Campaign funding, with lists of contributors
There is no Democratic runoff in this race.
Campaign funding, with lists of contributors
There is no Democratic runoff in this race.
Yep. After a week when new COVID-19 cases most days hovered around 500 – and one day 664 new cases were reported – the total Saturday rose by only 58 cases. Unfortunately, that doesn’t indicate that the disease has dropped drastically and suddenly, but that the state changed the way it reports cases. Read more.
The coronavirus pandemic has spurred a new wave of legal challenges to Alabama’s voting laws, particularly its absentee ballot requirements. The League of Women Voters of Alabama is the latest group to file a lawsuit against the state claiming its voting rules are too restrictive. The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Montgomery County Circuit Court, urges state officials to expand absentee ballot access during the November general election. Read more.
UAB epidemiologist Dr. Rachael Lee today said that Alabamians will have to exercise personal responsibility to keep the state’s increasing COVID-19 infections from overwhelming the health care system.
Lee said that the increasing number of positive cases is “concerning,” particularly as the state increasingly relaxes restrictions and as the number of tests administered remains steady. Alabama is one of several states being watched because the number of confirmed positive cases of the potentially deadly viral infection are going up.
Lee held UAB’s weekly coronavirus press conference the day after the largest single day increase in coronavirus cases in the state. She addressed a wide range of questions during the more than 45-minute-long press conference, dealing largely with the spike in cases, hospitals’ nearing capacity in some areas, how the coronavirus differs from the flu, remdesivir, the feared second wave and the ongoing need for personal protective measures. Read more.
The coronavirus has hit the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home in Alexander City like a public health tsunami. Since April 8, 91 of its residents, more than half of its residential population, have tested positive for the virus, and 23 of them have died.
But by Friday, following a second round of virus testing at the home, the number of Nichols residents who tested positive was down to nine.
“This is a significant and promising downward trend,” a Friday news release from the state Department of Veterans Affairs stated. It also added that 12 of the 41 Nichols home employees who had earlier tested positive for the virus had recovered and returned to work. Read more.
Though deploying in much smaller numbers than they did during the height of U.S. involvement in the Iraq and Afghan wars, Alabama National Guard troops are still deploying, and in the time of COVID-19, they are doing things a little differently.
About 30 soldiers with the Guard’s 666th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company are expected to deploy in the near future for about nine months overseas. Earlier this month, the soldiers with the Jacksonville-based unit arrived at a mobilization station for additional training before they deploy. But the soldiers did not hit the ground running. Because of the COVID-19 threat, they have some additional do’s and don’ts. Read more.
Hurricane season starts June 1. That’s nothing new for those who live along the Gulf Coast, but what is new this year is that hurricane season will happen during the coronavirus pandemic. Read more.
MONTGOMERY — Alabama Community College System leadership on Wednesday said campuses are planning to reopen in the fall, subject to guidance from Gov. Kay Ivey regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more.
The double whammy of pandemic and job loss has left Birmingham-area food banks scrambling to provide sustenance to the needy. Some food banks have closed, especially in rural counties. Others have extended the time between food giveaways.
Compounding a drop in donated food is a lack of volunteers to help pack and deliver the food. This comes at a time when the need for food is increasing. The Salvation Army has reported four times as many people seeing food assistance. State officials also have seen a rapid increase in the number of applicants seeking food benefits.
The Greater Birmingham Ministries usually gives three brown bags of groceries to about 60 families each week. Last week more than a hundred showed up seeking food.
“We had to turn people away,” said Sarah Price, direct services coordinator at the ministries. “We referred them to other charities.” Read more.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham and Southern Research of Birmingham will be part of an international program that will try to identify existing drugs that may be effective in treating people exposed to COVID-19.
The effort, coordinated by Scripps Research of La Jolla, California, involves ReFRAME, a large collection of drugs developed for other diseases and known to be safe for humans, UAB said today.
The spread of COVID-19 and the strain it has placed on Alabama’s health care system has inspired a new coalition to push for Medicaid expansion in the state, but support from Republican leadership still seems doubtful. Read more.
The state’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, continues to waive cost-sharing, including co-pays, for those who need treatment for COVID-19.
“We want our members to be assured that we are here for them as we navigate through this unprecedented time,” said Tim Vines, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama’s president, in a press release. “For our members diagnosed with COVID-19, we want them to have peace of mind knowing they have access to the care they need.”
An Auburn University professor will soon begin testing new COVID-19 vaccines to see how they work alone or with other ingredients to help slow the spread of the virus.
Dr. Constantinos Kyriakis, an associate professor for the College of Veterinary Medicine, will head the testing while working with Professor Ted Ross, the director of the Center for Vaccines and Immunology at the University of Georgia. Kryiakis will begin animal trials to investigate the effectiveness of different vaccine candidates.
The testing will involve vaccine candidates’ effectiveness at triggering an immune system response in pigs. The tests will see what other ingredients could trigger a greater immune system response, in order to make the most effective vaccine.
UAB doctors hope a low-risk, FDA-approved drug to be tested at UAB Hospital will serve as a “rescue therapy” for ventilated patients with lungs seriously damaged by the coronavirus, COVID-19. UAB is among the first in the nation to offer inhaled nitric oxide as a potential viable treatment in its intensive care unit for the sickest of these patients, officials said in a telephone news conference. Read more.
As the fear of coming into contact with the novel coronavirus increases, people are asking how long the virus can live on surfaces and in the air. There’s no one easy answer because the virus can live for different lengths of time on different surfaces, but a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine sought to break down those risks. The study found that the half-life of the virus hanging in the air is about one hour. But researchers still could measure viable virus in the air after three hours. Read more.
UAB has created a new symptom checker to track the spread of COVID-19. The website hopes to give public health officials insight on virus hotspots, especially in underserved communities. Read more.
Voterama in Congress
WASHINGTON — All of Alabama’s representatives, along with all but one member of the House, voted for a bill designed to plug holes in previous paycheck protection legislation. Read more.
The Alabama Department of Transportation is considering allowing law enforcement agencies access to ALDOT rights-of-way and structures to install license plate readers and other surveillance equipment.
At least one Alabama lawmaker said legislation may be needed to regulate the use of the devices and information they collect.
Tony Harris, government relations manager for ALDOT, told Alabama Daily News the proposed rules are a result of recent requests from multiple police agencies.
Polling places in Jefferson County could be in line to receive more money to host elections, according to a report from Barry Stephenson, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Registrars.
Speaking at Thursday’s meeting of the Jefferson County Commission, Stephenson said that the county last increased the rent offered to sites that host polling places in October 2018. That took the rent from $25 to $100.
The registrar said an increase in rent this year would be a sign of goodwill. When asked, Stephenson said the rent could be raised to $250 for each of the county’s 175 polling places; he said only 60 polling places actually accept rent.
Viewers of Tuesday’s Jefferson County Commission committee meeting were given a hint of what was to come in today’s commission meeting.
Even if they didn’t realize it.
Revenue Director Travis Hulsey, the county’s interim chief financial officer, was about to present financial resolutions when commissioners asked that deputy CFO Angela Dixon make the presentation instead.
They did that because Dixon was hired today to be the county CFO, replacing John Henry, who left for a job in Washington, D.C., in January.
Two environmental groups filed suit this week under the Alabama Open Records Act seeking to force state officials to turn over documents related to the 35th Avenue Superfund federal bribery trial.
Over the past few years many nonprofits, news organizations and others have attempted to use the law to gain access to information but often have been stonewalled by agencies and their officers.
The Environmental Defense Alliance and Gasp, a clean air and human rights advocate, filed a lawsuit claiming that Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, the director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and a member of the Alabama Environmental Management Commission violated the Open Records Act by denying access to public records.
Birmingham’s FY 2021 budget will be delayed for three months as the city works to ascertain the financial impact of COVID-19.
Mayor Randall Woodfin told the City Council on Tuesday morning that the city could take a $75 million to $110 million hit to next year’s budget because of losses in revenues from sources such as sales, use and occupational taxes. He hopes delaying the budgeting process will give city leaders more time to understand the extent of the damage.
“Adjustments to an operational budget of our size to offset this amount of deficit would require major reductions and austerity measures to our current cost structures,” Woodfin said. Read more.
Birmingham has extended its ordinances requiring face coverings in public places through May 29. That’s a week later than the May 22 deadline the council set last week, and councilors have suggested that further extensions are likely as the number of COVID-19 cases in Alabama continues to rise.
The face covering ordinance has been in effect since May 1. It requires residents to wear a device covering their nose and mouth to stymie the spread of the virus. Medical-grade masks are not required; scarves, bandanas or other fabrics will suffice. A document answering frequently asked questions about the ordinance, including a list of exceptions, is available on the city’s website.
Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell is responding to comments recently made by 5th District Congressman Mo Brooks regarding the organization’s advocacy efforts for trade with China.
During an appearance on the Dale Jackson radio show in Huntsville, Brooks accused farming groups, chambers of commerce, Walmart and other “entities” of siding with China over American interests.
In a letter to Brooks obtained by Alabama Daily News, Parnell took serious issue with the congressman’s comments, calling them “not only unfair” but untrue.
The House on Friday narrowly approved a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package (HR 6800). Alabama’s representatives voted along party lines, with Democrat Rep. Terri Sewell voting to approve and the Republicans voting against the matter. The measure is unlikely to become law. Republican senators oppose it, and President Trump has said he would veto it. Read more.
Alabama’s Public Service Commission is considering new rules that restrict recording formal hearings. Critics say the “Media Coverage Plan” goes too far and limits transparency of the agency. Read more.
The Birmingham City Council has delayed a proposal to bring a new football classic to Legion Field this October. Mayor Randall Woodfin’s proposal, which appeared before the council Tuesday, would make Legion Field the site of an annual football game between Morehouse and Tuskegee universities, two historically black colleges and universities. Read more.
U.S. Sen. Doug Jones took Attorney General William Barr to task Friday, saying Barr had tossed aside the rule of law in the Justice Department’s decision to drop a 3-year-old criminal case against former Trump Administration National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. ”As a former U.S. attorney, I have to say I was absolutely appalled,” Jones, D-Ala., said during a Friday video news conference. “The attorney general, I think, has basically thrown the rule of law out the window” and “given a green light for people to lie to the FBI.” Read more.
WASHINGTON — All of Alabama members in the U.S. House of Representatives voted last week to approve a $484 billion package to help hospitals, small businesses, farms and other recipients cope with economic misfortune over the next few months of the coronavirus pandemic. Read More
Ensley’s long-abandoned Ramsay-McCormack building will be demolished and replaced by a four-story, multi-use building, Mayor Randall Woodfin told the Birmingham City Council on Wednesday.
An assessment by commercial construction firm Stewart/Perry revealed numerous structural problems in the 10-story, city-owned office building, which has been vacant since 1986.
Never more than Monday have I worried that Donald Trump spends too much time trying to defend his past actions and not enough on forging a plan to eradicate the coronavirus and return the country to normal. Read more.
The outbreak of the new coronavirus has drastically altered the campaigns for Alabama’s runoff elections. Originally scheduled for March 31, runoffs for the Republican races for Congress and U.S. Senate are now postponed until July 14.
The pandemic and its total consumption of the news cycle have also shifted the narrative for candidates. Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is running for his former seat in the U.S. Senate, has capitalized on the situation to take an aggressive position against China and highlight his foreign policy bonafides.
In the runoff, Sessions faces former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, who won 33% of the vote to Sessions’ 32% in the March 3 primary election. Todd Stacy of Alabama Daily News interviewed Sessions and talked about his campaign and the issues he is discussing.
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