UA reports 498 COVID cases during first week of spring classes

Ainsley Platt, Staff Reporter

The University of Alabama reported 498 cases in the first COVID-19 dashboard update since early December, with 70% of positive tests coming from students.

This data is self-reported. Sentinel, entry and exit testing have not been in place since the spring 2021 semester. 

The University removed vaccination percentages of students, faculty and staff from the dashboard in Tuesday’s update. These figures were reported in the fall 2021 semester. 

The dashboard reports that the University has distributed over 22,000 vaccines to students, employees and the broader community. 

More than 72% of employees and 62% of students reported receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as stated by the University in a late-October update.

“Our campuses have much higher vaccination rates than the community at large, and we continue to encourage anyone who hasn’t been fully vaccinated and boosted to take advantage of widely available, safe and effective vaccines that overwhelmingly protect from the worst outcomes of the virus,” said Selwyn Vickers, dean of the UAB School of Medicine.

The University announced a return to universal indoor masking for campus buildings on Jan. 3. 

The omicron variant, which was first identified in South Africa in November 2021, has rendered the traditional two-dose regimen of vaccines less effective without a booster shot.

The UA System Health & Safety Advisory Committee expected an increase in cases. 

“Although omicron is highly contagious, it generally causes less severe illness compared to other variants — especially among people who take advantage of the COVID vaccines,” the statement on the dashboard said. “We know in-person learning and an on-campus experience improve student success, so it remains important that we maintain those opportunities while following safety measures that have proven to be effective in reducing COVID transmission.”

The University reports that about 20% of 142 on-campus quarantine spaces are currently in use. 

Students can visit the Student Health Center or University Medical Center for COVID-19 testing. If students receive a positive test through off-campus providers or self-testing, they are required to report it to the University, but there is no enforcement process for the reporting policy.