Tuscaloosa enforcing bar crowd limits as football returns

Tuscaloosa enforcing bar crowd limits as football returns

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Officials in Tuscaloosa say they will enforce strict limits on bar capacities as University of Alabama football returns to town Saturday for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic.

Police and fire officials will monitor how many people are inside establishments, Mayor Walt Maddox said, and places with too many people inside will get tickets and orders to shut down, The Tuscaloosa News reported.

Maddox said businesses that violate rules aimed at slowing the spread of the new virus, which causes COVID-19, could risk having their business license revoked for a second offense.

“We want to demonstrate our seriousness to this,” Maddox said. “None of us want to have to use law enforcement in this matter. Our law enforcement needs to be focused on other things. But we have an obligation to protect the health, safety and welfare … and this is a pandemic.”

The crowd inside Bryant-Denny Stadium will be limited to 20% of normal capacity, or about 20,000, as No. 2 Alabama plays 13th-ranked Texas A&M University on Saturday afternoon. Face masks will be required, and the school has banned tailgating and large crowds on campus.

The city has previously seen increases in COVID-19 cases after large numbers of people gathered in nightspots. The state this week rescinded a rule that made bars close early, a move that provides more time for people to gather.

Photos posted on social media have repeatedly shown young people inside college bars in Tuscaloosa and Auburn without face masks or evidence of social distancing despite state rules mandating both.

Tuscaloosa County had the state’s second-highest average number of new cases of COVID-19 over the last week, according to bamatracker.com.

More than 2,500 people have died of COVID-19 in Alabama, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University. The state’s death count is the 21st highest per capita in the nation at 52.1 deaths per 100,000 people.