Maddox Addresses Social Distancing Snafu on Strip Over Weekend

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox met with the media this morning for a discussion in the wake of widespread photos and video on social media showing huge crowds outside bars on Sunday.

“I think we need to be a little bit disheartened by what we saw on the Strip,” Maddox said. Bars on the Strip and in downtown Tuscaloosa such as Gallettes Tuscaloosa, Rounders and Innisfree featured long, tightly packed lines outside their doors and few masks in sight.

But Sunday’s events are an exception and not the rule, Maddox said. Most Tuscaloosans have been wearing masks, staying home and social distancing and the latest COVID-19 numbers and hospitalization numbers prove it.

It’s imperative for everyone to follow Tuscaloosa’s rules, Maddox said, including visitors and students who don’t live here all year. If COVID becomes more of a problem it will mean more deaths, more hospitalizations, more closed businesses and more people without work.

“It doesn’t take a lot to wear your mask, not only to protect yourself but protect your friends, protect your family family members, but it helps save jobs, it helps save our health care system,” Maddox said. “So we just encourage everyone to continue to try and do the right thing.”

Maddox said he’s been in discussions with the University of Alabama on getting students to voluntarily comply with the mask order.

The city has requested additional resources from the University of Alabama Police Department, a communications strategy for discussions between UA and the city and help facilitating discussions between bar and business owners.

For business owners, Maddox said he knows they’re doing the best they can and in most cases their establishments are following the rules. Customers waiting to enter an establishment are usually on the city’s property, such as patrons waiting outside Gallettes Tuscaloosa on the Strip.

Maddox said he’s scheduling a conversation with bars owners so they can discuss what they can do better ensure compliance on city rights-of-way and sidewalks.

“I am so uneasy about all of this,” Maddox said. “About putting our officers in these confrontational situations. We need voluntary compliance as much as possible. We are trying to save lives. We are trying to save this economy.”

The Tuscaloosa Police Department doesn’t have enough manpower to properly do their jobs and be mask enforcement, Maddox said.

On Sunday TPD arrested four people and issued 12 mask citations. Not complying with the Alabama Department of Public Health’s statewide mask ordinance is a $500 fine.

“The vast majority of people, and the vast majority of students are doing the right thing,” Maddox said. “The images that get circulated on social media are disheartening, but I don’t think it’s fair to say all people or all students or the people of this community are not taking this seriously, because we are.”

Continued spread of the coronavirus will impact football, Maddox said, so if the community wants the Crimson Tide kicking off next month it’s up to their compliance.

“What we’re asking is do your best all the time in protecting yourself and others,” Maddox said. “If we all do that, we will get through this sooner rather than later.”

There’s a lot of debate out there about COVID-19, Maddox said, and the pandemic has been heavily politicized. But it’s important that residents not lose sight of what’s important, and that is keeping everyone healthy.

“There are a large number of people who believe this is a hoax or not really a threat,” Maddox said. “I’m not asking you not to believe that. I’m asking that you put that aside right now because the standard that we’re dealing with is that people are still looking at the number of cases and the hospitalizations.”

We know through science that wearing a mask and social distancing doesn’t eliminate your chances of getting COVID-19, but it does bring that chance down, Maddox said. So wearing a mask is more effective than no mask at all no matter how you slice it.

“To not (wear a mask) as a sign of ‘I believe this is fake’ or ‘I believe this is a hoax,’ you’re only compounding the problem and quite frankly you’re going to make this last longer,” Maddox said.

Watch the full meeting below.

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