TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — Starting at 5 p.m., all bars in Tuscaloosa will closed for the next 14 days in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the area.

The decision by the city, in collaboration with the University of Alabama, was announced by Mayor Walt Maddox during a press conference Monday morning. In addition to bars being closed the next 14 days, bar services in restaurants will also be suspended for 14 days.

Maddox and UA officials said that if cases continue to rise, there could be a chance that students would be forced to do virtual learning and DCH Regional Medical Center could be burdened beyond its capacity to treat patients.

Like many cities across Alabama, Tuscaloosa put in additional orders on face masks and a safe capacities for restaurants and bars in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Since April 28, the city has slowly reopened its economy back up through the Reopen Tuscaloosa Plan.

However, the city declared a state of emergency earlier this month due to the rising number of coronavirus cases in the area.

In recent weeks, Mayor Walt Maddox and others have expressed their frustration at some people who have not been abiding by social distancing guidelines, best exemplified by a large crowd that gathered outside Gallettes on The Strip Aug. 16.

On Sunday, UA president Stuart Bell released a statement saying that despite robust testing on campus, there has been a sharp increase in coronvirus cases among students.

“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 as we work together to complete the semester together,” Bell said in the statement

Gov. Kay Ivey released the following statement Monday on the city’s action:

“As our students adjust to being back on campus, Tuscaloosa leaders and university officials are focused on helping to ensure their health and safety. They have made tough decisions, and I appreciate Mayor Walt Maddox and The University of Alabama leadership for tackling a serious problem as quickly as possible. If you we do not act expeditiously, it leaves the potential for a situation to get out of hand, which would require even tougher, longer-lasting decisions to be enacted.

“My hope is that this will be just a brief pause on their plans to reopen and that we can get this in our rearview mirror sooner, rather than later. Clearly, it takes everyone working together to keep Alabama moving in the right direction.”