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Average new virus cases steady statewide, Tuscaloosa moves to close bars

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 675 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and 1,428 over Saturday and Sunday, leaving the seven-day average for new cases at a relatively steady 882.

Hospitals reported a total of 1,093 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 Sunday, an increase of 26 from Saturday. State hospitalizations due to the disease have been falling over the last few weeks after peaking at 1,613 on August 6.

Six new deaths were reported Monday and 17 new deaths were added over the weekend, 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.

The state’s Risk Indicator Dashboard showed only two counties – Walker and Greene – in the “very high risk” category based on recent metrics for the virus spread in the local communities. Bibb, Clarke, Clay, Cleburne, Franklin, Sumter and Washington counties were all in the “high risk” category, while all other counties are in moderate or low risk categories.

The state’s two largest universities have begun cracking down on student gatherings after photos circulated of large crowds at bars in Auburn and Tuscaloosa.

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.”

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. No further action has been announced at this time.

Auburn reported that 202 students and seven employees tested positive for COVID-19 last week. The University of Alabama reported last week that 237 students had tested positive for the virus.

Last week, the new GuideSafe Entry Testing platform GuideSafe reported testing about 75,000 college students statewide with a positivity rate of .75 percent.

On Friday, the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that Alabama remains in the “red zone” for COVID-19 spread, but that numbers are headed in the right direction, the Associated Press reported. He and state health officials announced the opening of free testing sites.

People will be given a kit to do a self-administered nasal swab at the sites and submit it for testing. People can register for the tests and find locations at www.doineedacovid19test.com

“The power to stop COVID lies in each and every one of our hands,” Adams said.

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