Although there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus, in Tuscaloosa or the state of Alabama at this time, mayor Walt Maddox said the city stands ready to combat the illness and keep its residents safe.

In a press conference addressing the virus' outbreak, Maddox said he has activated the city's Incident Command and made Tuscaloosa Fire Rescue chief Randy Smith in charge of the city's preparation for and response to the coronavirus.

"Cities are the center of American life," Maddox said. "If this national trend of infection continues, most urban areas will experience the coronavirus, including Tuscaloosa. Therefore, we must have a plan of action."

Maddox said the most effective fighters against the virus will be the citizens of Tuscaloosa, whom he asked to focus on four key elements: precaution, planning, communications and common sense.

The mayor asked resident to stay home if they are sick, to wash their hands effectively, to carefully consider where they get their news and refrain from spreading rumors and falsehoods on social media. Most of all, Maddox asked the community to avoid panic.

"Certainly we don't think anyone needs to be hitting the panic button, but I think now is the right time for us to take those common sense measures of being prepared, of planning, of knowing where we need to access information and applying common sense to all of that," Maddox said. "If we do that, we will meet this challenge.

Fire Chief Smith and Mike Daria, the superintendent of the Tuscaloosa City Schools, were also at the press conference and assured citizens that every city agency and school is aware of the threat of this virus, taking precautions to prevent it and making plans to respond to it if necessary.

"This is a serious situation, but we want to make sure everyone understands the city of Tuscaloosa and its partner agencies are preparing for this," Smith said.

Smith said his department has purchased additional protecting equipment and other supplies meant to make the city ready for any cases of the virus that may arise. Like Maddox, Smith said most prevention measures will fall to everyday people making good decisions -- avoiding close contact with anyone who may be sick, covering your cough, staying home if you have any cold of flu symptoms, etc.

Daria, too, said the school system is taking all appropriate steps to address this risk, including after hours disinfection of all buses and high-touch points as well as training the nurses placed in each school to monitor for viral symptoms and respond accordingly.

"Planning for the coronavirus is the highest priority for Tuscaloosa City Schools," Daria said.

Maddox encouraged citizens to only rely on information from reputable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control or a verified news agency and to act on facts instead of Facebook. Even if a case of the virus is confirmed in the state or in the Tuscaloosa community, Maddox said, cool heads and a calm reaction will prevail.


"Fear is a more dangerous virus than COVID-19," Maddox said.

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