294 University of Alabama students tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week, by far the lowest number of new coronavirus cases on the Tuscaloosa campus since classes resumed last month.

According to the UA System's COVID-19 Dashboard, which is updated weekly to track the spread of the virus on the system's three campuses, 2,184 students in Tuscaloosa have tested positive since August 18th.

Perhaps the most encouraging shift is the increased availability of isolation space. UA administrators have said since classes resumed that running out of room to quarantine positive cases could trigger the end of in-person instruction. When numbers were released Friday afternoon, only 90 of the 593 rooms set aside for isolating sick students were occupied -- just 15 percent of the University's total capacity.

Last week as new cases surged, use of isolation space peaked at 40 percent.

Spread among faculty and staff remains low -- just 13 UA employees in Tuscaloosa tested positive last week, and only 34 have done so since classes resumed.

Other system trends remained mostly even from previous weeks. The University of Alabama at Birmingham saw 27 students, 7 faculty members and 40 clinical enterprise employees test positive. At the University of Alabama in Hunstville, 11 students and zero faculty and staff members tested positive.

“I want to thank our students throughout the University of Alabama System for following the temporary protocols to protect everyone’s health and safety,” said UA System Chancellor Finis St. John. “Your efforts are paying off and we greatly appreciate your hard work and sacrifice.”

Before the new figures were released Friday, the White House's Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx praised the University's efforts to combat and contain the virus during a visit to Tuscaloosa.

Birx said she believes UA students are beginning to realize that becoming infected could have far-reaching consequences, even if the students themselves suffer only mild symptoms.

The University has also stepped up its enforcement of COVID-19 rules and regulations -- a UA spokesperson announced this week that more than 600 students have been disciplined for breaking the rules and 33 students face suspension from campus.

The University also released its official enrollment numbers Friday, confirming that nearly 38,000 total students are studying at or through the Capstone this year.

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