilt “either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test (or negative antigen test) at least 72 hours before each game will be required for entry to any men’s or women’s basketball games for fans age 12 and older.”
Louisville fan Ed Rosen said in an article by the Louisville Courier Journal‘s Hayes Gardner that he would wear a mask in Yum Center:
“It’s too chancy,” he said of packed crowds, particularly indoors. “When you’re sitting in a crowd like that, with people right up on you, not knowing whether they’ve been vaccinated, not knowing whether they’re asymptomatic or anything else, and they’re screaming and yelling … I just don’t feel that that’s a chance that’s appropriate for me to take.”
Perhaps enshrining Ratliff’s former seat in Coleman Coliseum had been an appropriate way to honor Luke Ratliff? As far as mask wearing was concerned, few fans wore masks. But several fans sported plaid jackets. Having taken steps to prevent the spread of Covid would’ve been much more of a tribute to its loyal fan.