By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, September 30, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that a man who was hospitalized on Friday in Dallas is the first case of Ebola conclusively diagnosed in the United States.
According to a statement by the CDC, Ebola symptoms can include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and bleeding, and can appear as long as 21 days after exposure to the virus.
CDC spokesman Jason McDonald said health officials use two primary guidelines when deciding whether to test a person for the virus. McDonald said, “The first and foremost determinant is have they traveled to the region (of West Africa). The second is whether there’s been proximity to family, friends or others who’ve been exposed.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden said that they, “don’t believe there is any risk to anyone who was on the flight at that time.”
Der. Frieden said that the patient came to the U.S. from Liberia to visit family and arrived on Sept. 20. The patient sought care Friday and has been hospitalized in isolation since the weekend.
State health officials say no other cases are suspected at this time in Texas. The traveler from Liberia in Africa is the 13th person that the CDC has tested for the disease in the United States. The previous 12 tested negative.
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas officials said that the patient was placed, “in strict isolation” due to the symptoms and the fact that the traveler had come from West Africa where Ebola is raging in an epidemic on the largest scale in history.
According to the CDC in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO) as of September 29, 2014 there have been 6574 cases of suspected Ebola. 3626 of those cases have been confirmed by laboratory analysis. 3091 of the patients have died to this point.
In Guinea there have been 1074 suspected cases, 876 have been confirmed by lab work, and 648 people have died. In Liberia there have been 3458 suspected cases. Only 914 have been confirmed by laboratory analysis, but 1830 of those people are now dead. In Nigeria there have been 20 suspect cases, 19 of those were confirmed in the lab, and 8 have died. The Nigerian cases are believed to all be traceable to a traveler from Liberia. In Senegal there has only been one confirmed case but no deaths. The Senegal patient is a man from Guinea. In Sierra Leone there have been 2021 possible cases, 1816 of those have been confirmed, and 605 people are dead.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has reported cases of Ebola, but the CDC reports that these cases are not related to the ongoing outbreak of Ebola in West Africa and are not included in the totals.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has contracted with Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. to develop and manufacture ZMapp. Mapp Biopharmaceutical will manufacture a small amount of the drug for early stage clinical safety studies and nonclinical studies.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) will begin initial human testing of an investigational vaccine to prevent EVD in early September and is working with a company to develop an antiviral drug to treat Ebola.
The U.S. Department of Defense has funded two companies which are developing drug therapies for Ebola and is working with another company to develop an Ebola vaccine.
This Ebola outbreak is the largest in history and the first Ebola epidemic the world has ever known —affecting multiple countries in West Africa.
Although there is presently an infected man in a hospital in Dallas the CDC believes that the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the United States is still very low.
Presbyterian Hospital says that it is taking measures to keep its doctors, staff and patients safe.
Four American aid workers became infected while volunteering in West Africa. They have been treated in special isolation facilities in hospitals in Atlanta and Nebraska, and a U.S. doctor exposed to the virus in Sierra Leone is under observation in a similar facility at the National Institutes of Health.
There are only four such isolation units in the entire country but the CDC insists that any hospital can safely care for someone with Ebola.
The U.S. military now has forces on the ground in Liberia as part of an effort to fight the further spread of the deadly virus. Army Major General Darryl A. Williams, who commands the U.S. Army Africa Command, is now in Liberia with a team of U.S. military personnel that began arriving on Friday, September 19.
Pentagon Spokesman Admiral Kirby said that the U.S. military personnel will need in terms of support infrastructure to sustain operations for up to six months, “or however long U.S. military assistance is required” in West Africa.
Kirby said that DoD has requested to reprogram two rounds of $500 million each in fiscal year 2014 overseas contingency funds to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to fight Ebola and is prepared to devote up to $1 billion to its Ebola response efforts.
Kirby said that there, “Is no intention right now that [deployed troops] will interact with patients or be in areas where they would necessarily come into contact with patients.” “They’re not doctors. They’re not nurses. They’re not trained for that and not equipped for that. That’s not part of the mission. They will be kept in locations where they can do their jobs without coming into contact with patients.” The troops will be acting in support of health care workers.
Admiral Kirby said, “The disease itself is the threat. We understand that. We get paid to deal in risk and to manage that and to mitigate it the best we can. It’s difficult in any military operation to eliminate it, and the men and women who sign up and serve in the military understand that when they do.”
Operation United Assistance is being led by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the State Department and the Liberian government not the U.S. Military.
Anticipating the threat, on Thursday, August 8 the Alabama Department of Public Health issued a message to primary care providers in Alabama to report any suspected Ebola cases and to collect specimens from any suspected patients for testing.
Ebola is characterized by sudden onset of fever and weakness that may be accompanied by other symptoms including headache, joint and muscle aches, vomiting, and diarrhea, stomach pain and lack of appetite.
The Ebola virus can be transmitted to others from: direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person or exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions.
The state of Alabama is warning residents to avoid nonessential travel to Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
If you must travel to places where Ebola is a danger, the state urges that you make sure to do the following: practice careful hygiene and avoid contact with blood and body fluids; do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids; avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola; avoid contact with animals or with raw meat; avoid hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated. The U.S. Embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on facilities that are suitable for your needs; seek medical care immediately if you develop fever, headache, achiness, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, rash or red eyes; limit your contact with other people when you travel to the doctor. Do not travel anywhere else; pay attention to your health after you return from your Africa excursion; monitor your health for 21 days if you were in an area with an Ebola outbreak, especially if you ignored any of the earlier rules; and tell the doctor about your recent travel and your symptoms before you go to the office or emergency room in order to help the doctor care for you and protect other people who may be in the office.
The Alabama Department of Public Health is warning health care workers that if they become exposed to people who might have the disease they should: wear protective clothing, including masks, gloves, gowns and eye protection; practice proper infection control and sterilization measures; isolate Ebola patients from unprotected people; avoid direct contact with the bodies of people who have died from Ebola; and notify health officials if you have been exposed to someone with Ebola. For more information, see “Infection Control for Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers in the African Health Care Setting.”
The State is urging healthcare providers that all persons with onset of fever within 21 days of high-risk exposure be tested for the African disease.
This report is based on information from the CDC, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Alabama Department of Public Health, and includes some information from recent reporting by both Fox News and the Associated Press.
Judge reduces former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence
The trial court judge ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker on Wednesday reduced former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence from four years to just more than two.
Walker in his order filed Wednesday noted that Hubbard was sentenced to fours years on Aug. 9, 2016, after being convicted of 12 felony ethics charges for misusing his office for personal gain, but that on Aug. 27, 2018, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed convictions on five of those counts. The Alabama Supreme Court later struck down another count.
Hubbard’s attorneys on Sept. 18 filed a motion to revise his sentence, to which the state objected, according to court records, arguing that “Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency.”
Walker in his order cited state code and wrote that the power of the courts to grant probation “is a matter of grace and lies entirely within the sound discretion of the trial court.”
“Furthermore, the Court must consider the nature of the Defendant’s crimes. Acts of public corruption harm not just those directly involved, but harm society as a whole,” Walker wrote.
Walker ruled that because six of Hubbard’s original felony counts were later reversed, his entrance should be changed to reflect that, and ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday said Walker’s decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence was the wrong message to send.
“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” Marshall said in a statement. “Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law. Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”
Nick Saban tests positive for COVID-19, has “mild symptoms”
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn.
University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Iron Bowl and has mild symptoms, according to a statement from the university on Wednesday.
“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allan, associate athletic director, in the statement. “He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.”
Saban had previously tested positive before Alabama’s game against Georgia but was asymptomatic and subsequently tested negative three times, a sign that the positive test could have been a false positive. He returned to coach that game.
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn, given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for quarantining after testing positive and with symptoms. Neither Saban nor the university had spoken about that possibility as of Wednesday morning.
Civil rights leader Bruce Boynton dies at 83
The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.
Selma attorney and Civil Rights Movement leader Bruce Carver Boynton died from cancer in a Montgomery hospital on Monday. He was 83. The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.
“We’ve lost a giant of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama. “Son of Amelia Boynton Robinson, Bruce Boynton was a Selma native whose refusal to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant led to the landmark SCOTUS decision in Boynton v. Virginia overturning racial segregation in public transportation, sparking the Freedom Rides and end of Jim Crow. Let us be inspired by his commitment to keep striving and working toward a more perfect union.”
Boynton attended Howard University Law School in Washington D.C. He was arrested in Richmond, Virginia, in his senior year of law school for refusing to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant. That arrest and conviction would be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where Boynton and civil rights advocates prevailed in the landmark case 1060 Boynton vs. Virginia.
Boynton’s case was handled by famed civil rights era attorney Thurgood Marshal, who would go on to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. The 1960 7-to-2 decision ruled that federal prohibitions barring segregation on interstate buses also applied to bus stations and other interstate travel facilities.
The decision inspired the “Freedom Rides” movement. Some Freedom Riders were attacked when they came to Alabama.
While Boynton received a high score on the Alabama Bar exam, the Alabama Bar prevented him from working in the state for years due to that 1958 trespassing conviction. Undeterred, Boynton worked in Tennessee during the years, bringing school desegregation lawsuits.
Sherrilyn Ifill with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said on social media: “NAACP LDF represented Bruce Boynton, who was an unplanned Freedom Rider (he simply wanted to buy a sandwich in a Va bus station stop & when denied was willing to sue & his case went to the SCOTUS) and later Bruce’s mother Amelia Boynton (in Selma after Bloody Sunday).”
His mother, Amelia Boynton, was an early organizer of the voting rights movement. During the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in 1965, she was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She later co-founded the National Voting Rights Museum and annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma. His father S.W. Boynton was also active in the Civil Rights Movement.
Bruce Boynton worked for several years at a Washington D.C. law firm but spent most of his long, illustrious legal career in Selma, Alabama, with a focus on civil rights cases. He was the first Black special prosecutor in Alabama history and at one point he represented Stokely Carmichael.
This year has seen the passing of a number of prominent Civil Rights Movement leaders, including Troy native Georgia Congressman John Lewis.
Roby warns Americans to be careful this Thanksgiving
Congresswoman Roby urged Alabamians to adjust Thanksgiving holiday activities to avoid spreading the coronavirus.
Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Alabama, warned Alabamians to adjust their Thanksgiving holiday activities to avoid spreading the coronavirus.
“Thanksgiving is a special holiday because it provides us an entire day each year to pause and give thanks for the many blessings we have received,” Roby said. “Particularly amid a global pandemic, the stress and craziness of life often make it easy to lose sight of just how much we have to be thankful for. Whether you are gathering with loved ones or remaining in the comfort of your own home, I hope we all take time to celebrate gratitude – something we may not do enough of these days.”
“As we’ve learned to adjust our daily routines and activities throughout the course of this pandemic, we know this Thanksgiving will not look like those of the past,” Roby said. “Please be mindful of any safety measures and precautions that have been put in place to help protect your family and those around you. The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) released guidance that includes a list of low, moderate, and high-risk activities in order to help Alabamians have a safer holiday season. ADPH suggests a few lower risk activities such as having a small dinner with members of your household, preparing and safely delivering meals to family and neighbors who are at high-risk, or hosting a virtual dinner with friends.”
Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, echoed Roby’s warning to be safe this Thanksgiving holiday.
Aderholt said: “I want to wish you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving! I hope Thursday is filled with a lot of laughter and gratitude, and that you can share it with friends and family. And while we continue to navigate this Coronavirus pandemic, please stay safe this holiday season.”
On Thursday, the CDC encouraged families to stay home as much as possible over the holiday weekend and avoid spreading the coronavirus.
“As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” the CDC said in a statement before the holiday. “Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.”
The CDC has updated its guidelines to encourage families to stay home during the holiday.
- The CDC said that postponing Thanksgiving travel is the “best way to protect” against the virus.
- If you are sick or anyone in your household is sick, whether you think it is COVID or not, do not travel.
- If you are considering traveling for Thanksgiving, avoid traveling to locations where virus activity is high or increasing.
- Avoid travel to areas where hospitals are already overwhelmed with patients who have COVID-19.
- Try to avoid traveling by bus, train or airplane, where staying 6 feet apart is difficult.
- Avoid traveling with people who don’t live with you.
- You should consider making other plans, such as hosting a virtual gathering or delaying travel until the vaccine is available or the pandemic is more under control.
- Discuss with your family and friends the risks of traveling for Thanksgiving.
- Try to dissuade people from visiting this holiday.
- If you do travel, check for travel restrictions before you go and get your flu shot before you travel.
- Always wear a mask in public settings, when using public transportation, and when around people with whom you don’t live.
- Stay at least 6 feet apart from anyone who does not live with you.
- Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your mask, eyes, nose and mouth.
- Bring extra supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer.
- When you wear the mask, make sure that it covers your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin.
Remember that people without symptoms may still be infected, and if so, are still able to spread COVID-19. Remember to always social distance. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick. Keep hand sanitizer with you and use it when you are unable to wash your hands. Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
Try to also avoid live sporting events, Thanksgiving Day parades and Black Friday shopping this year.
Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District and will be retiring at the end of the year. Aderholt represents Alabama’s 4th Congressional District and was re-elected to the 117th Congress.