The University of Alabama will officially kick off its fall semester as in-person, hybrid and virtual instruction resume Wednesday, and its administration has spent millions of dollars to add precautions against the spread of COVID-19 on and around campus.

Matthew Fajack, the University's Vice President of Finance and Operations, showed off some of those precautions to local media Tuesday morning.


Some of those precautions include:

  • Over 300 hand-sanitizing stations have been placed at the entrances to and throughout buildings on campus
  • Plexiglass barriers shield the front of rows of desks in large lecture halls
  • Two face-covering masks will be distributed to each student
  • Disposable masks will be available in vending machines
  • Wipes for computers and desk space will be provided
  • One-way walkways have been designated around campus to limit crowding
  • Ventilation inside buildings has been increased and interior humidity is up to 60 percent to cause airborne particles to dissipate more rapidly

In addition, seating in common areas has been sectioned off to facilitate social distancing, the use elevators is being discouraged and water fountains are shut off across campus.

"We're very confident in our plan," Fajack said. "We need to provide the safest environment possible and yet still provide a high-quality education to our students."

Fajack said the estimated cost for these new accommodations and installations is $2.5 million, and the University is set to spend an additional $1.8 million for dedicated contact tracing after positive cases are detected.

Additional precautions are being taken to keep track of positive cases real-time. UA's voluntary "Safe Guide" app will help students keep track of their own symptoms should they exhibit any. The app, according to Fajack, will also notify students if they've been in close contact with someone that has tested positive. He defined "close contact" as being within six feet of someone for more than 15 minutes.

The app will also track cases inside the DCH System -- ventilator count, beds available, positive student cases and the number of students in quarantine. Again this process is entirely voluntary and is on a per-student basis. However, Fajack promised randomized Sentinel Testing for 4-5% of faculty, staff, and students every week.

Currently, UA has not issued any statement regarding the possibility of transitioning back to remote learning.

"We have not defined any triggers for when we would… or possibly could… go to remote learning," said Fajack. "I’m sure there is at some point. I don’t know what those points are. We will take each day and each report as they come."

Fajack praised students, faculty and staff for taking the proper steps to reduce the spread of the virus and said he is optimistic about the resumption of classes this week.

"I think there is a small percentage of the population that is not taking it seriously," Fajack said. "I think most of our faculty, staff, and students take the self-responsibility to protect themselves and those around us, and will abide by the rules on campus and off campus."

For more coverage on the school year as it develops, stay tuned to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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