US College Towns Close Bars as Covid-19 Cases Surge

The Guardian on Saturday 29 August 2020 carried an Associated Press report that college towns across the US are reimposing shutdowns after a spike in campus cases of Covid-19 caused by students partying in large numbers after their return for the new academic year. ...

Rise in campus infections from Missouri to Utah, and Alabama to Iowa forces local authorities to close bars and mandate masks

College towns across the United States have reimposed shutdowns after a spike in campus cases of coronavirus caused by students partying in large numbers on their return for the new academic year.

Despite waves of schools and businesses around the country being cleared to reopen, Columbia, Missouri joined cities in Alabama, Utah and Iowa in reimposing restrictions to deal with a surge of infections.

The health director in Columbia ordered on Friday that bars stop serving alcohol at 9pm and close by 10pm after more than 300 students at the University of Missouri tested positive for the coronavirus amid an alarming 44% positivity rate for the surrounding county.

“What we’re seeing in our violations is they’re coming late at night,” said Stephanie Browning, head of the health department for Columbia, Missouri. “Big groups gathering. They’re not wearing their masks, they’re not social distancing.”

The University of Alabama reported on Friday that an additional 481 students have tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total to more than 1,000 infections since students returned to campus in Tuscaloosa for the fall.

The town’s mayor closed its bars on Monday for two weeks.

“We are closely monitoring our data daily, and we will continue to adjust operations as the situation warrants,” said University of Alabama System chancellor Finis St John in a statement. He said testing for the virus was a key pillar of the university’s health and safety plan.

St John said every student on the three campuses has the option of moving to fully online instruction at any time, remaining either on campus or returning home to continue their course work.

In Utah, the city council in Provo overrode a mayoral veto to pass a mask mandate, which includes a $500 fine for organizing large mask-less gatherings, days before students return to Brigham Young University from around the country.

But the council was nevertheless worried that college students sharing dorms, bathrooms and showers could become super-spreaders and bring the virus off campus, council chair George Handley said.