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TURNER: Auburn, it’s time to shut ‘em down
editor's pick

TURNER: Auburn, it’s time to shut ‘em down

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Troy Turner is editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. He previously served as the news editor in New York for the nation's second largest newspaper company, and as the senior editor at several other news entities around the nation. He is an Auburn alum.

It was all fun and celebration at first.

Students were back in town. The bars were thrown wide open. Dollars were flowing smoother than the come-on lines.

Then came the flaunting of rules.

And now the numbers.

It’s time Auburn University officials start sending violators home and for Auburn city officials to catch up with their collegiate-town brethren across the state: Shut the bars down.

The wait-and-see after not one but two consecutive weekends of crowd scenes showing hundreds of students completely ignoring all COVID-19 safety protocols shifts the accountability now from their young shoulders, to those who allow it.

The facts smack

Disregard to what is happening now in downtown Auburn is, if allowed to continue, tantamount to criminal negligence.

Each night the Auburn downtown bars are allowed to stay open, the more the crowds inside and waiting in line outside get bolder and condescending in their defiance.

Just ask our own reporters and photographers, who at first were popular trend-setters with photo galleries of – finally – a semblance of college life returning to campus after a long and depressing summer of life and death with COVID-19.

Saturday night they were – from students and bar personnel alike – cursed, harassed, photographed themselves and bullied for doing their job: reporting.

Few folks like the facts when they don’t suit their agendas and desires.

Well, the facts today are, more than 200 Auburn University students tested positive for COVID-19 after just the first week of the semester, and health experts are afraid that’s only the beginning, as within two weeks of incubation, those numbers could leap much, much higher.

Keep in mind, it only takes one student going home as an asymptomatic carrier and possibly having a hand in killing his/her parents or grandparents or siblings to create an unnecessary tragedy.

Not so simple

But COVID-19 doesn’t operate in ones.

It spreads by dozens, hundreds and thousands.

Why are we doing this?

Most everyone should be smart enough to understand the dilemma our city officials, university administrators and certainly our local business owners face.

They all desire survival of their entities, programs and goals, but it’s of paramount importance that survival of people come first, and surely now they all will see this.

Don’t judge by the numbers; use common sense. Just look at the photos.

Denial of COVID-19?

If any of you still feel that, you should be the first in line to volunteer at the hospital, nursing homes or hospice centers to prove it any less a danger than what it truly is.

Worse, who among us ever thought we’d see the day in America when the post office, a face mask or a global pandemic would become more a political ping-pong ball than a fact of life?

And the unending hate on social media? Why do we have to so viciously attack each other?

I’m even hearing of it in churches now, where politics used to be less a guiding light than the Good Book.

Folks, simply put, our society – yes, ours – has entered a sorry state of affairs.

Furthermore, too much of it gets blamed on politics when our own attitude needs a check.

Meanwhile in T-town

I digress. It’s time, Auburn, we shut the bars down. They had their chance, and those who abused it have blown it for everyone.

We're not alone.

The mayor of Tuscaloosa announced Monday that his city is closing bars for the next two weeks after University of Alabama officials described an “unacceptable" rise in COVID-19 cases that could derail plans to continue the semester on campus.

Meanwhile, UA President Stuart Bell issued yet another weekend statement on Sunday when he made his warning to students blunt:

“Despite the robust testing, training, health and safety measures we carefully and clearly implemented, there is an unacceptable rise in positive COVID cases on our campus.

“Make no mistake, this trend is a real threat to our ability to complete the semester on campus. The solution is proven: testing, mask wearing, social distancing, personal hygiene and compliance with crowd size limits are all that are asked….

“Violations to our health and safety protocols, both on and off campus, are subject to harsh disciplinary action, up to and including suspension from UA.”

Send ‘em packing

It’s time, Auburn University, we start taking names and send them packing.

Because those of us who want to survive this coronavirus mess, and sooner rather than later get businesses back to normal, bring back our wonderful sports scene, see students back in the classroom without a mask, hear of teachers no longer scared to go to school, and most of all save lives -- we’re ready for the nay-sayers to have their enabling system taken away.

The longer we leave the bars open and they and their customers ignore our mandates without serious consequences, the more we enable.

Please do these things, and when appropriate, hit the restart button.

It's time to get tough.

Lives depend on it.

Troy Turner is editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. He can be contacted at and followed on Twitter @troyturnernews.

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Troy Turner is editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. He previously served as the news editor in New York for the nation's second largest newspaper company, and as the senior editor at several other news entities around the nation. He is an Auburn alum.

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