About 5,000 football fans packed a popular boulevard in Tuscaloosa after the University of Alabama won its 18th national college football championship Monday night, ignoring the city’s pre-game calls to stay home and igniting concerns about an influx of coronavirus cases in a city already striving to contain the pandemic.
The street scene of bars and restaurants known as the Strip was precisely what health officials wanted to avoid afterward the Crimson Tide routed the state of Ohio, 52-24. Fans, many of whom weren’t wearing masks, could be seen bumping into each other, throwing beer bottles and reveling as if the pandemic didn’t exist.
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said 14 people were arrested after brawls broke out in the crowd.
The city has reached a critical point in the pandemic, Maddox said last week, with just four intensive care unit rooms available in the city’s main hospital and a police force limited to around 69% due to the number of officers who had contracted or been exposed to the virus.
The city had urged fans not to create a “neighborhood party environment” if Alabama wins. Cases in Alabama had already increased by 30% in the past week compared to two weeks ago, according to a New York Times Database.
Now, health officials are bracing for a post-championship peak.
“One outbreak in addition to an outbreak, like in most parts of the country, can have devastating consequences,” Maddox said.