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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Not every graduation in America is going virtual this year.

The state of play: In Alabama's Birmingham suburbs, some 1,950 graduates and guests could attend Tuesday night's ceremony at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium (famous from MTV's "Two-A-Days"), AP reports. Another 3,450 could be on hand on Thursday.

Why it matters: Health officials fear large gatherings could result in coronavirus spread, especially since many people are contagious before experiencing symptoms.

  • Much of the U.S. is on week three of loosened their restrictions to some degree, the N.Y. Times notes.
  • Alabama's case count rose in early May, and it's held steady over the past week.

Between the lines: Health officials keep warning against large gatherings, but the ceremonies are outdoors with fewer guests and more space, plus face masks are provided.

  • In two nearby cities that also held outdoor ceremonies, the AP notes, few of the attendees wore protective face masks, and seniors hugged and gathered in tight groups of friends for pictures.

The big picture: Texas is charting a similar path after Gov. Greg Abbott said outdoor graduations are permissible starting May 29.

  • In San Antonio, some students get two guests and a single parking space for their outdoor ceremonies in June, per The Rivard Report, a local news nonprofit.
  • The city's Northside district is having "contactless" ceremonies featuring students walking individually across a stage. The schools will edit the walks into a single video, per the San Antonio News-Express.

The bottom line: These graduations are good examples of the temptations Americans will face — and the lengths they'll go to preserve some sense of normal — until a vaccine is widely available.

Go deeper

Aug 28, 2020 - Health

Community colleges struggle with hands-on classes

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Programs at community colleges and technical schools that require hands-on learning — like welding or auto repair — have a unique challenge as they try to stay open while keeping students safe.

Why it matters: One-third of higher education students enrolled last spring were from a community college. And their student bodies are often higher-risk than traditional colleges', with more students who work, come from communities hit hard by the virus, or are older.

Trump admin to buy 150 million rapid COVID-19 tests from Abbott

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and President Trump on Aug. 27. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration plans to purchase 150 million rapid coronavirus tests from Abbott Laboratories, the White House announced Thursday.

Why it matters: Abbott said Wednesday it plans to make 50 million of the $5 coronavirus tests by the start of October. COVID-19 testing, which is essential to tracking the spread of the virus, declined across the U.S. this month.

Kim Hart, author of Cities
Aug 27, 2020 - Health

Most urban schools will start the year with all-remote learning

Reproduced from a CRPE report; Chart: Axios Visuals

About half of school districts across the country will return to school buildings in the fall — but the majority of the big-city school districts that also serve large numbers of at-risk students will be doing remote learning for the foreseeable future.

The big picture: There's a stark divide in school reopening plans between urban and rural districts, according to an analysis by the Center for Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington Bothell.