MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Legislature could give final approval Thursday to legislation supporters say protect workers and residents in the state who want exemptions from federal COVID-19 vaccine requirements.
Senate Bill 9 and Senate Bill 15 are two of several bills the GOP-led legislature filed in this special session to push back against federal mandates and protect the unvaccinated. While the mandates for federal workers and contractors and large employers already allow for medical and religious exemptions, supporters of Senate Bill 9 say it creates an easy-to-use form for employees seeking those exemptions.
Senate Bills 9 and 15 put GOP supporters at odds with the state’s business community, which argues the legislation creates confusing, dueling mandates on employers. Read more.
Also in the Legislature Wednesday:
MONTGOMERY — State lawmakers wrapped up their work on redistricting Wednesday, sending all four maps redrawn with Census 2020 data to Gov. Kay Ivey.
The Senate gave final approval to the congressional and Alabama House of Representatives district maps. Meanwhile, the House passed new district maps for the state Senate and the Alabama State Board of Education. Read More
MONTGOMERY — Two bills opposing the COVID-19 vaccine mandates for federal workers and large companies got Senate committee approval on Monday and now move to the full Senate. They could get votes there Tuesday.
While Republican supporters say they know the federal mandate issue will have to be settled in court, they said the Legislature needs to act, too. So far, 12 anti-vaccine mandate bills have been filed in this special session, including five filed in the House despite Speaker Mac McCutcheon’s statement last week that this special session on redistricting isn’t the place to handle the issue. Read more.
New data shows about $910 million meant to prevent evictions had yet to be used by the end of September in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. Read more.
Let’s see that smile, Jefferson County.
As of Tuesday, the county has been classified as having a moderate rate of transmission of COVID-19 based on CDC guidelines, meaning persons who are fully vaccinated need not wear a mask in public, indoor settings.
The move to drop the classification from substantial reflects two main factors: the total number of new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days and the percentage of COVID nucleic acid amplification tests that have been positive over the past seven days, said Dr. Wesley Willeford, medical director of Disease Control for the Jefferson County Department of Health.
Willeford said Thursday that moderate transmission means, “We would be seeing between 10-49.99 new cases of Covid per 100,000 persons in the past seven days and our percent positive would be between 5-7.99%.” Willeford said Jefferson County currently has a 4.1% positivity rate for COVID-19 cases and 45.1 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 persons.
The no mask requirement in public indoor settings comes through guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But it does not apply to those who have not yet been vaccinated.
Another caveat from the CDC is that persons who may be at higher risk for bad outcomes related to COVID-19 may still benefit from wearing a mask. Willeford describes those persons as older than 65 or who have weakened immune systems or other high-risk conditions. Read more.
The benefits of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, which is slated to go to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval next week, far outweigh its risk to children, said Dr. David Kimberlin, co-director of UAB and Children’s of Alabama’s pediatrics division.
He called his press conference Wednesday the most upbeat one in months, saying the delta variant of COVID-19 has receded. But the doctor warned that if another virus variant surfaces, the public should increase preventative measures.
Kimberlin said vaccine data given Tuesday by an external advisory board to the FDA about the safety of vaccines for ages 5 to 11 is “incontrovertible.” Read more.
The number of deaths in Alabama that are attributed to the COVID-19 virus has finally started to decrease in earnest, after averaging more than 100 per day as recently as a month ago.
In BirminghamWatch’s periodic analysis of the state’s pandemic data, the 7-day moving average of deaths dropped into the teens Wednesday, now standing at 17.29 per day. The longer term 14-day average is still roughly double that number, checking in at 32.29, but is also in a decline.
Both averages were at 100 or more in the latter part of September as the delta-variant surge swept through Alabama. As has been the case during the pandemic, deaths have lagged new COVID cases by about three to six weeks. The peak of the 7-day case average was reached on Sept. 1, while the peak of the deaths average came on Sept. 23. This follows the pattern of the original alpha-variant surge in December through February.
Hospitalizations of COVID patients continues its steady decrease, with the Alabama Hospital Association reporting 482 inpatients as of Tuesday. Read more.
The surge of COVID-19 that plagued Alabama and the nation over the summer continued its decline over the past week as summer gave way to fall.
The number of new cases reported each day by the Alabama Department of Public Health has fallen by more than 60% since the beginning of October. The 7-day moving average fell to 784 on Wednesday, a drop of 12% in the past seven days. The longer-term 14-day average fell to 838.57, a decrease of almost two-thirds from Oct. 1.
Since the Delta-induced summer surge peaked Sept. 1 with a 7-day average of 5,538, the new-case numbers have tumbled by more than 85%. The current level is still well above the low set just after Independence Day, 3½ months ago, when the average bottomed out at 121 cases per day.
The steady decrease is also shown in the state’s hospitalization numbers. Read more.
A north Alabama lawmaker wants to prohibit Alabama businesses and agencies from requiring their employees or patrons to be immunized.
House Bill 31 also says that anyone fired or discriminated against because of their immunization status — it doesn’t specifically mention COVID-19 — can sue the business or entity, which range in the bill from amusement parks to zoos.
“I feel like it’s my body, my choice,” Rep. Ritchie Whorton, a two-term Republican from Owens Cross Roads, told Alabama Daily News on Monday. “No one is going to tell me I have to put something in my body. It’s not right.”
The bill isn’t yet available on the Legislature’s website, but copies are floating around Montgomery — and drawing opposition from some of Alabama’s most influential organizations.
“(The Business Council of Alabama) is opposed to HB 31 and any similar legislation that opens Alabama businesses up to frivolous lawsuits,” BCA Vice President Susan Carothers told ADN.
“Very few, if any, laws have been introduced in the Alabama Legislature with more onerous provisions against business than HB 31,” the Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee said in a letter opposing the bill. Read more.
Wages have gone up as restaurants try to hold onto their staff amid a record number of people quitting their jobs in the U.S., especially in the South. Read more.
The effects of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus have subsided in Alabama almost as quickly as they peaked.
In a BirminghamWatch analysis of the state’s pandemic data, the 7-day moving average of new daily cases has fallen below the 1,000 mark, six weeks after it surpassed 5,500 — the highest reading since the pandemic began in March 2020.
The Alabama Department of Public Health reported on Wednesday that the 7-day average stands at 893.14 new cases per day. That reading comes a day after dropping below 1,000 and is now roughly one-seventh of the record set Sept. 1.
By comparison, the recent Delta surge took seven weeks to skyrocket from the previous low point of 121 cases per day on July 7 to the peak. And though the current level is still considerably higher than that low point, the downward direction of the curve is very close to the inverse of the upward slope in summer. Read more.