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Teacher’s Union Gives Books to Kids in Jefferson County

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The Jefferson County Chapter of the American Federation Teachers announced in a written statement that they were at Center Point Elementary (which was destroyed in a tornado last year) and nearby Erwin Intermediate School to give away hundreds of new books on Tuesday.

The students at Center Point Elementary and Erwin Intermediate schools are still dealing with the aftermath of the tornado which struck the area in Eastern Jefferson County earlier in the year.

JCAFT President Vi Parramore said, “This is the second book giveaway that our members have sponsored.  Educators know how important it is for children to have a firm foundation in reading. Getting them books of their own that they can take home and read with parents and other family members is just one of the things teachers are doing to help the kids in their classrooms achieve at higher levels.”

The students at Center Point Elementary School are meeting at a temporary location.  At a program on Tuesday at the temporary location, members of the Jefferson County American Federation of Teachers distributed the books to kids who attend the two schools.

After the destruction of the Center Point Elementary School building, its kindergarten through second-grade students have been attending classes at Erwin Intermediate and Erwin Middle schools.

The books were purchased by the teachers union in partnership with First Book.  First Book is a national nonprofit organization which has distributed more than 90 million new, high-quality books to kids from low-income families across the country.  JCAFT leaders and members talked to parents about the importance of reading with their children.  Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Phillip B. Hammonds, members of the board of education, Center Point principal Laura Kirkpatrick and Erwin Intermediate principal Angela Watkins were all participants in the event.

During the Spring the JCAFT gave away books to students at Crumly Chapel Elementary School which was impacted by the devastating April 2011 tornados.  Since World War II more Alabama residents have been killed by tornados than in any other state.

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According to First Book, access to books and educational material is the single biggest barrier to literacy development in the United States.  Studies show that there is a relationship between the number of books in the home and reading achievement. Children with books in their house typically reach a higher level of education than those who don’t.  According to research cited by First Book, Middle income neighborhoods typically have 13 books per child; however in low-income neighborhoods there is typically a ratio of just one book for every 300 children.  94% of teachers have to use their own money to provide books & resources for their students.  Typically children from wealthier families have four times the vocabularies of poor children by age 3.  Poor children typically enter kindergarten 12-14 months below national norms in language & pre-reading skills.  First Book says that reading scores have not improved in this country in decades. 83% of low-income 4th graders score at “Below Proficient” levels.  First Book says that 78% of all juvenile crime is committed by high school drop outs and in 2004 the average high school graduate made $26,156, while the average American high school dropout earned just $16,485 a year.  First Book hopes that distributing books to needy families will change these unfortunate realities.

The largest teacher’s union in the state is the Alabama Education Association (AEA).  The Alabama Federation of Teachers is their rival association and frequent lobbying ally.

To learn more about Jefferson County American Federation of Teachers visit their website:

http://www.jcaft.com/

To learn more about First Book visit their website:

http://www.firstbook.org/

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Health

Three firefighters, police officer in Mobile test positive for COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

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Three firefighters and a police officer in Mobile have tested positive for COVID-19, city officials said Tuesday.

James Barber, executive director of public safety with the city of Mobile, said during a press conference Tuesday that the four city employees tested positive.

The positives come after Mobile-based Synergy Laboratories donated 500 “test kits” and 131 asymptomatic first responders were given the 10-minute rapid blood tests on Monday.  

Barber said the four employees have been quarantined at home until swab tests confirm the virus and physicians provide further guidance.

The rapid blood tests search for antibodies in the blood, which could show a past infection, but not necessarily active infections that are still contagious.

The swab tests will confirm an active infection if one exists. It’s possible the first responders have already recovered from the virus and are no longer contagious.

“That testing continues today,” Barber said of the rapid blood testing of first responders.

Barber said he didn’t have results from Tuesday’s testing yet, but that Monday’s testing resulted in just more than 3 percent of those tested showing positive results for COVID-19. 

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There were 53 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one death from the virus in Mobile County as of Tuesday evening, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. 

As of Tuesday evening, there were 999 confirmed COVID-19 cases across Alabama, 13 confirmed deaths from the virus and 23 total reported deaths, some of them not yet confirmed as being caused by the virus.

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Economy

Freelancers, gig workers can begin filing unemployment claims

Chip Brownlee

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Stock Photo

Employees like freelancers and the self-employed can now file for an unemployment claim in Alabama, the Alabama Department of Labor said Tuesday, under the CARES Act, the coronavirus response bill passed by Congress and signed by the president last week.

The Alabama Department of Labor is encouraging employees who believe they may qualify for programs under the CARES Act to file a claim.

These employees will also need to certify weekly to continue to let the department know that they remain unemployed.

Although ADOL does not yet have technical guidance or a start date regarding the CARES Act programs, benefits may be paid retroactively from the time the employee separated from his or her job or otherwise became eligible under the federal CARES Act, not from the time the application was submitted or approved.

In Alabama, many freelancers, independent contractors and the self-employed are not typically able to file for unemployment insurance.

Last week, more than 70,000 people filed an initial jobless claim. Claims can be filed online at www.labor.alabama.gov or by calling 1-866-234-5382.

The Department of Labor is asking for patience when trying to file a claim.

ADOL says employees who may be affected include:

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  • The self-employed
  • Church employees
  • Non-profit and governmental employees
  • Independent contractors
  • Gig economy workers
  • Those who have exhausted their regular UI benefits.

These employees should also meet one of these conditions:

  • The individual has been diagnosed; or
  • A member of the individual’s household has been diagnosed; or
  • The individual is providing care to a household or family member; or
  • A child or other person for which the individual has primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility as a result of COVID-19; or
  • The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency; or
  • The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because the individual has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine; or
  • The individual was scheduled to start work and does not have a job as a result of COVID-19; or
  • The individual has become “the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19”; or
  • The individual has to quit their job because of COVID-19; or
  • The individual’s place of employment is closed because of COVID-19.

This list is not exhaustive.

Further details regarding the CARES Act programs will be forthcoming, the department says, including information regarding Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which provides for an additional $600 a week in unemployment compensation benefits.

The additional $600 weekly benefit will only be available for weeks beginning March 29, 2020

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Health

Two hospital employees in Huntsville test positive for COVID-19

Chip Brownlee

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Stock Photo/Huntsville, Alabama

A physician and another employee at Crestwood Medical Center in Huntsville, Alabama, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the hospital said Tuesday.

“Crestwood Medical Center learned that 2 of our associates (one physician and one employee) have tested positive for COVID-19,” spokesperson Lori Light said in a statement Tuesday.

One is in the hospital for care while the other is at home under quarantine.

The hospital has also had two patients test positive in the Emergency Department, but neither of the patients needed inpatient care, the spokesperson said.

“Working in coordination with the health department, we are following established CDC procedures to identify and communicate directly with any potentially exposed staff and patients,” the Crestwood Medical Center spokesperson said.

Overall, there are at least 13 COVID-19 patients in Madison County, the hospital’s CEO Dr. Pam Hudson said Tuesday during a briefing.

There are 11 inpatients at Huntsville Hospital’s facilities, according to Huntsville Hospital spokesperson Susan Esslinger.

In Alabama, the number of positive cases is nearing 1,000. At least 23 deaths related to COVID-19 have been reported. The Alabama Department of Public Health has officially confirmed 13.

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Crime

Alabama inmate killed by another inmate at Ventress Correctional

Eddie Burkhalter

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via the Alabama Department of Corrections

A Birmingham man serving at Ventress Correctional Facility in Clayton was killed by another inmate, according to the Alabama Department of Corrections. 

Dennis Benson, 40, who was serving a 36-month sentence for possession of a controlled substance and receiving stolen property, died March 30 after being attacked by another inmate, ADOC said in a statement. 

“The ADOC condemns all violence in its facilities, and the fatal actions taken against Benson by another inmate are being thoroughly investigated,” the department said in a statement.

Benson’s cause of death is pending a full autopsy, and more information will be available upon the conclusion of the investigation into his death, according to the department. 

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