Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox hosted a virtual town hall meeting this afternoon with several guests from around the city. Here’s an abbreviated roundup of the meeting’s questions and answers.

On feeding students while school’s out

First off, Tuscaloosa City Schools Superintendent Mike Daria addressed school food programs for the city and county, along with information packets distributed to students by grade so they can continue their studies while school is out. For more information, click here.

On what happens after the next two weeks

Daria said the school system’s current focus is on the next two weeks, and there are big decisions ahead, including whether or not to host graduation ceremonies. Tuscaloosa City Schools will be better prepared to make that decision over the next few weeks, Daria said.

The state department is working with school districts to figure out what the rest of the year looks like, and more information will be available soon.

On testing

81 confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. Friday. Tuscaloosa County has 4.

Testing is slow. There aren’t enough reagents to process tests quickly.

On social distancing

“To be blunt, the quicker we deal with this, the quicker we get out of this,” Maddox said.

On local businesses

Please continue supporting our local businesses. Get take-out or delivery. Buy from local businesses online. Maddox said he hopes Tuscaloosa will soon have a stimulus plan in place for local businesses.

Incident Command Center

Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith is heading up Tuscaloosa’s incident command center.

“The key thing is we are here, we’re working hard every day, and have a great dedicated staff monitoring the situation,” Smith said.

They’re building contingency plans for potential problems down the road.

Question-Answer session

  • Are city boards, such as the Planning and Zoning Commission and Zoning Board of Adjustment, still planning to hold hearings? If so, will they be virtual so we can continue the practice of social distancing?
    • All boards have been canceled through March due to lack of quorum.
    • At this time city is not authorized to hold virtual meetings. Working with state to get virtual option
  • Will City Council continue to meet in person? Will these meetings continue to be open to the public?
    • Yes, but they’ll be abiding by the Alabama Department of Public Health’s order and ensure there are no more than 25 people and everyone is 6 feet apart.
  • Is it OK for me to go to a funeral?
    • Yes, as long as they abide by ADPH rules and ensure there are no more than 25 people and everyone is 6 feet apart.
  • Are there still only four cases in Tuscaloosa?
    • Yes, as of 3 p.m. Friday, but don’t look at those numbers as a guide.
  • Is there a danger of grocery stores shutting down that I need to prepare for?
    • Not at this time.
  • If I don’t have a car, how do I get screened?
    • Call 911 if you’re exhibiting symptoms, and they will assist in determining if you need a test.
  • Why are gyms still open?
    • Gyms need to comply with the ADPH order. That means less than 25 people, and everyone must be 6 feet apart.
  • What is being done to ensure our manufacturing plants are keeping employees safe? Why are they not closed yet?
    • City doesn’t have regulatory power to examine workplace conditions.
    • Maddox encourages employers to look at flexible scheduling or telecommuting.
    • All workplaces must comply with ADPH order. That means less than 25 people, and everyone must be 6 feet apart.
  • Why can’t we know who has tested positive so we can make sure to stay away?
    • There are laws protecting patient information.
    • Just treat everyone as if they potentially have COVID-19
  • Will the water supply in Tuscaloosa be a concern of safety?
    • Absolutely not.
  • Is it safe to visit parks and other outdoor spaces while we are self-isolating?
    • Yes, just stay 6 feet away from other people.
  • Are establishments with a liquor license allowed to sell open container mixed cocktails to go?
    • Don’t know. City is looking into it and will get an answer ASAP.
  • Will you be taking any more aggressive measures such as shelter in place for our city in order to ensure compliance for people who aren’t willing to sacrifice their normal schedules?
    • Not yet. City requests voluntary compliance.
  • Given that the economic consequences of this health crisis will hit the poorest of our neighbors the hardest, might this be a chance to once again approach the legislature in Montgomery to request a reprieve on grocery taxes?
    • Yes.
  • Will my garbage pick-up be affected?
    • No, but it could in the future.
  • Will UA students coming back to move their things out after spring break be kept away from the general public?
    • There’s no way to enforce that, but UA is working on a plan for students getting their belongings.
  • Are students who live off-campus allowed to return from spring break?
    • Yes.
  • Will public schools actually reopen on April 6?
    • Unsure.
      • Maddox’s opinion: It’s gonna be difficult for schools to open after April 6.
  • Is there a city listing of known sources for individuals and families who experience hardships during the days ahead?
  • Where can I find a list of places that are offering food assistance while schools are closed?
  • How can we stay updated on the latest information from the city?
  • Mayor Woodfin of Birmingham announced a stimulus package for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Are you planning on something similar, and if so can you provide any details to give hope to small businesses who may be laying off as they panic?
    • Rolling out a plan in late March, early April
  • Will the football team be able to make up A-Day?
    • That’s up to the University of Alabama

Watch the full town hall below.


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