Profs 'Terrified' by Order to Keep Quiet About Outbreak

The University of Alabama sent staffers an email
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2020 4:40 PM CDT
Professors Told to Keep Quiet About COVID-19 Outbreak
Matthew Claflin and Sara Norton sit in partial shade on the quad at the University of Alabama on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.   (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

(Newser) – The University of Alabama is telling professors to keep quiet about a coronavirus outbreak afflicting the student body, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. "Do not tell the rest of the class," administration officials wrote in an email, underlining the word "not." An online COVID-19 dashboard reports 1,368 known cases across the university system. "If the established rules for masks and physical distancing are followed in the classroom, then the risk of transmission from the positive student is minimal, and it is not necessary to inform the rest of the class they may have been in the same room as a positive classmate," the email goes on. "For privacy reasons, the instructor should not announce to the class that a student in the class tested positive, even anonymously."

But staffers appear unsettled by the order not to talk. "A lot of my colleagues and people I've talked to, they're terrified," an American studies professor tells the Daily Beast, which broke the story. "Every statement at least for the last month has been about this plan, they’ve got this plan. It makes it feel like a lot of this is for show, especially when they don’t want you to confirm it's not working." Oddly, the outbreak is no secret: The AP reported earlier this week about rising UofA cases and Tuscaloosa's plan to shutter city bars for two weeks. The Washington Post calls it "one of the largest coronavirus clusters reported at any academic institution" since the school year started. A university official says the outbreak is particularly high among sororities and fraternities. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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