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Quarter Horse Association Requires Genetic Testing of Stallions

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The Quarter Horse is the most popular breed of horse in the United States. The quarter horse was bred to work cattle on American ranches. Those attributes also make it the ideal trail riding/family horse for those who want a horse for pleasure purposes. Decades of research, have shown that defects in inheritable genes are responsible for some of the diseases that afflict some American Quarter Horses. According to a statement by the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), the effects of these diseases are wide-ranging, from mild and manageable to severe and terminal.

The American Quarter Horse Association said in their statement that passing these diseases on to successive generations would cause unnecessary suffering for the afflicted animals and financial losses for breeders. To combat this, beginning with the 2014 breeding season, all stallions breeding 25 or more mares are required to have the five-panel disease test results on file, per Rule REG108.5 in the 2014 AQHA Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations. In 2015, all breeding stallions must be tested.

Genetic tests have been developed to help breeders identify affected horses, allowing them to make better decisions and avoid perpetuating these undesirable traits. The AQHA panel test looks for five genetic diseases: glycogen branching enzyme deficiency, hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia, hyperkalemic periodic paralysis, malignant hyperthermia and polysaccharide storage myopathy.

When a horse owner orders an AQHA panel test, AQHA will send a DNA kit, and the owner will mail it to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California-Davis for testing. Once the tests are complete, AQHA will notify the owner with the results. The cost of the tests is $85 for AQHA members and $125 for nonmembers. For the panel test in conjunction with the DNA test required for most breeding stock, the cost is $105 for members.

The kit asks for mane hair, but tail hair will works, too.   It is important that the roots to be attached to the hair. AQHA members can calling customer service at 806-376-4811 to order a kit. www.aqha.com/genetictesting.

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>Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP) is the genetic disease that rocked the Quarter Horse and other American horse breeds to its core, because of the number of horses afflicted and the reputation and value of many of the horses that proved to be the carriers for the condition.

According to information from Horsegenetics.com, the stallion, Impressive, was born on April 15, 1968.  Impressive was a chestnut Appendix American Quarter Horse colt foal, with royal Thoroughbred breeding on both sides of his pedigree. Impressive and his progeny dominated Quarter Horse halter classes at Quarter Horse shows like no other horse before or since. Eventually purchased by Fennel Brown for $40,000, in 1974, at age six, Impressive became the first World Champion Open Aged halter stallion, with 48 halter points.  Impressive was valued at $300,000 at the time.  Impressive was popular with horse breeders for his muscular and refined form, which he passed on to his offspring, siring almost 30 World Champions. Even though his stud fee was raised to $25,000 he eventually fathered about 2,250 foals, including Noble Tradition, who was a four-time World Champion halter stallion and a highly successful sire in his own right.

By 1993 Impressive was estimated to have in excess of 55,000 living descendants, including Quarter Horses, Paints and Appaloosas. Impressive died on the 20th March 1995, at the age of twenty-seven.  According to some estimates he has over 100,000 living descendants today in multiple breeds.

All of his incredible success in life has become overshadowed however by one recessive genetic mutation that he also passed on to his heirs.  A rare muscular disorder now known as hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) trace directly back to the Quarter Horse legend.  Impressive, himself, never exhibited any symptoms of the disease but many of his descendants have contracted the painful, alarming and often fatal disease when they descended from Impressive on both their paternal and maternal lines.

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Afflicted animals show a strange muscular twitching that often left their horses temporarily unable to move. These episodes varied widely in degree and duration and were usually misdiagnosed by breeders and veterinarians as tying-up syndrome or colic. In extreme cases, the horse experiences attacks of temporary paralysis that can result in death. Due to the popularity and prominence of the Impressive line, many in the horse industry were reluctant to publicly name Impressive as being responsible for the flaw even though the disorder has never been observed in horses of any other lineages.

Research about HYPP by the University of California-Davis Equine Research Laboratory funded by the AQHA showed that medication and a low-potassium diet could control the disease, lessening the frequency and severity of the attacks.  Once a treatment was available many owners of affected horses considered HYPP simply an inconvenience and not a reason not to still show and breed their valuable horses, often selling those foals to customers who were still completely unaware of HYPP.

Eventually molecular genetics research confirmed what most breeders experienced with Impressive line animals already knew by that time and identified that a gene was involved in HYPP. A test was developed to show which horses carried the gene. Even then AQHA and the research community were both reluctant to publicly reveal the truth, fearing the possible legal and financial consequences of a backlash from wealthy horse breeders.  Eventually reality set in and HYPP is commonly referred to today as Impressive Syndrome.

In 1992 the genetic test was made available to horse breeders that identifies affected horses with virtual certainty. The simple blood test is available at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Medicine, or through the AQHA.

In 2004 the AQHA set January 1st 2007 as the date after which foals testing homozygous for HYPP would no longer be registerable, with mandatory testing for HYPP for the descendants of Impressive. Homozygous animals are the ones that received the HYPP gene from both parents and will likely express the disease at some point in their lifetime. Heterozygous horses carry the gene and will transmit it ~50% of the time to their offspring. HYPP is very common in horses raised for halter classes (where Impressive dominated) but is not found in race horses or endurance horses.

Beginning in January 2008, the Appaloosa Association began disallowing the registry of homozygous foals from January 1st 2008.  The American Palomino registries passed rulings against both homozygous and heterozygous HYPP horses.  If horse owners will test their horses for HYPP and other know genetic diseases and then not let carriers of these diseases breed they can eliminate these diseases from the American horse population.

According to information from Animal Genetics Incorporated, Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia (HERDA) which is also known as Hyperelastosis Cutis (HC) is a genetic skin disease commonly found in the American Quarter Horse. Researchers at Mississippi State University and Cornell University believe that the origin of this genetic disorder may trace to somewhere in the popular Foundation Quarter Horse Poco Bueno’s sire line.

The symptoms of this disorder is a lack of adhesion within the layers of skin due to a genetic defect in the collagen that holds the skin in place.  This defect causes the outer layer of skin to split or separate from the deeper layers sometimes tearing off completely.  These lesions often leaving permanent scars.  The pain from the lesions under a saddle often prevents the horse from being ridable.

This is another recessive condition where the heterozygous animals for the trait show no symptoms but pass the gene on to their descendants.  The homozygous descendent inherits the condition and are the ones who suffer the symptoms.

According to information at Animal Genetics Incorporated, Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency (GBED) is a disorder first recognized by the University of Minnesota that causes muscle weakness in Quarter Horse and related breeds. According to some studies, at least 3% of the abortions and still births in Quarter horses are due to GBED.  Some foals with the disease are born alive but are very weak and may require warming and assistance to nurse after birth.  While often these foals will appear healthy at some point they develop seizures, become too weak to stand, or die suddenly.  One indicator of GBED foals is that they are less active than other foals. Even with aggressive treatment, there is no known case of a GBED foal living past 18 weeks of age.  GBED is frequently misdiagnosed by veterinarians.   According to research done at the University of Minnesota this mutation is present in about 10% of all Quarter Horses and related bloodlines. Again GBED is another recessive genetic disease, where heterozygous animals show no symptoms, but the homozygous foals have the condition.

According to information from the University of Kentucky Equine Research Department, Malignant Hyperthermia (MH) is another genetic disorder of horses.  MH is found in Quarter Horses and members of related breeds such as Appaloosas and Paints.  Less than 1% of Quarter Horses are affected, and those that are seem to trace to two specific bloodlines.

Signs of MH include: high body temperature, either under general anesthesia or in conjunction with an episode of tying-up, usually type 1 polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM).  If a horse has both MH and PSSM the horse should be fed a diet that is low in starch and high in fermentable fiber and fat to prevent PSSM symptoms.   Managing the condition is much harder if both MH and PSSM are present and will likely require that a horse nutritionist evaluate the diet to ensure vitamin E and selenium levels are adequate.

Like these other disorder MH is a genetic disease and eliminating the disease from the Horse Industry requires genetic testing.  Unlike the other diseases the MH is dominant over the healthy gene and can be expressed with just one copy of the gene from an affect parent.

Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM) is the final genetic disease that the embattled American Quarter Horse Association is testing for in its new required five way test.

According to information from the University of Minnesota Equine Genetics and Genomic Laboratory published in 2008, Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM) is an inherited muscle disease that affects many different breeds of horses including Quarter Horses, Paints, Appaloosas, Haflingers, Morgans, draft horses, Tennessee Walking Horses, Rock Mountain Horses etc.  PSSM has many different symptoms ranging from muscle pain, cramping, lameness, and cell damage with exercise, to progressive muscle atrophy.

The University of Minnesota Equine Neuromuscular Laboratory discovered a dominant genetic mutation in the GYS1 gene that is responsible for PSSM in many horses.  The symptoms are due to the accumulation of abnormal complex sugars within the skeletal muscle of horses.

The University of Minnesota wrote, “The mutation in GYS1 resulting in PSSM has been recognized in many different breeds and is quite common (up to 35% prevalence) in some of them. It is surprising that a mutation linked to moderate-to-severe clinical disease has persisted at such high frequencies in several different breeds. We believe that under historical management conditions (daily work with limited feed), excess sugar accumulation in the muscles was advantageous for horses and as a result this “thrifty” genotype was positively selected for through breeding. Under modern management conditions (limited work and excess feed) however, the mutation leads to disease. We are using molecular genetics techniques to provide evidence for previous positive selection at the GYS1 locus, which is the first example of such selection reported in this species. “Thrifty” genotypes have also been proposed as the underlying cause for susceptibility to common diseases in humans, such as Type II diabetes and hypertension, therefore horses with the GYS1 mutation may be a good model in which to study this theory.”

The PSSM horses can metabolize glycogen and have a normal flux of metabolites IF he is being worked hard, like a farm, carriage, or cavalry horse typically would in the pre-automotive days.  However these horses demonstrate exercise intolerance, and painful muscle cramping during a light regimen of activity……as is normal for a horse in a stall who gets lightly ridden on a weekend every once in a while. A horse with the condition needs a specialized diet.

According to the Alabama Horse Council the many segments of the horse industry have an estimated $563 million direct effect on Alabama’s economy. An estimated one in four households has a connection to the horse industry.  Quarter horses are the most prevalent breed in the state and are often a component in other breeds, like Appaloosas, Palominos, Paints, as well as the typical grade ranch horse.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Alabama state health officer: COVID numbers are “mind-boggling”

“Unfortunately, we have very difficult times ahead,” said Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris (APR GRAPHIC)

For the third straight day, Alabama’s new daily COVID-19 case count was at a record high on Friday, and the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients reached a record high for the fourth time in four days. Elective medical procedures have begun to be postponed in Huntsville and in Birmingham as hospitals in both cities are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients. 

“Unfortunately, we have very difficult times ahead,” said Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking during a briefing Friday. Harris noted that public health officials were concerned in April when there were 500 hospitalized coronavirus patients statewide, and said for the last couple of days, more than 1,800 have been hospitalized. 

“The numbers are just mind-boggling sometimes,” Harris said. 

The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 3,840 new cases Friday, the third straight day the state has confirmed more than 3,000 cases. For the first time, the state averaged more than 3,000 cases per day over the past seven days. The seven-day average of 3,046 is a 44 percent increase from two weeks ago. 

Alabama hospitals were caring  for 1,875 COVID-19 patients on Friday, a 41 percent increase from two weeks ago. The medical staff at UAB is strained, said Dr. Sarah Nafziger, co-chair of UAB’s Emergency Management Committee and professor of medicine in the school’s Department of Emergency Medicine, speaking during a separate press briefing Friday. 

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“Our patient volumes of COVID-19 positive patients have more than doubled over the course of the last month,” Nafziger said. 

A little more than a week ago many celebrated Thanksgiving by gathering with others, Nafziger said. Those gatherings have been a concern among the medical community for fear of outbreaks. 

“We haven’t even begun to see those patients yet,” Nafziger said.  

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Huntsville Hospital Systems has begun delaying elective procedures due to so many COVID-19 patients needing care, and Nafziger said UAB has also begun delaying some of those procedures, many of which are serious to a person’s quality of life, such as hip replacements to ease pain. 

“It absolutely breaks my heart. It breaks the heart of our clinicians, our hospital administration. All of our staff is absolutely brokenhearted about it because the last thing we want to do is delay care for people who need us,” Nafziger said. 

Cases among UAB employees have begun to rise significantly, Nafziger said, and most of those workers contracted the disease in their own communities, and not at work, where they wear personal protective gear that’s proven to provide strong protection. 

“They are emotionally drained. They’re physically tired,” Nafziger said of UAB staff. “But at the same time, while I see that in their eyes, hear it in their voices, they also voice their resolve that they’re not going to quit.”

Testing statewide remains low. The average percentage of tests positive over the last week was 34 percent. Public health experts say it should be below 5 percent to ensure adequate testing is being done to prevent cases from going undetected. The state averaged 8,517 tests each day over the last two weeks, down from the two week average of 9,407 recorded on Nov. 26. 

ADPH reported 55 COVID-19 deaths on Friday. Over the last two weeks, the department has confirmed 380 deaths were due to coronavirus. At least 3,831 people have died from the disease in Alabama since the pandemic began.

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, pleaded with the public Friday to wear masks, practice social distancing and to stay at home as much as possible to help slow the spread.  

“Don’t just think about those people who have had minor symptoms. Think about those who had an empty chair at Thanksgiving, because a loved one was lost,” Jones said. 

Harris, during the briefing hosted by Jones, said that the state is seeing numbers “much higher than we’ve seen anytime during the pandemic” and warned that the rapidly rising number of cases and hospitalizations “is not sustainable.”

“We cannot continue to go down this road,” he said,

Despite new treatments and the pending vaccines, the only tools public health has to prevent the spread of the disease are the same we’ve had since the start, Harris explained. Face masks, social distancing, hand hygiene and staying at home as much as possible help prevent illnesses and save lives, he said. 

Harris discussed the state’s plans to distribute vaccines, of which the first could arrive within the next couple of weeks, but said there are “a lot of moving parts and a lot of logistical complications that we are working to deal with” and it will be some time before the wider public has access to vaccines. 

If approved by the U.S. food and Drug Administration on Dec. 10, the state expects to receive in a short time the first shipment of 40,950 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, Harris said. The Pfizer vaccine requires two shots, one shot to be given 21 days after the first. 

A vaccine produced by the drug maker Moderna is expected to be approved the following week, although Harris said he’s unsure how much Alabama will get initially. 

The early shipments of the vaccines will be in short supply and will have to be prioritized to protect the most vulnerable, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health’s plan. ADPH is working to determine levels of risk among various medical workers, Harris said. 

“It’s a real mixed blessing. We’re thrilled to have a vaccine. We know it’s going to save lives … but at the same time, we’ve got a long way to go before we have enough to cover everyone,” Harris said. 

Nursing home residents will begin receiving vaccines the week following the initial shipment, Harris said. By then, there should be both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines in the state, so access should grow as those vulnerable people receive immunizations. 

In early 2021, possibly in late spring, there would be as many as six different vaccines circulating in Alabama, but each will likely be appropriate for certain people, Harris explained. Some may better protect the elderly, while others better protect younger people. 

The Pfizer vaccine will at first be shipped to eight larger medical facilities with the capability to store the drug at ultracold temperatures, as required, Harris said, and be able to administer the minimum shipment of 975 doses. Some smaller medical facilities in rural areas may have ultracold storage but wouldn’t be able to administer so many doses in time, he said. 

“So that’s clearly a disadvantage for smaller and more rural places,” Harris said. 

To help with that, Harris said those hospitals selected to receive the first shipments have been asked to administer vaccines to the at-risk medical workers in surrounding areas. 

“So they’re going to set aside a certain portion of their vaccine, probably somewhere around maybe 40 percent of the allotment,” Harris said. “It’ll be used for their own health care workers in their facility, but the remaining amount is going to be allocated to other health care workers in their area.” 

“The real solution, ultimately, for our more rural place is going to be the use of the Moderna vaccine, Harris said, which can be stored in a regular freezer and won’t have to be shipped in such large quantities. 

Alabama has around 300,000 health care workers and between 25,000 and 30,000 residents in skilled nursing facilities, and around the same number of staff in those facilities, Harris said. It will take “a few weeks” to immunize those persons, he said. 

Both Jones and Harris were asked by a reporter whether they’d take a vaccine, once one is available to them, and both said yes. 

“I absolutely will take the vaccine, as soon as it’s approved by the FDA, and we have guidance from the ACIP, which should happen in next few days,” Harris said, referring to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, an independent body of physicians and medical researchers tasked with developing recommendations on the use of vaccines. 

Harris said he’s completely confident in the process, and said the only reason it’s gone so quickly is that the federal government allowed these companies to begin manufacturing the vaccines as they simultaneously sought approval. 

“That’s really been the biggest timesaver,” Harris said. “They have not shortcut the safety process. They have not shortcut the review process in any other way.” 

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin in a separate press briefing on Friday asked business owners to enforce state law regarding masks being worn inside their businesses. 

“If you are a small business owner in the city of Birmingham, if you are a manager of some form of a public store, I expect you to enforce the state’s facial covering [mandate],” Woodfin said. “You need to make sure if a person walks into your establishment that they are abiding by the state’s law.” 

Dr. David Hicks, Jefferson County Department of Health deputy health officer, said the county has had more than 500 deaths and is averaging 326 new cases daily. 

“That’s unacceptable … this season we need to spread joy. We do not need to spread COVID-19,” Hicks said. 

Woodfin implored city employees and the public to wear masks and practice social distancing. 

“We all know someone who has an underlying condition or pre-existing condition … remember that as you go about interacting with other human beings,” Woodfin said. “We believe in science. We believe in data, and we believe in those who are the experts, and we should listen to them.”

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Aderholt tests positive for the coronavirus but is showing no symptoms

Aderholt tested positive while isolating because his wife had tested positive for the virus.

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Robert Aderholt

Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, announced that he has tested positive for the coronavirus. Aderholt released the following statement after learning he had tested positive for the virus.

“As I had previously mentioned last week, my wife Caroline found out she was positive for COVID-19. (She has since recovered.) So, I have been isolating again,” Aderholt said. “As part of the isolation process, I received a COVID test Thursday to see if I could end my quarantine under the new, shortened CDC guidelines, and resume voting on the House floor. I fully expected to receive a negative test, because I have felt, and continue to feel fine, and have no symptoms. Unfortunately, I received word Friday morning that my test came back positive. After speaking with the Attending Physician for Congress, I will continue to isolate.”

Aderholt is one of the latest Alabamians to test positive for the coronavirus. At least 264,199 people in Alabama have already tested positive since March, and 3,831 have died including Alabama Republican Party Chief of Staff Harold Sachs and Vietnam War Medal of Honor winner Bennie Adkins.

Alabama remains under a “safer-at-home” order, which includes a mask mandate. All citizens are urged to practice caution: don’t leave home except when necessary, avoid crowded venues, avoid unnecessary travel, don’t shake hands or hug anyone not in your household, wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, and maintain at least six feet from people not living in your household at all times.

Aderholt was recently overwhelmingly re-elected to his 13th term representing Alabama’s 4th Congressional District.

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Merrill defends social media comments, questions motives of Black Lives Matter movement

During the interview, he blamed most of the uproar on “liberal, white women” who have “attacked” him on social media.

Josh Moon

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Secretary of State John Merrill

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill regrets some of his recent controversial comments on social media but he refused to acknowledge that he should be held to a higher standard as an elected official and made no apologies for “defending” himself. 

Merrill took part in a lengthy, wide-ranging interview on the Alabama Politics This Week podcast. The sometimes contentious back-and-forth conversation covered an array of topics, from Merrill’s comments — in which he encouraged one man to get a sex change — to his views on race, religion and election fraud claims. 

Merrill has come under fire over the last few weeks for his interactions on social media, and a number of civil rights groups have called for him to either apologize or resign. During the APTW interview, he blamed most of the uproar on “liberal, white women” who have “attacked” him on social media and said he wasn’t going to allow someone “to hit me over the head and not fight back.”

“You expect me, as an elected official, if someone comes up and knocks me in the head, I’m supposed to just take it? That’s your expectation?” Merrill asked. 

Host David Person responded: “My expectation is that you, as a public servant, would have a level of deportment that would be different than the average person.”

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Merrill acknowledged that he probably went too far in his responses and has since started ignoring or blocking people who attempt to antagonize him. 

Later in the interview, when asked about his retweet of a video and a “war on whites” comment, Merrill said he has since deleted his retweet and that it didn’t reflect his true feelings. But when asked about his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement, Merrill responded that “all lives matter.” He then launched into a biblical explanation of his feelings. 

When Person explained the history and meaning of the BLM movement — and that it doesn’t seek to elevate Black lives above anyone, but instead merely wants to see equal value — Merrill responded by stating the BLM movement has been “co-opted.”

“I’m afraid to tell you this, but I think there’s a number of people across the nation who have co-opted what your intent was — if that was your intent — and they’ve changed the narrative … and tried to make it something else … which is that Black lives are superior and if you can’t agree that Black lives are superior then you have no place in the conversation,” Merrill said. 

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That is patently false, and the leaders of the BLM movement have taken great care to make equality and acceptance the primary goals of the movement. The false narrative introduced by Merrill — that the BLM movement is somehow racist — is a popular one on right-wing websites and TV shows, but it has been credibly debunked numerous times by numerous reputable sources. 

Merrill also addressed his controversial comments about election fraud, defended claims he made that appear to be false and talked his way around questions about Alabama’s voter ID law. 

You can listen to the full interview at the APTW website or you can search for and subscribe to the podcast wherever you get your podcasts.

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Ivey says no new restrictions on day Alabama broke COVID case, hospitalization records

“We know what to do, what works. I have no plans to shut down any businesses. No plans to shut down businesses,” Ivey said.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey held a Coronavirus update press conference Wednesday, July 15, 2020 in Montgomery, Ala. (GOVERNORS OFFICE/HAL YEAGER)

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey told reporters Thursday she has no plans for new restrictions on businesses despite the state recording record high new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations Thursday. 

“We’ve been dealing with this thing for quite some time,” Ivey said, according to AL.com. “Several months. We know what to do, what works. I have no plans to shut down any businesses. No plans to shut down businesses. They’re doing a good job of protecting their patrons. We need to keep our folks working and earning a living.”

Ivey was speaking to reporters after a ceremony at the National Guard headquarters in Montgomery, according to the news outlet. 

“So yes, the numbers are rising. We know what to do. We know that the masks and social distancing and personal hygiene works. Folks, just keep it up. We’ll get through this. The vaccine’s coming,” Ivey said. 

The Alabama Department of Public Health reported a record high 3,531 new cases Thursday, and the state has averaged 2,461 cases each day for the last two weeks, a 28 percent increase over the previous two weeks.

The number of people in Alabama hospitals with COVID-19 on Thursday reached a record high 1,827. That’s nearly 40 percent higher than two weeks ago. Huntsville Hospital had a record-high 338 COVID-19 patients on Thursday, after a string of record-setting daily hospitalizations. UAB Hospital was caring for a record 127 COVID-19 patients Wednesday and 125 on Thursday.

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Ivey issued a statewide mask order in July, when the state was experiencing a surge in coronavirus and hospitals were beginning to be stressed with an influx of COVID-19 patients. She extended that order several times, but it’s set to expire Dec. 11, if she doesn’t extend it again. 

After a peak of new daily deaths on July 31, which was nearly two weeks after Ivey’s mask order, the number of Alabamians dying each day from COVID-19 began dropping significantly, according to data from the Alabama Department of Public Health. 

In April, Ivey decided to extend her “stay at home” order, which included closures of non-essential businesses, and told reporters that “all of our decisions that I’m going to make are based on data. Not a desired date.”

Ivey on Nov. 5 relaxed restrictions on businesses, including capacity limits inside retailers, entertainment venues and gyms, and eased social distancing requirements in restaurants, barbershops, salons and gyms, with restrictions. 

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“Simply put, this should be welcome news as we get ready for the upcoming holiday season, which is often the bread and butter for retail, and especially for locally-owned small businesses,” Ivey said at the time. 

Asked by a reporter on Nov. 5 how Ivey came to decide to loosen restrictions for business amid growing COVID-19 cases, Ivey said: “Well, we’re just gonna have to encourage people to wear their masks, social distancing and practicing precautionary protocols to stay safe.”

Public health experts say it takes around two weeks after a change, such as a mask order, to begin noticing differences in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Deaths are an indicator that lags even further behind new cases and hospitalizations, however. 

During the two weeks leading up to Ivey relaxing those restrictions on businesses on Nov. 5, Alabama added 22,094 cases. In the two weeks following her decision, the state added 26,752 cases. During the next two weeks, the time frame during which public health experts believe results of such changes can become evident, Alabama added 34,449 cases, a nearly 60 percent growth in cases from the two weeks prior to Ivey relaxing restrictions. 

“It must be made clear that if you are over 65 or have significant health conditions, you should not enter any indoor public spaces where anyone is unmasked due to the immediate risk to your health,” a report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force on Sunday reads. “You should have groceries and medications delivered.” 

Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases, told reporters Tuesday that there is a possibility that hospitals will have to set up mobile hospitals to care for the rush of patients, and that she worries hospitals may not have enough staff to care for “what might be a tidal wave of patients in the next month.” 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield made a dire prediction Wednesday. 

“The reality is December and January and February are going to be rough times. I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation,” Redfield said.

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