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 News‘ Yasmine 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.