By ERIN SCHUMAKER, ABC News
(TUSCALOOSA, Al.) — As of Saturday, more than 1,200 students and 166 employees and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at the University of Alabama.
Positive tests among students have more than doubled since the university unveiled its COVID-19 tracking dashboard early this week. The dashboard, which includes case counts, positivity rates, isolation and space occupancy, is similar to what many state health departments use to report coronavirus data to the public.
“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,” University of Alabama president Stuart Bell said at a press conference this week. “Now is the time for action.”
In recent days, students have shared photos on social media of crowds and lines outside of bars in Tuscaloosa, where the university is located. Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox responded by issuing an executive order to close bars for 14 days, from Aug. 24 to Sept. 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 at the Monday news conference.
While many universities have opted for remote-only learning because of the pandemic, large outbreaks linked to colleges and universities have been increasingly commonplace at schools that encouraged students to return to campus. In addition to the University of Alabama, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Central Florida are among the schools reporting spikes in COVID-19 infections among students and staff.
Alabama had recorded at least 113,700 COVID-19 cases and more than 2,000 deaths linked to the virus, according to the state health department.
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