More than 1,200 students and 166 employees at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa have tested positive for the coronavirus in the two weeks since in-person learning for the fall semester began, the school announced Friday.
The university's main Tuscaloosa campus recorded 481 new cases from Tuesday to Thursday alone, according to its COVID-19 tracking dashboard. There are a total of 157 cases among students at its Birmingham campus and 10 at Huntsville.
Classes began on Aug. 19, and university officials said the positive rate for student reentry testing was around 1%.
But by Aug. 21, after hundreds of new cases were reported, the university issued a 14-day ban on social gatherings, including off-campus parties, and fraternity and sorority meetings. University of Alabama President Stuart Bell admonished the student body in a statement for not following university guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.
"I am deeply disappointed that those guidelines are not being followed by each and every member of our student body," he said.
On Aug. 24, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox ordered bars in the city to close for two weeks in response to the rising number of infections on the campus — one of the largest coronavirus clusters at an academic institution yet.
Bell said the continued rise in infections on campus was "unacceptable."
"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," he warned.
In another statement Wednesday, Bell urged students to wear face coverings and practice social distancing on campus, and reminded them that restrictions in place were "mandatory."
"Those who ignore them will face significant consequences," he said, "including suspension."