City of Birmingham

Woodfin Describes Battle With COVID, Sees Relief Coming for the City From the Biden Administration

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin curing his campaign kickoff Jan. 30, 2021. (Photo by Sam Prickett)

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin urges Birmingham residents to continue taking the new coronavirus seriously, and he speaks from firsthand experience.

Woodfin told BirminghamWatch on Saturday that he is mostly recovered after being hospitalized briefly with COVID-related pneumonia, but it’s been an uphill battle.

“It was tough,” he said. “I had three different phases. In the first phase, I had every symptom people describe. Some people get some, some people get none, I had all of them: no taste, no smell, body aches, body chills, fever, fatigue, waking up in the middle of the night feeling like you’ve been in a swimming pool — all of the above. The third or fourth day, I thought I was getting better. Then on the sixth day, I started having a hard time breathing.”

That was when he entered the hospital with COVID-related pneumonia on his left lung. He was treated with “everything they could give me,” including Remdesivir and blood plasma, and was released two days later.

“I was weak but thought I was getting better — and then I took another left turn,” he said. “Something called neuro-COVID, where it attacks your neurological system. For me, it was the muscles and joints in my extremities.

“I haven’t told a lot of people this, but I could barely walk for like, three-and-a-half, four days. It’s probably the most unbearable pain I’ve ever had in my life, actually.”

Even though masks and socially distancing are starting to wear thin for some people, Woodfin urged residents to continue being careful. “The coronavirus still exists,” he said. “I need y’all to continue to be safe and take this seriously.”

Relief Through the Biden Administration

Woodfin said he does see a light at the end of COVID-19’s long, dark tunnel — and it looks a lot like the Biden administration.

Woodfin, who endorsed Biden early on in the 2020 Democratic primary, said he believed the new presidential administration soon would provide direct help to cities such as Birmingham, both in terms of vaccine distribution and of direct financial aid.

“I’m excited that they’re making it more aggressive to get the vaccine,” he told supporters during a campaign kickoff rally Saturday. “They’ve decreased the age, they’re going to take care of our teachers, they’re going to take care of our first responders, and that’s important so that we can get back to our way of life.”

In particular, he told BirminghamWatch, he anticipated a new round of stimulus relief targeting municipalities.

“The first thing to look for is, cities still need a bailout,” he said. “You saw it on full display the entire time Trump was in office, that he attacked cities. He withheld resources … . Every single industry in America has received a bailout. Even the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority got a bailout. Airlines, nonprofits, faith-based, for-profits, small businesses — every single industry in America has received a bailout.

“So the first thing I’m looking forward to is cities being included in the next round (of federal relief funding),” he said. “Unrestricted. That’s going to be a miracle to us to provide more services to our citizens and to make employees whole, because they both deserve it.”

Woodfin’s hope for the city’s collaboration with the Biden administration extends beyond COVID, too. He hopes to build strong relationships with the president’s new cabinet, particularly the new secretaries at the departments of housing and urban development, education, labor and commerce, all of whom he said is welcome to use Birmingham as a testing ground for new federal initiatives.

“Our city is small enough to try something that works, and it’s large enough to make it scalable and applicable to any other urban core in America,” he said. “In Birmingham, anything the federal government, this administration, the White House wants to test-case for, or try to jump-start growth of in any of those departments I just named? Birmingham will partner with them.”