Maddox Addresses Viral Photos of People at Bars Without Masks
Mayor Walt Maddox encouraged Tuscaloosa residents to be more vigilant with mask compliance during a press conference on Monday afternoon.
This comes as a result of photos that circulated on social media that show massive crowds outside of popular bars after the University of Alabama's Panhellenic Bid Day concluded. Most notably, Alabama Athletics Director Greg Byrne's tweet about crowds outside of Gallette's received significant social media attention.
While Maddox praised UA's participating sororities for adhering to the orders during their Bid Day events, he was not pleased with the Sunday afternoon crowds and warned of the consequences that come with dismissing the coronavirus.
"I do think we all need to be a little bit disheartened by what we saw on The Strip, especially considering what's at stake," Maddox said.
Maddox added that while area law enforcement is working to implement the local and statewide mandates that are currently set in place, there is only so much multitasking that he can ask his officers to do.
"Our law enforcement officers are doing an amazing job, and TPD, in particular, are stretched thin," he said. "We are, as a force, depleted and exhausted, mainly because COVID-19 takes an impact on your own force. And if any of our officers have had any contact with someone with COVID-19, you can imagine that happens with more frequency within law enforcement."
Some videos of TPD officers enforcing the mask mandates also made the rounds on Twitter, spurring outcry from those who are against the order. On Sunday evening, officers could be seen outside Gallette's and Rounder's Bar on The Strip and at Innisfree Irish Pub downtown.
Tuscaloosa residents have made their complaints heard in Facebook comment sections and in tweets over the mask mandates, and Maddox made sure they knew they were received.
"I was asked, ... 'Does the city have more important things to do?' Absolutely, we do. So it doesn't take a lot to wear your mask and to help not only protect yourself but protect your friends, protect your family members. It helps save jobs, it helps save our healthcare system," Maddox said.
According to Tuscaloosa Police Department Public Information Officer Stephanie Taylor, officers issued 12 $500 citations for mask violations over the weekend. Four people were arrested on seven charges and one man was charged with obstruction of justice "as officers attempted to issue a mask citation."
"Two others who refused to sign citations were arrested for mask violations," Taylor said in a press release this morning. "One of those men was also charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest."
Taylor added that one woman was charged with obstruction of justice and public intoxication "after she became involved in one of the aforementioned arrests." Maddox said the weekend issues should serve as a sign that the city and its law enforcement are taking the mandate very seriously.
"We have been from the very beginning and we've been working jointly with the UAPD and monitoring not only just activities we see on The Strip but also house parties," Maddox said.
However, Maddox urged people to see these events within the context of the entire community's behavior. He was quick to address the fact that "the vast majority of students" are doing the right thing, and it is easy for a photo to go viral on social media and appear like this is the status quo.
"The images that get caught and then get circulated on social media, no doubt, they're disheartening," Maddox said. "But I don't think it's fair to say that all people or all students or the people in this community are not taking this seriously, because we are."
As schools begin the process to reopen for the fall, the state of Alabama saw its lowest numbers in over a month. According to the Alabama Department of Health, the state recorded 516 positive cases on Sunday, the lowest since June 28.
The University of Alabama plans to open for the Fall 2020 semester on Wednesday, and students are required to obtain a negative COVID-19 test before returning to campus. To aid in this effort, the university will be offering free testing at Coleman Coliseum today through Wednesday.
Using the last digit of a student's Campus-Wide Identification Number (CWID), the university has created a schedule to allow for students to come and get tested. Click here to see the schedule.
Moving forward, Maddox asserted that he will continue to approach compliance as a team effort between the city, businesses, housing and law enforcement. He mentioned that he spoke with the University of Alabama today to seek solutions regarding UAPD and voluntary compliance.
"We requested additional resources from UAPD. We've gotten that immediately," Maddox said. "We're going to be working with them on a communication strategy and we're also going to be working with UA, reaching out to our bar owners and landlords as well. We need everyone's help. The city can't do this alone, UA can't do it alone. We've all got to approach this as a team effort. And that's what we're trying to do."
Watch Maddox's full press conference below. Stay tuned to this site for more updates as they become available.