Back to the Future?

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AL.com‘s Ramsey Archibald had reported on December 30, 2021: “The state continued its breakneck pace to close out 2021, and it seems Alabama will ring in the new year with an unprecedented COVID surge. Thursday’s record number of cases brought the state’s 7-day average to 3,628 new cases per day. That’s a 368% increase in cases since Dec. 21, just nine days ago.”

The University of Alabama (UofA) had finally responded to the new threat that the Omicron Covid variant poses. On January 3, 2022, a staff report “University of Alabama reinstates mask mandate for spring semester” was published in the Tuscaloosa News.

AL.com‘s Ruth Serven Smith on December 29, 2021, had written that both Auburn University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham would require universal masking when classes resume.

The UofA’s latest update had included this stipulation: “Unvaccinated individuals must continue to wear a mask indoors and in outdoor crowds.” It also had included: “College of Community Health Sciences Dean Dr. Ricky Friend continues to emphasize the effectiveness and importance of interventions like vaccinations, boosters, and wearing well-fitting masks in all public locations.”

It had been uncertain just how many UofA students had been fully vaccinated, much less had gotten boosters. The university’s Covid Dashboard had only provided the percentage of students who had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Other universities had responded to the the highly contagious Covid variants in various ways. Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Education had written about college campuses throughout the nation that had instituted remote learning:

Since the University of California campuses decided to move online, many other campuses have followed. Among them: Agnes Scott, Bellevue, Jarvis Christian, Morehouse, Rhodes and Spelman Colleges; American, Columbia, Emory, Gallaudet, Georgetown, George Washington, Hampton, Kean, Loyola Marymount, Marymount (Virginia), Michigan State, Oakland (of Michigan), Oakwood and Seattle Universities; and the Universities of Colorado at Boulder, Connecticut, Hawaii system (most classes), Miami and Pittsburgh.

Associated Press‘s Laura Unger had written: “People might mistakenly think the COVID-19 vaccines will completely block infection, but the shots are mainly designed to prevent severe illness. Doctors say to wear masks indoors, avoid crowds and get vaccinated and boosted. Even though the shots won’t always keep you from catching the virus, they’ll make it much more likely you stay alive and out of the hospital.”

A case in point about the inability of vaccines to block infection would have been the aftermath of the Bad Bunny performances in Puerto Rico, where more than 2,000 people tested positive for Covid after attending stadium concerts on December 10 and 11, 2021, as had been reported by Endi. According to Billboard‘s Jesssica Roiz, “organizers require[d] that all concert attendees show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or an official Vacu-Id provided by CESCO Digital. They have also implemented mandatory masks, even when on the field and during the concert. Those who don’t wear a mask will be removed from the event and fined $100.”

Many in T-Town may have had a legitimate concern about a repetition of last year’s celebration of Alabama‘s football team having won the College Football Playoff to become National Champions. On January 11, 2021, as reported by NBC NewsYasmine Salam: “Football fans flooded the streets of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to celebrate the University of Alabama’s championship win against Ohio State University on Monday night, despite increasing Covid-19 cases in Alabama as well as neighboring states.”

With there being an even more infectious Covid variant amidst a Covid surge, the prospect of unmasked, unvaccinated, or partially vaccinated celebrants in the streets seemed to be a trepidatious way to start 2022.

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4 thoughts on “Back to the Future?

  1. On January 4, 2022, Alabama State Health Officer Scott Harris gave a briefing. As reported by WFSA, Harris said, “It is spreading like wildfire,” noting that the virus will probably infect “everyone in the state” at some point.”

  2. Only KN95 or N95 masks are considered to be effective with the highly transmissible Omicron variant according to an article by Oyin Adedoyin in The Chronicle Of Higher Education. Louisiana State University and the University of Maryland require the use of KN95 or N95 masks.

  3. The Tuscaloosa News ran an article on anticipated crowds on the Strip during the National Championship game on January 10th, 2022.

    Jasmine Hollie wrote: “Tuscaloosa’s police chief says his department is prepared for a large crowd Monday night on the Strip as people gather to watch the University of Alabama play in college football’s national championship game.”

    She mentioned that last year’s crowd had been considered as a potential superspreader for COVID-19.

    “The celebration occurred during a spike in the COVID-19 pandemic, which raised concern across the country. Videos of the massive celebration on the Strip went viral on social media with many observers calling it a ‘super-spreader event.’

    “But in late January 2021, Maddox told media outlets that there had been no corresponding spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Tuscaloosa County after the celebration on the Strip.”

    Bloomberg Magazine on January 28, 2021, had run a article suggesting that a spike in cases might be attributed to the large crowd.

    “The Tuscaloosa jump has been particularly striking since the game — and the virus’ two-week incubation period, according to data from USAFacts, a nonprofit aggregator of government statistics that’s used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    “After the university’s football team beat Ohio State 52-24 on Jan. 11, fans streamed out of bars and homes, and a raucous and often maskless party raged in the area called the Strip.

    “Proving a definite connection to Alabama’s case increase is extremely difficult. Covid-19 has become so widespread in the U.S. that it’s hard to nail down discrete drivers of outbreaks, and there are limited contact-tracing capabilities to help.”

    With the highly contagious Omicron variant potentially at play, this year’s gathering on the Strip might well be be a different case.

  4. Many fans of the Crimson Tide were devastated that the football team didn’t win the National Championship on January, 10, 2022. Doubtlessly any post-game gathering on The Strip did not replicate the crowds who were there after the win in 2021.

    The University of Alabama sent a Tweet on January 11, 2022, that strongly encouraged fans to wear masks at athletic events.

    “Masks are strongly encouraged at Alabama Athletics events. We hope this is only for a short period of time. Indoor spaces are particularly challenging so thank you for helping to keep everyone safe on gameday!“

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