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UA SGA president: ‘The university has done a fantastic job’ with return-to-campus efforts

University of Alabama Student Government Association president Demarcus Joiner on Monday morning interviewed on “CNN Newsroom” with Jim Sciutto about the university’s return-to-campus efforts.

The interview came after the university’s latest publicized data on Friday evening showed that its attempts to flatten the curve appear to be working.

“We’re happy to say that no students are in the hospital or have been hospitalized from COVID,” Joiner said.

Sciutto then asked Joiner if students expected positive COVID-19 cases to rise at the start of the semester and what the university should “do now” in terms of combatting the virus.

“Yes, I definitely believe we all expected that we would have a number of cases just based on the number of students we have on campus,” Joiner responded. “However, I do believe that the university has worked very hard to make sure that our students are as safe as possible.”

In the interview, the student body president highlighted UA’s comprehensive testing efforts, which first featured mandatory entry testing for each student, faculty and staff member, followed by for-cause and sentinel (sample) testing throughout the fall academic term. He also lauded the innovative GuideSafe contact tracing app, as well as on-campus health and safety protocols, that the university has utilized.

Joiner advised that the contract tracing system has not identified any positive coronavirus cases that stemmed from in-classroom transmission.

“I think that the university has done everything possible to make sure that this is slowing the spread,” Joiner said.

He also noted that UA still has plenty of capacity in its on-campus quarantine/isolation spaces.

“That’s a good thing, as well,” Joiner added.

The CNN host then conceded that students are much more so in danger of contracting the virus off-campus. This was emphasized in a Friday release by the University of Alabama System and is why Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox has temporarily closed bars and banned restaurant bar service in the city. The university has also imposed a moratorium on off-campus student gatherings. Of course, like most COVID-19 related guidelines and “orders,” effectiveness relies on compliance by individuals.

Joiner outlined that it is a relatively small minority of the student population that has made everyone else look bad when it comes to not practicing social distancing and wearing facial coverings when around others in public.

“I believe that it’s on all of us to have this responsibility to help slow the spread of COVID,” Joiner remarked. “And we have the majority of students wearing masks every day. … We have almost total compliance as far as wearing masks and social distancing.”

“The university has done a fantastic job. [University of Alabama] President Bell has made sure to keep students informed every step of the way,” he stressed.

Sciutto, apparently poorly informed, then asked why the university has not instituted a mask mandate on- and off-campus. Of course, the State of Alabama has a mandatory mask order in place, and UA has directed that students follow this at all times, just like the population at-large. Masks are also specifically required in classrooms and other campus facilities.

“On-campus, we make sure all our students wear masks,” Joiner commented.

The interview concluded on a Crimson Tide-related question. Sciutto suggested that playing football was “a danger,” saying it placed a lot of people in the stadium. The university has already announced attendance would be limited to 20% of normal capacity, with strict social distancing protocols and a mask requirement in place. The CNN host asked if playing the football season was “too big of a risk.”

“I believe that we can do it safely,” Joiner said. “The university and the university System, as well as Athletic Director Greg Byrne and Coach Nick Saban, have all been working tirelessly to make sure that our football season is as safe as possible. And I trust them to make sure that it will be.”


Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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