Skip the Politics, Wear a Mask, Jefferson County Commissioner Knight Says

Jefferson County Commissioner Joe Knight talks with Commissioner Jimmie Stephens at the July 23, 2020 commission meeting. (Photo by: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Before Tuesday’s Jefferson County Commission committee meeting, Joe Knight asked fellow commissioner Steve Ammons how he felt.

When Ammons, who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, said he felt fine, Knight quipped, “You don’t look very good.”

Today, as Ammons again watched the commission meeting in Bessemer online from home, Knight appealed to everyone to wear a mask to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“He would rather be here than where he was today, watching,” Knight said.

Via video, Ammons told his fellow commissioners that he was tested this morning and hoped to be back among them “sooner rather than later.”

As the short meeting wound down, Knight acknowledged that the wearing of face coverings has become a political ping pong ball. He wears his, he said, because he is older than 65 and because he and his wife care for her 88-year-old mother.

“The thing is, we are living history right now,” Knight said. “People will judge us one day on the actions that we take, and then have dealt with it. Some may be good, some may be not so good.”

Without fanfare, the commissioners who were present approved the 52 resolutions that were on the agenda. That included allocating up to $6.4 million in CARES Act funding to increase COVID-19 testing in the county, particularly in underserved communities. The funds will enable the University of Alabama at Birmingham Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center to expand its testing operations throughout the county.

The grant will fund eight mobile testing teams, with a goal of performing 50,000 COVID-19 tests before the end of the year. For the past 11 weeks, the MHRC has conducted testing twice a week at two mobile sites in the county. Other county health department and private testing also is available in the county.

Grant funds also will purchase additional testing equipment for UAB laboratories to meet testing demand and support outreach to the community to improve participation.

In another matter, the commission approved the resolution authorizing a tax abatement agreement with JD Birmingham LLC for FedEx Ground Package System for a distribution center on Lakeshore Parkway. Seventy percent of that development will be in Birmingham and the remaining 30 percent in Bessemer.