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Amid Prayers and Protective Gear, Legislature Postpones Session

MONTGOMERY — State lawmakers walked one by one into their respective chambers, each keeping a strict distance from one another and many wearing protective masks and gloves as the House and Senate met at the State House Tuesday.

The Legislature was forced to convene Tuesday to formally adopt a joint rule allowing for the postponement of a legislative session during a state of emergency. Fifty-eight of 105 House members were in attendance, each asked to sit with a seat between them in chairs specially marked by neon green sticky notes. Twenty-two of 35 senators were present in the much more spacious upper chamber, enough to conduct the limited business of the day: deciding when to reconvene the 2020 regular session amid the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

Both the House and Senate agreed to meet again on April 28, hoping the worst of the outbreak will be over by then. Read more.

Gov. Ivey Awards $9.5 Million in Broadband Expansion Grants

MONTGOMERY — Gov. Kay Ivey awarded 20 broadband expansion grants totaling more than $9.5 million to provide high-speed internet access to communities across Alabama.

The grants are part of the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund and awarded to nine broadband providers to help fund multiple projects in their coverage areas.

Ivey said that high-speed Internet is always important to have but especially now as cases of COVID-19 have increased in the state and more people are asked to work and learn at home. Public schools are now closed and students are finishing the academic year in their houses. Read more.

Jefferson County Commission Sets Up $1 Million Virus Fund, Extends County Closings Through April

The Jefferson County Commission used its second emergency meeting of the COVID-19 pandemic to extend the closure of county facilities until April 30 and set up a $1 million COVID-19 fund to handle needs as they arise.

The first $80,750 of that $1 million was used to purchase 55 hospital beds from Jett Medical Company in the event a “surge hospital” must be established. Such a facility will be set up if local hospitals become overcrowded. Read more.

Lawyers: Set Parole Hearings, Prevent Virus Spread in Alabama’s Crowded Prisons

A group of law school faculty members and former prosecutors has written Gov. Kay Ivey urging her to have the state Board of Pardons and Paroles hold expedited hearings to reduce the risk of COVID-19 to Alabama’s prison population.

“The Board should prioritize the release, if necessary into 14-day quarantine, of prisoners age 50 and over and those with compromised immune systems,” the letter stated. “Alabama should recognize the parole system as one avenue through which to ameliorate the public-health threat posed by our overcrowded prisons.” Read more.

‘Critical Shortage Everywhere’ of Personal Protective Equipment

Like a lot of places these days, the Homewood Public Library is closed. But on Saturday, Dr. Theresa Northern was sitting out front with large cardboard boxes, awaiting donations of personal protective equipment, or PPE.
Northern is part of a Birmingham group for physician moms, which has organized donation drives the past two weekends.

“We’ve gotten a lot of gloves and some masks as well,” Northern said.

The group is specifically requesting N95 masks, or respirators, which have special filters that can help protect against the coronavirus. Other types of PPE also needed by health care providers include face shields and isolation gowns. Read more.