In the 1960s, health care for Black residents in rural Mississippi was practically non-existent. While some hospitals served Black patients, they struggled to stay afloat; most options were segregated. During the height of the civil rights movement, young Black doctors decided to launch a movement of their own.
“Mississippi was third-world and was so bad and so separated. The community health center movement was the conduit for physicians all over this country who believed that all people have a right to health care,” said Dr. Robert Smith.
In 1965, Smith co-founded the Delta Health Center, the country’s first rural community health center, in Mound Bayou, a small town tucked away into the heart of the Mississippi Delta. The center became a national model and is now one of nearly 1,400 across the country. They are a key resource across Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, where about 2 in 5 Americans live in rural areas.
These rural health care providers remain under-resourced and the COVID-19 pandemic has only magnified existing challenges, like lack of broadband access and limited public transportation. For much of the vaccine rollout, those barriers have made it difficult for providers, like community health centers, to get shots in the arms of their patients.
As vaccine demand slows and coronavirus infection rates start to increase, state and federal officials are turning to these health centers to fulfill the mission of making the vaccine available to all Americans. In April, the Biden administration invested $6 billion in community health centers as part of a plan to increase access and awareness in the hardest-hit communities.
The number of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients spiked over the weekend. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 381 inpatients being treated for the virus Sunday. That’s an increase of 51 patients from Saturday’s report and 80 more than the previous Sunday — a rise of 26.6% over the week.
In a March presentation on how the city of Birmingham’s finances are faring one year into the pandemic, city finance director Lester Smith said business license filings were down about 500 in the first 2.5 months of the year compared to the same time last year.
“My concern is that differentiation between those numbers may be lost businesses, but we don’t know that yet, so we have to continue to monitor it,” Smith said late last month.
Municipal business licenses are usually due early each year and have been an anticipated gauge of the true economic impact of COVID-19.
“The overall concern is that in the municipalities that have seen a downturn in license renewals, is that you have lost some jobs and loss of business investment in your community,” Alabama League of Municipalities Executive Director Greg Cochran told Alabama Daily News. “Ensuring that businesses stayed healthy during the pandemic and stayed afloat financially was a difficult tight rope for a lot of them to maneuver down.” Read more.
For the second day in a row, the number of new cases of COVID-19 has increased in Alabama — barely — though they still remain well below those from a month ago. Read more.
Alabama could have a “return to normality” this fall if people continue to get vaccinations as they are now, a UAB expert said Thursday.
UAB School of Public Health professor Suzanne Judd said vaccinated people could feel confident returning to their pre-pandemic lifestyles when the rate of cases drops to 5 per 100,000. That is likely to happen when 70% of the population of the state, or about 3.5 million people, has immunity to the novel coronavirus. Read more.
New COVID-19 cases increased in Thursday’s report by the Alabama Department of Public Health. There were 421 new cases, the first report above 400 in more than a week. Read more.
After a steady decline over the past three months, the trend of new COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations is flattening out, or in some cases pointing slightly upward. In BirminghamWatch’s periodic analysis of COVID data, the 7-day average of new cases reported by the Alabama Department of Public Health is 311.14 per day, up from 294.86 a week beforehand. Read more.
MONTGOMERY — Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall warned local governments Tuesday to use incoming funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act in accordance with state law or be subject to criminal charges. Read more.
Alabama is one of several states halting distribution of the vaccine as federal health officials examine links to adverse health effects. Read more.