Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox announced Thursday that all public events permitted by the city will be cancelled through March 31st amid growing concerns about preventing the spread of the pandemic COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus.

"The coronavirus is likely to come to our community if not most communities in the United States," Maddox said. "This means that starting now, we need to be keeping as many people home as possible."

To that effect, almost all public gatherings in the city for the next two weeks will be canceled, Maddox said.

"All public events hosted at city facilities are canceled through March 31st," Maddox said. "All public events permitted on city rights of ways, facilities and assets are canceled through March 31st."

Maddox said he plans to provide a weekly update of the closings and cancellations this decision will cause.

These precautionary measures will also affect events sponsored or hosted by other organizations - Maddox said Tuscaloosa Tourism & Sports has canceled all its events through March 31st and is also calling off the Druid City Arts Festival that was slated for April 3rd and 4th.

Maddox said the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority is also reviewing its operations and will act according to CDC guidelines as it relates to the operations of the Bama Theatre, public parks and group sports.

Maddox also cancelled all professional travel scheduled for city employees for the immediate future.

As of now, Maddox said, all the city's regulatory meetings will still be held, including council and committee meetings.

As he did last week, Maddox stressed the importance of four key elements: precaution, planning, communication and common sense.

Superintendent Mike Daria also spoke Thursday and said the city school system will cancel all large group gatherings for the month of March.

"This means we will have closed athletic events with limited spectators of immediate family and the media," Daria said. "For the time being, there will be no large gatherings for afternoon and evening events at schools."

Although there are no confirmed cases of the pandemic virus in the state of Alabama as of Thursday afternoon, very few COVID-19 tests have been administered here and if it is not already in the Yellowhammer State, it likely will be soon.

Maddox said even if these measures are overkill, they may prevent loss of life in the Tuscaloosa community, which he sees as a victory.

"Instead of us reacting to what may happen, I would rather us go ahead and be proactive," Maddox said. "There's only one mistake to make in this situation, and that would be to make a decision that might cost lives."

More information on the virus and the city of Tuscaloosa's response to it can be found on its municipal website.