Author: Virginia Martin

Local Health Officials Worry CDC Has ‘Lost Its Soul’

As Dr. Mark Wilson prepared to release advice in July that middle schools and high schools in Birmingham should not open for in-person learning this fall, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its position and issued the opposite recommendation.

Wilson, health officer for Jefferson County, stuck to his at-home schooling decision, but now without support from what had long been regarded as the nation’s most esteemed public health authority.

Not only that, he said some of the vexed parents even cited the CDC in attacking his stand. It felt like the limb he was out on had been sawed off at the trunk.

“That guidance gave me one of the worst weeks of my life,” Wilson recalled in an interview with Stateline.

The agency’s revised advice came on the heels of President Donald Trump’s vigorous call for a full, face-to-face school reopening. But it conflicted with what Wilson and other public health officials knew were disturbing results from a credible South Korean study, which, contrary to popular belief, found that older children were a greater risk for transmitting the virus than younger children. That made reopening middle and high schools more problematic.

Since the pandemic began, a string of messages from the Trump administration, many lacking scientific evidence, have confounded the work of state and local public health authorities who have the already challenging job of convincing people to abide by restrictions that many find not only onerous but also economically punishing. Read more.

House OK’s Funding to Avoid Government Shutdown, Bill Goes to Senate

Voterama in Congress

WASHINGTON — Most of Alabama’s House delegation voted in favor of a bill to fund the government on a stopgap basis for the first 10 weeks of fiscal 2021, which begins Oct. 1.

The House approved the bill (HR 8337) in a 359-57 vote on Sept. 22, and it is expected to be taken up by the Senate this week. The continuing resolution became necessary because Congress did not pass regular appropriations bills for the new budget year. The measure will fund agencies at 2020 spending levels through Dec. 11. Read more.

COVID Case Count Tops 150,000

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Alabama eclipsed the 150,000 mark on Friday, and the number of deaths approached the 2,500 level, according to the state Department of Public Health.

The agency added 798 confirmed cases and 1,654 probable cases to its dashboard Friday, pushing its totals to 134,231 confirmed cases and 16,427 probable cases. The total since the pandemic began in March is 150,658 overall. There were eight new deaths Friday, increasing deaths to 2,357 confirmed and 134 probable for a total of 2,491. Read more.

Alabama’s COVID-19 New Case Averages Mixed, Death Reports Turning Upward

After several weeks of Alabama COVID-19 numbers moving in a positive direction, the data is starting to level off or take a slight turn for the worse.

In BirminghamWatch’s weekly analysis of data reported by the Alabama Department of Public Health, the 7-day moving average of new COVID-19 cases for the period ending Wednesday is 704.14 per day, down by two cases per day from a week ago. The longer-term 14-day average has risen to 705.14; that’s an increase of just more than the average 40 cases per day posted seven days ago.

The percentage increase in the number of new positives rose by an average of 0.54% per day over the past seven days, with the average wavering little from that level for three straight weeks. Read more.

CDC Statements Stoke Confusion Over How the Coronavirus Spreads

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday released an updated statement on the spread of coronavirus in the air, then three days later removed that statement from its website, saying it had not been approved for posting.

There are debates about why the statement was issued and revoked, but it’s clear that the stumble has added to the confusion among the public about how the virus spreads. Dr. Wesley Willeford, medical director for disease control at the Jefferson County Department of Health, said that does not change the precautions people should be taking.

Wearing a mask whenever in public and keeping a social distance of at least six feet is still the best advice health officials can give people to avoid contracting the disease, he said. Read more.

Tyson Will Be Nominated to the UAB Healthcare Authority

A year after she was passed over for a slot on the board of the UAB Healthcare Authority, Commissioner Sheila Tyson has been put on the path to being the commission’s nominee to the board.

It is, she said, about time.

“They know that they should (have) appointed me from the very beginning,” Tyson said after today’s commission committee meeting. “I think that they were scared that I was going to shake the trees, what they call ‘shake the bush.’ That’s what they were afraid of but I’m only one vote. Read more.

Protestors Not Allowed Into Birmingham Council Meeting to Speak on Drastic Cuts to the Library Budget

Protestors gathered outside Birmingham City Hall on Tuesday morning, but they weren’t allowed to speak at the City Council meeting going on three stories above them.

The demonstrators held signs that read “Reject Woodfin’s Budget,” “Furlough Woodfin” and “Fund Books Not Brutality.” One neon-yellow sign read: “Dear Randall Woodfin & City Council: Y’all have got to do a better job pretending to care …”

On Friday, the Birmingham Public Library’s board of trustees made the decision to furlough 157 employees, the result of significant cuts in the budget recommended by Mayor Randall Woodfin’s office. Read more.

House Condemn Racism Against Asian-Americans, Including References to ‘Chinese Virus’

Voterama in Congress

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives voted 243-184 on Sept. 17 to adopt a non-binding resolution (H Res 908) to condemn expressions of racism, discrimination or religious intolerance against Asian-Americans related to the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes terms such as “Chinese Virus,” “Wuhan Virus” and ”Kung-flu.” Read more.