As of Saturday, more than 1,200 students and 166 employees and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at the University of Alabama.
Positive tests among students have more than doubled since the university unveiled its COVID-19 tracking dashboard last week. The dashboard, which includes case counts, positivity rates, isolation and space occupancy, is similar to what many state health departments use to report coronavirus data to the public.
"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," University of Alabama president Stuart Bell said at a press conference last week. "Now is the time for action."
In recent days, students have shared photos on social media of crowds and lines outside of bars in Tuscaloosa, where the university is located. Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox responded by issuing an executive order to close bars for 14 days, from Aug. 24 to Sept. 8.
"Based on my discussions with the University over the past 48 hours, the ever-increasing number of coronavirus cases on campus will create major disruptions for Tuscaloosa if left unabated," Maddox said at the Monday news conference.
While many universities have opted for remote-only learning because of the pandemic, large outbreaks linked to colleges and universities have been increasingly commonplace at schools that encouraged students to return to campus. In addition to the University of Alabama, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Central Florida are among the schools reporting spikes in COVID-19 infections among students and staff.
Alabama had recorded at least 113,700 COVID-19 cases and more than 2,000 deaths linked to the virus, according to the state health department.
While many of the country’s largest public school districts, including Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston, have opted to stay virtual through the end of 2020, many rural and suburban communities are experiencing the whiplash of planned reopenings, then abrupt closings. Georgia’s Cherokee County School District currently has 1,200 teachers and students quarantined because of the coronavirus.
Amid this tumultuous environment, nearly half (47%) of educators said that they had considered making a job-related change in the last month including taking a leave of absence, retiring, or changing their career, according to a new survey released Friday morning. Seventeen percent of teachers contemplated pivoting professions entirely.
Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) surveyed 1,200 Pre-K to grade 12 teachers online between August 19-21.
Thirty-two percent of survey respondents said that their morale was low, while 24% indicated morale was high, likely reflecting the eagerness to return closer to normalcy than the spring semester.
Of course, the outbreaks in individual schools are merely a microcosm of the town or city at large.
“The most important thing is that we need control in our communities...Anywhere there's virus circulating, where you have test positivity above 3% or 5%, as we're seeing in a lot of places in this country, it's going to be really hard to keep schools open,”Dr. Craig Spencer, an emergency medicine physician and director of Global Health and Emergency Medicine at Columbia University, recently told Yahoo Finance.