Auburn Mayor talks AU football, economy, and COVID-19 vaccines


AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – Auburn’s mayor says now is the time for families to speak with their doctor about getting a COVID-19 vaccine so Auburn can remain a safe, healthy place for people to live, work, and play.

Thousands of Auburn University students begin the fall semester on August 16. Students are hoping for a relatively normal college experience along with fall football; however, ‘getting back to normal’ is threatened as COVID-19 continues to rise due to the highly contagious delta variant.

Thursday, East Alabama Health released its lastest COVID-19 hospitalizations, bumping up to 36.

“Following some ebbs and flows over the past week, the number of COVID hospitalizations bounced up to 36 today, the highest since 38 patients on February 17. Of the 36 combined patients in-house at EAMC and EAMC-Lanier, 28 of them are unvaccinated (77.7 percent). The eight patients who are vaccinated are all age 65 or older,” said John Atkinson.

Stephen Prestridge, the owner of Dimensions downtown Auburn, says welcoming Auburn University students and fall football is a favorite time of year at the salon.

“It’s just so much fun, with so much energy in this town and lots of new people. We hope it comes back full force. But, we will have to see,” said Prestridge.

Mayor Anders hopes for a financially successful fall season of shopping, eating, and tailgating for students, Auburn fans, and local businesses who depend on these weekends to survive.

“If you count undergraduate and graduate students, that number is around 30,000, maybe a little more. So it’s an exciting time; it brings new energy back to town and certainly bolsters our local economy,” said Mayor Anders.

Mayor Anders says Auburn city officials are keeping a close eye on COVID-19. While Auburn University and the local school system have implemented an indoor mask policy, the state has not re-instated COVID-19 protocols for businesses. However, as the delta variant continues to surge, some companies may elect to implement masking on their own, as is their right.

“It’s business as usual, with no mandates from Washington or Montgomery, asking us to live a different way. I expect certain businesses will have the rules for their reasons. I ask our community and students to adapt to what those policies are. These private business owners have a right to conduct business how they want to,” said Anders.

Prestridge says he’s ready to do whatever it takes to protect the health of his clients and keep his business up and running during an AU fall football.

“The town needs it after last year; the city needs it. It’s the excitement; football makes everything better,” said Prestridge.

Prestridge is fully vaccinated, and says others should decide what works best for their families. Mayor Anders is also fully vaccinated, and is urging familes to speak with their doctors about getting the COVID-19 vaccination. Anders says vaccinations seem to be the best ansswer for keeping people, and the economy healthy. He also hopes it will keep Auburn football on track.

“We are hoping and praying it goes forward because football is the key to the future of Auburn. We need to have seven wonderful football weekends. My message to our citizens is to please consider a vaccination, do your research, talk to your doctor. If it fits with your lifestyle, we need you to get it now. Our scientists and our doctors are telling us it is the best way to curb the spread of the Delta variant,” said Mayor Anders.

There’s good news to share regarding vaccinations in the six Alabama counties closest to EAMC and EAMC-Lanier. Four of the counties saw a climb of at least one percentage point in FIRST DOSES from last Thursday to this Thursday, and the other two counties came just short of a one percentage point increase.

“That’s a positive sign for our area, and reports are indicating similar increases across much of the state,” said John Atkinson, East Alabama Health spokesman. “For the health of our state and so many other reasons, we need that trend to continue to slow the spread of COVID. Yes, some breakthrough cases occur among the vaccinated, but have proven to be much less severe thanks to the vaccines.”

People who received one dose of Pfizer or Moderna, but did not return for their second dose, are encouraged to get their second dose even if it has been longer than the recommended 3-week or 4-week interval. The goal is to have full vaccination status for optimal protection, according to East Alabama Health.

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