‘Don’t blow this for everyone else’: Dr. Harris discusses college campuses, high school football

‘Don’t blow this for everyone else’: Dr. Harris discusses college campuses, high school football

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Crowded high school football stadiums and a rise in COVID-19 cases being reported on university campuses in Alabama have caught the attention of State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

"When you see people who just aren't following the rules it really is bothersome," Harris said. "It's going to cause more disease."

The Alabama High School Athletic Association gave high schools the green light to allow spectators inside stadiums but is strongly encouraging schools to limit attendance, practice social distancing and wear face coverings.

However, as Harris noticed, many people weren’t following guidelines the first week of high school football season.

“These schools are unfortunately going to have to start thinking about making decisions if they have big outbreaks, and from some of the video we saw, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if that happened,” Harris said.

Harris said there are examples of football programs where rules were being followed.

“It certainly wasn’t every football stadium that had large crowds of people that weren’t following the rules, but when you see those people who are doing that, I would say the word is not surprised, but disappointment,” Harris said.

[More: AHSAA leader, state superintendent address football fans not social distancing]

If athletes and families want to see the 2020 football season in it's entirety, Harris said spectators need to do the right thing.

“Please don’t blow this for everyone else because you’re not able to socially distance appropriately, because you’re not able to wear a mask,” Harris said. “Most Alabamians are doing a good job. I think most Alabamians get it and understand.”

The spread of COVID-19 has also become a concern on college campuses. The University of Alabama and Auburn University have announced that their campuses are seeing a rise in cases.

Harris said students need to treat this year unlike any other.

“Kids in college do tend to socialize, it’s a big aspect of going to college, and we understand when you see those pictures that looks like normal college in most years, but we are not in a normal year,” Harris said. “We really, really want kids to get that message out there that even if you are someone whose young and healthy and you don’t think you’re at risk from COVID-19, you certainly may put other people at risk.”

University of Alabama President Stuart Bell said Monday that the rise in cases in the Tuscaloosa community is unacceptable and that action must be taken to stop the spread of the virus.

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said based on recommendations he signed new executive orders that close bars for 14 days starting at 5 p.m. Monday. The second order eliminates bar services at restaurants for the next 14 days starting Monday at 5 p.m.

Harris said he supports Maddox’s decision to close bars in the city.

“We’re not trying to pick on bars but they are sort of unique places for the disease to be transmitted so I think Mayor Maddox did the right thing,” Harris said.

When asked about whether or not he thought any universities were considering moving exclusively to virtual learning, Harris said that it all comes down to the behavior of the students that are on campus in person now.

"They just need to do the right thing so that we don't get these big outbreaks on campuses," Harris said.

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