Virus Outbreak Alabama Students Return

Patrons stand on the Bear Trap's rooftop bar on The Strip, the University of Alabama's bar scene, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. More than 20,000 students returned to campus for the first time since spring break, with numerous school and city codes in effect to limit the spread of COVID-19. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The president of the University of Alabama said Sunday there us an "unacceptable rise" in COVID-19 cases on campus that could derail plans to continue in-person classes.

President Stuart Bell, in a sternly written message to students, said they all must work together to limit the spread of the virus.

"Despite the robust testing, training, health and safety measures we carefully and clearly implemented, there is an unacceptable rise in positive COVID cases on our campus," Bell wrote.

"Make no mistake, this trend is a real threat to our ability to complete the semester on campus. The solution is proven: testing, mask wearing, social distancing, personal hygiene and compliance with crowd size limits are all that are asked as we work together to complete the semester together," Bell wrote.

Bell wrote that violations of health and safety protocols, both on and off campus, are subject to harsh disciplinary action, up to and including suspension from the university.

While the daily average of new COVID-19 cases has been trending downward statewide, school officials have expressed concern about images of large crowds waiting outside off-campus bars.

Bell's letter to students came two days after the university issued a moratorium on student gatherings and limited access to dormitories and fraternity and sorority houses.

The university on Friday announced a 14-day moratorium on all in-person student events outside of classroom instruction. Social gatherings are prohibited both on and off campus and the common areas of dormitories and fraternity and sorority houses are closed, according to the new guidelines. Visitors are not being allowed in dormitories and sorority and fraternity houses.

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