Six days after classes began, the University of Alabama has experienced an “unacceptable rise” in coronavirus cases, the university’s president said.
The University of Alabama’s main campus in Tuscaloosa has recorded 531 total cases. The remaining campuses in Birmingham and Huntsville have recorded 35 cases cumulatively, according to the university’s Covid-19 dashboard.
With over 46,150 tests and 566 positive cases, the coronavirus positivity rate on University of Alabama campuses sits around 1.2%, according to the dashboard.
University of Alabama President Stuart R. Bell called on all students, faculty and staff to work together “at this critical moment” after the climb in Covid-19 cases on campus.
Bell urged social distancing, mask wearing and limited gatherings. He said violators would be subject to possible suspension from school.
“Completing the fall semester together is our goal,” Bell said Sunday in an email to students. “The margin for error is shrinking.”
University police and Tuscaloosa police will monitor restaurants, off-campus residences and Greek housing to ensure patrons and residents follow coronavirus safety guidelines, Bell said.
Shortly after Bell’s message to students, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox ordered all bars in the city to close for two weeks due to the rise in cases.
Tuscaloosa officials earlier this summer accused young people in the city of attending “Covid parties” with the purpose of becoming infected with coronavirus. The University of Alabama conducted an investigation and said it didn’t identify any students who participated in the parties.
Colleges combat rising Covid-19 cases
It’s been a rocky start to the school year for universities that have resumed in-person classes.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame both halted in-person classes within days of the start of the school year. Each university has recorded over 400 Covid-19 cases since mid-August.
This week, The Ohio State University on Monday suspended over 200 students who violated the school’s Covid-19 regulations around socializing – the school requires students to wear a mask, maintain social distancing and keep group gatherings to no more than 10 people.
Reopening and abruptly shuttering campuses sends mixed messages to college students, many of whom were told to leave campus with little warning in March and then again this month. Students may assume since their school reopened that it’s safe to resume their normal collegiate activities, developmental psychologist Mary Karapetian Alvord told CNN.
College students also may eschew coronavirus guidelines to see friends because of their desire to belong, said Hannah Schacter, assistant professor at Wayne State University who studies adolescent relationships. Social connections are especially critical for teens and young adults, and the feeling of isolation may be scarier than potential exposure to coronavirus.
CNN’s Lori Daniel and Annie Grayer contributed to this report.