University of Alabama Reports More Than 500 Cases of Coronavirus Since Classes Began Last Week

At least 566 people affiliated with the university have tested positive since school started on Aug. 19

University of Alabama
University of Alabama. Photo: Wesley Hitt/Getty

Less than a week after starting the fall semester, the University of Alabama has reported more than 566 coronavirus cases across several campuses.

According to data from the University of Alabama's COVID-19 dashboard, the main campus in Tuscaloosa has recorded 531 total cumulative cases for students, faculty and staff, while the campus in Birmingham has 6 cases and the Huntsville campus has 8. The University of Alabama at Birmingham also reported 21 cases among other employees.

Despite the increase in numbers, UA President Stuart Bell said student behavior was not to blame for the rise.

"Our challenge is not the students," Bell said during a press conference on Monday, according to "Our challenge is the virus and there’s a difference, folks. What we have to do is identify where does the virus thrive and where does the virus spread and how can we work together with our students, with our faculty and with our staff to make sure that we minimize those places, those incidents."

"It’s not student behavior, OK. It’s how do we have protocols so that we make it to where our students can be successful, and we can minimize the impact of the virus," he added.

Virus Outbreak Alabama Students Retur
University of Alabama. Vasha Hunt/AP/Shutterstock

In an email statement obtained by WVTM13, Bell released a message to all students, faculty and staff regarding the COVID-19 situation.

"Despite the robust testing, training, health and safety measures we carefully and clearly implemented, there is an unacceptable rise in positive COVID cases on our campus," he wrote.

He noted that "testing, mask wearing, social distancing, personal hygiene and compliance with crowd size limits" will be enforced throughout the remainder of the semester and added that "violations to our health and safety protocols, both on and off campus, are subject to harsh disciplinary action, up to and including suspension from UA."

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During the Monday press conference, Bell also added that the goal is to keep the university's students on campus and to continue to have in-person classes.

"What we are focusing on, these steps, these protocols, those are critical in order for us to continue that goal [of keeping campus open]," Bell said. "We know that early intervention has the best chance at changing the trajectory of where we are going. The early reading on that trajectory is not one we like. What we are trying to do is to change that with these changes of protocols."

UA joins a growing list of other colleges across the nation struggling with virus containment this fall. Last week Notre Dame halted in-person classes for two weeks following a surge of COVID-19 cases just eight days after beginning its fall semester. Similarly, an Oklahoma State University sorority is under quarantine after 23 members tested positive for the respiratory illness days before the start of the fall semester.

As of Tuesday afternoon, at least 5.7 million people in the U.S. have tested positive for the coronavirus, while at least 177,500 patients have died, according to the New York Times' database.

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