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Massive crowds pack the streets of Tuscaloosa after Alabama victory despite COVID-19 warnings

Huge crowds were seen packing the streets of Tuscaloosa, Alabama after the Crimson Tide football team defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 52-24 in the national college championship Monday night. The fans, many without face coverings, celebrating in close proximity despite COVID-19 warnings.

Social media images and video showed thousands of fans celebrating outside after the championship game, ignoring pleas from local officials to adhere to social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus crisis. 

Fans appeared to party close together in downtown Tuscaloosa without wearing face masks. Images showed overfilled bars on a stretch in the city called "The Strip." 

Days earlier, Tuscaloosa mayor Walt Maddox told fans in a video message to celebrate in a "responsible way" ahead of the game. 

"There will be a time and place to celebrate, but this is not the time," he said. "All of us have friends, family members, people that we know and love who have been impacted by COVID-19. Presently, our hospital is stretched."

CBS affiliate WIAT reported last week that DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa — the state's third largest hospital — was "struggling" with the number of COVID-19 patients as it was preparing to deal with the holiday surge. Overall, according to the latest CDC tracker, more than 44% of ICU beds are currently being used for coronavirus patients in the Tuscaloosa metro area. 

The title championship celebrations resemble similar disregard from college revelers that began the same way over the summer. Social media users criticized Monday's crowded gatherings.

"We've had two massive COVID superspreader events in less than a week," historian Kevin M. Levin wrote Tuesday. "The first took place in Washington, D.C. during the January 6 insurrection and the second took place last night in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in celebration of a football victory. We will never learn."

Others on social media worried the celebration could turn into a super-spreader event. 

The championship marked the end of a college football season in a pandemic, a season that was uncertain to be played in the summer and filled with disruptions in the fall.  Alabama (13-0) finished undefeated and became national champion for the sixth time in the last 12 years under coach Nick Saban.

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