By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 675 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, bringing the seven-day average for new cases at a relatively steady 882.
Hospitals reported a total of 1,149 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 Monday, an increase of 81 from Sunday. State hospitalizations due to the disease had been falling steadily over the last few weeks after peaking at 1,613 on Aug. 6.
Six new deaths were reported Monday, bringing the state’s cumulative death toll to 1,944. A total of 110,094 COVID-19 cases have been reported since the pandemic began.
Bama Tracker New COVID-19 Cases & Seven-Day Average
Bama Tracker Confirmed COVID-19 Hospitalizations & Seven-Day Average
Flagship universities respond
Reports of increased coronavirus cases and images of students crowding local bars have university and city officials cracking down on reckless behavior.
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox on Monday issued an executive order closing local bars for 14 days and limiting restaurants to table service only. This came after the University of Alabama on Friday announced a 14-day moratorium on all in-person student events outside of the classroom, including off-campus parties and Greek life events.
Maddox’s order said bars and restaurants “present a unique risk for the spread of COVID-19 based upon the length of time people spend in close proximity indoors and the inability to wear a face covering while eating and drinking.”
University officials requested the action, according to Maddox. He said an unchecked spread of the virus threatens both the health care system and the local economy if students are sent home for the semester to do remote learning.
“The truth is that fall in Tuscaloosa is in serious jeopardy,” Maddox said.
531 from last Wednesday (this is not the entry testing). If this trend continues unabated, @dchsystem will be stretched thin, in the near future, while thousands will be unemployed. The contact tracing is clear that bars are a large factor in the transmission. https://t.co/5xJJnTtgsv
— Walt Maddox (@WaltMaddox) August 25, 2020
Gov. Kay Ivey praised the action from Maddox and campus leaders.
“If we do not act expeditiously, it leaves the potential for a situation to get out of hand, which would require even tougher, longer-lasting decisions to be enacted, Ivey said in a statement Monday. “My hope is that this will be just a brief pause on their plans to reopen and that we can get this in our rearview mirror sooner, rather than later. Clearly, it takes everyone working together to keep Alabama moving in the right direction.”
Auburn University officials told AL.com Sunday that the school would be investigating the continued crowding of downtown bars after photos and videos showed young bar patrons flouting mask and social distancing guidelines. City officials told WSFA that “no action had been taken at this time in regards to Auburn’s bars,” but that the city and university are in conversation about the situation.
The University of Alabama reported Monday that 531 students, faculty and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 since August 19. That does not include the 310 positives in reentry testing, which is required for students to return to campus. Those students are presumed to be back at home with their parents.
Meanwhile, Auburn reports that 202 students and seven employees tested positive for COVID-19 from August 15-18 as students were returning to campus. The school has not reported updated transmission data.
According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, the positive cases from college campuses are included in the statewide tally that comes out each day.
Last week, the new GuideSafe Entry Testing platform reported testing about 75,000 college students statewide with a positivity rate of .75%.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.