TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Thousands of excited football fans partied in streets around the University of Alabama after the Crimson Tide defeated Ohio State 52-24 for the national championship, ignoring pleas for common sense and safety at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Students and others poured out of jam-packed bars near campus as time expired in Miami late Monday, traffic cameras and images posted on social media show, gathering on University Boulevard in an area called “The Strip.”
Many of the fans screaming and cheering as they pressed against each other in the street didn’t wear face masks. The scene was exactly what officials feared before the game as they urged people to watch at home and celebrate privately.
More than 5,300 people have died in Alabama from the illness caused by the coronavirus, and about 404,000 have tested positive. About 14,200 people have tested positive in Tuscaloosa County, making it one of the worst in the state for the virus in overall numbers, and about 175 COVID-19 patients are being treated by DCH Regional Medical Center, located in the city.
“Cheer, celebrate, and enjoy the success of our team, but please do so responsibly and safely. Roll Tide!,” Police Chief Brent Blankley said in a statement beforehand. Police cars and officers are visible at the fringes of the throng in some images.
People lined up to get into the bars an hour before kickoff despite the warnings, The Tuscaloosa News reported. “All bars are open and we’re ready to roll over Ohio State,” said a tweet by Gallettes, a popular student bar, long before the game began.
Despite the threat of COVID-19, the celebration eclipsed the size of previous ones during coach Nick Saban’s string of titles at Alabama.