More than 1,200 students test positive for coronavirus at the University of Alabama – but professors are told NOT to tell them if classmates are infected
- The University of Alabama reported more than 1,200 students have coronavirus
- In three days this week, 481 new coronavirus cases were reported among students and school staff and employees
- Students were took coronavirus tests prior to moving onto campus and those with positive results were barred from moving in
- The school said students were exposed to the virus after returning to campus ‘particularly in the Greek system’
- As part of measures to slow the spread of coronavirus on campus and in the city, Tuscaloosa’s mayor shut down bars for two weeks
- Students said that student quarantine measures aren’t really being enforced
- Professors said they received emails warning them against revealing to students that they’re classmates tested positive for coronavirus
The University of Alabama has had more than 1,200 students and 166 employees and staffers test positive for coronavirus as of Saturday, while professors have revealed they were instructed not to tell students about outbreaks among their classmates.
Since launching a coronavirus tracking dashboard – which is similar in style to those used by state health departments – on August 24, UA students’ positive virus test results have more than doubled.
In just three days, between August 25 and August 27, UA has reported 481 new coronavirus cases among students and school staff and employees.
The University of Alabama has had more than 1,200 positive coronavirus cases among students and faculty and employees. A student is seen moving onto campus on August 15
As part of measures to slow down the spread of coronavirus on campus and in the city, Tuscaloosa’s mayor shut down bars for two weeks beginning August 24. Patrons without masks are seen gathering at a bar near campus on August 15
Between August 25 to 27, 481 new coronavirus cases on UA’s campus were reported, according to the school system’s new coronavirus tracking database
Emails reviewed by the Daily Beast, however, showed that at least some of the school’s professors received instructions telling them that they were not allowed to tell students in their classes if one of their fellow co-eds tested positive for coronavirus.
According to those emails, the professors were told that revealing students had coronavirus could be a HIPAA violation, even if discussing it in general terms, and that students who tested positive weren’t being considered an exposure risk if masks were worn and social distancing was followed.
The coronavirus tracking dashboard includes positive testing results from the three schools under the University of Alabama System: UA, located in Tuscaloosa; the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
The Daily Beast reported that the dashboard was the result of students and faculty lobbying for more transparency about specific numbers of positive coronavirus infections on campus, but the school told the news outlet that the dashboard had always been in the works.
According to a Friday press release issued by the UA System, ‘At this point, no COVID-positive students at UA, UAB or UAH are hospitalized and there is a high overall vacancy rate (70+%) in UA System isolation spaces.’
People are seen with and without masks on The Strip, the University of Alabama’s bar scene on August 15. More than 20,000 students have returned to the school’s campus
People line up outside to wait for limited access indoors to order food on August 15
Students are seen in the shade on campus on August 15. Students began moving back onto campus in early August, with classes starting August 19
Despite this, UA president Stuart Bell has said during a press conference this week, according to ABC News, that ‘The rise we’ve seen in recent days is unacceptable, and if unchecked, threatens our ability to complete the rest of the semester on campus.’
He added ‘Now is the time for action.’
Students were allowed to being moving onto the UA campus in early August, after signing up for time and day slots to encourage social distancing, which classes starting up again on August 19.
Students were required to take coronavirus tests prior to the semester starting. Of the 29,938 students tested, only 310 people came back with positive results. Those with positive test results were not allowed onto campus.
However, it appears that since returning to campus, coronavirus has started spreading among students, as students began living in dorms or attending pre-semester events held by Greek houses.
‘We encountered many students who have been exposed since returning to campus, particularly in the Greek system,’ Dean of the College of Community Health Sciences at UA, Dr. Ricky Friend, said on August 24, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
He noted that ‘The trend continued throughout the week and now has reached levels that require a significant intervention.’
Social media photos taken by students at the Tuscaloosa campus have shown crowds and lines at bars in the city, prompting its mayor, Walt Maddox, to shut down the bars for 14 days to help slow the spread of the virus.
Gov. Maddox’s executive order began on August 24 and is scheduled to end September 8.
‘Based on my discussions with the University over the past 48 hours, the ever-increasing number of coronavirus cases on campus will create two major disruptions for Tuscaloosa if left unabated,’ Maddox said during a press conference on August 24.
On Friday, UA System Chancellor Finis St. John thanked Tuscaloosa officials for shutting down the bars.
‘We remain concerned that off-campus transmission is our greatest risk, which is why we asked Mayor Maddox to consider that action. We thank him for making that difficult decision to protect our campus community and Tuscaloosa,’ St. John said in the UA System’s Friday press release.
The UA System noted that ‘Because it takes several days after exposure for an individual to test positive, benefits of the barclosing measure and other compliance strategies will not be reflected in testing data for several more days.’
UA’s Dr. Ricky Friend said in the release that ‘Our exposure notification efforts have revealed no evidence of virus transmission due to in-person class instruction.’
He said that the school is confident that its coronavirus precautions – which include wearing masks, social distancing and using in-person and remote instruction – ‘are appropriate and effective.’
Students told the Daily Beast that there is little policing of self-isolation or the quarantine dorms that infected students are moved into once they test positive.
The students claimed that they had seen quarantine dorm residents leaving to get food or going out for the weekend or gathering outside the dorm.
‘There’s nobody supervising these buildings, it’s a complete free-for-all,’ a housing staff member said. The students are ‘running wild.’
The university told the Daily Beast that quarantined students are regularly monitored and that campus police patrols the areas during the evening and night, while resident advisers conduct ‘regular rounds.’
Students claimed that when they called to report violations of the quarantine, they were told that self-isolation is an ‘honor system,’ with students having to ensure they are following quarantine measures themselves.
UB is among the lists of colleges which encouraged students to move back to campus for the start of the new school year, but have been reporting a spike in positive coronavirus infections among students and staff.
Other schools included the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Central Florida.
Alabama’s health department has said the state has had at least 113,700 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 2,000 deaths since the pandemic began.