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Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama plans a statewide campaign to pass constitutional amendment

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, a newly-formed political committee known as the Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama announced that they will coordinate campaign and media efforts for passage of the pro-life constitutional amendment that will appear on the Nov. 6, statewide ballot.

The committee is chaired by Cole Wagner of Montgomery. It is officially registered with the Secretary of State’s office and has already recruited several prominent partner organizations and elected officials, which include: Alabama Citizens’ Action Program (ALCAP), Alabama Policy Institute, Alabama Pro-Life Coalition, Alabama Pro-Life Education Fund, Choose Life, Inc., Cameron’s Choice, Eagle Forum, Southeast Law Institute, Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R – Monrovia, State Senator Steve Livingston, R – Scottsboro, and State Representative. Will Ainsworth, R – Guntersville, who is also the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.

“Passage of Amendment Two on the statewide ballot will allow Alabama to begin protecting unborn life as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Wagner said. “The Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama is tasked with educating voters about the constitutional amendment and providing them with accurate and truthful information while, at the same time, refuting falsehoods and misinformation that may be disseminated by pro-abortion forces within the state.”

Wagner said that the Alliance has created a public Facebook page and will soon begin its grassroots campaign and media efforts in support of the constitutional amendment. Additional organizations and public officials are also expected to announce their support for the group’s efforts in coming days.

Amendment 2 was sponsored by State Representative Matt Fridy, R – Montevallo.

The Alabama Fair Ballot Commission released the following description:

“Amendment 2 provides that it would be the public policy of the state to recognize and support the importance of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life; and to protect the rights of unborn children. Additionally, the amendment would make clear that the state constitution does not include a right to abortion or require the funding of an abortion using public funds.”

The amendment will be on the Nov. 6 general election.

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Abortion was illegal in Alabama until the U.S. Supreme Court issued the controversial 5 to 4 Roe vs. Wade ruling in 1972 stripping the state legislatures from the authority to regulate abortion within the states.

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National

Perdido Vineyards making hand sanitizer during COVID-19 crisis

Eddie Burkhalter

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Jim Eddins, president of Perdido Vineyards, has always been a fighter. 

Now he’s helping his community fight the deadly COVID-19 virus by pivoting his business from crafting muscadine wine and wine vinegars to making hand sanitizer. 

Eddins, a retired U.S. Marine, opened the first winery in Alabama in the 1970s. 

“He’s used to fighting,” said Sherri Clay, marketing director at the vineyards who spoke to APR on Thursday. “So he’s just fighting something else, is the way he’s looking at it.” 

The numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, as a result, have been steadily increasing in Alabama. As of Thursday, there were 472 confirmed cases and two deaths. 

Health experts and state officials urge the public to practice social distancing, stay home when at all possible, wash their hands frequently and thoroughly, and use hand sanitizer. 

Clay said Eddins spoke with Alabama treasurer John McMillan, state Emergency Management Agency Director Brian Hastings, and others about the need for hand sanitizer during the pandemic. 

The decision was made to initially offer the product to first responders, nursing homes, essential businesses and to the local community, Clay said. 

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They’re still waiting on one ingredient to finish the first batch, but Clay said they’re having trouble acquiring gallon jugs needed to bottle the product. They got 48, but the first batch will fill 66 gallons, she said. 

“Everybody’s probably got the same idea across the country or, people are buying them to put water in,” Clay said of the hard-to-find containers. 

Regardless, Clay said they’re getting orders. Already, all 48 gallons of the hand sanitizer have been claimed.  

“Because of the response we’re already making plans to do a second batch,” Clay said, adding that 11 gallons of the next batch have also been claimed. 

It’s not hard for a winery to learn to combine alcohol, glycerin and other ingredients into hand sanitizer, but it helps to have an employee with experience. 

“Lucky for us our distiller is also a retired pharmacist, so he’s making it to the World Health Organization standard of 80 percent alcohol,” Clay said. 

Ross Centanni, the company’s distiller, said federal regulations that govern manufacturing of such products were loosened temporarily to allow companies like the vineyard to produce the vital product.   

“I’ve got a quantity of 95 percent alcohol, which is what hand sanitizer requires, so let’s get in here and help the community and the first responders out,” Centanni said. 

Centanni said just like the jugs, he’s seen evidence of people buying up bulk ingredients used in the making of hand sanitizer. He suspects some are making a profit off of the crisis.

“There are entrepreneurs out there that are going to go corner the market on glycerine and go sell it for exorbitant prices,” he said, adding that he’s seen evidence on Ebay that seems to indicate that’s happening. Still, he’s certain he’ll manage to get what’s needed to make more.

The vineyards regular business has been down, Clay said, but the focus is on helping by doing what they can. 

“This is a priority,” Clay said. “We need to get a jump on this and try to prevent it, and the best place to start is with our own community.”

Perdido Vineyards also operates Boogie Bottom Spirits, which produces rum and muscadine brandy.

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Alabama doctor: We’ve lost precious time and must act now

Dr. Anand S. Iyer, MD, MSPH

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this perspective are my own.

My home air conditioning unit broke this week. Worst possible time, right?

Fortunately, it was an outdoor problem, so the repair guy didn’t have to come inside.

When he approached the door to discuss the problem, I told him I was an intensive care unit doctor at one of the largest hospitals in the country who couldn’t risk any potential coronavirus exposures and asked him to stand as far away from me as possible.

He responded, “Think this whole coronavirus thing is real?”

The way that our political leaders have failed at handling this pandemic has seeped into the culture. This nonchalant attitude was modeled by Alabama’s leaders who acted like this could never happen in our state two weeks ago, by spring breakers enjoying themselves on the beaches despite pandemic warnings last week, and by my repair guy who was completely oblivious just a few days ago.

Political action was needed weeks ago when those of us in the medical community were sounding the alarm. We now have lost precious time, and the president is even considering loosening restrictions.

Meanwhile, my wife and I are planning how to isolate me away from my kids for the next several weeks, since my friends and I are anticipating placing many Alabamians on ventilators as we see severe cases skyrocket.

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Allow me to make one last plea for the state of Alabama.

Our state political leaders are doing the equivalent of sitting at the dinner table wondering if we should buy a weather radio for protection while a tornado is at the front door, and the president is about to let everyone go outside to play.

Time is of the essence. Please urge your leaders and Gov. Ivey to implement much heavier action in Alabama now. More shelter in place orders are needed across the state like what Birmingham did on Tuesday.

This is the minimum we need to give our state’s healthcare system the most essential commodity it needs right now – time.

Some people are doing great at social distancing and are taking this very seriously. I thank you for this. However, the average person is barely listening to even these simple requests.

Staying at home is the most basic way to flatten the curve. Loosen this recommendation any further as the president has suggested, and it will magnify the Alabama April 2011 tornado outbreak by several fold. Nine years later, this is our “James Spann with no suspenders,” “respect the polygon,” “once in a generation” moment, Alabama.

I urgently plead with our local and state leaders to quickly take the next steps needed to proactively protect all of us right now. Our healthcare systems need the valuable time to build capacity at a reasonable pace, figure out treatment options for this novel virus, and hammer out backup plans.

I see several other immediate priorities. At the national level, rather than waiting for corporations to pivot towards mask and ventilator making, we need to invoke and implement the Defense Production Act now to generate vital medical supplies to protect those of us on the frontline and our patients.

The outpouring of community support for making masks is amazing. We are grateful, but the federal government could make them to scale. My colleagues across the US are unsafely reusing masks, especially N95 masks that are supposed to be reserved only for those of us on the very front of the frontline. Please don’t hoard these masks. Rather, donate them to your local hospital.

At the state level, our leaders should ensure that rural and small-town hospitals, such as the ones in my hometown of Anniston, are adequately prepared with the supplies and communication structures needed to identify and ration critical needs and workforce. I know many aren’t ready. As the virus spreads quickly throughout the state, hospitals in rural Alabama will most surely run out of supplies unless we act quickly to help them. The federal government isn’t stepping up at the moment.

Finally, and at the very least, we need our leaders to be highly visible on television continuously urging citizens to stay at home every day. Other countries that have successfully controlled the pandemic have made this a priority and a natural part of all messaging that is being delivered. We should do the same.

Things will get bumpy in the next month, but we in the medical community are here to guide and protect you through this as best we can, Alabama.

I echo the urgency and recommendations of Dr. Anthony Fauci and Surgeon General Jerome Adams.

Please stay at home unless absolutely necessary.

Take care and be safe, Alabama.

Dr. Anand S. Iyer, MD, MSPH Pulmonologist and Intensivist, is a 2003 graduate of The Donoho School in Anniston.

 

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Congress

Shelby, Jones vote for $2 trillion Senate coronavirus relief package

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday night, both U.S. Senators Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, and Doug Jones, D-Alabama, praised Senate passage of HR748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

This major legislation contains $2 trillion in funding that both the Senate and White House claim would bring critical relief and provide resources to the American people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This comprehensive package will bring much-needed relief for the people of Alabama and our nation during this mounting emergency,” said Senator Shelby. “I am glad we have finally been able to advance these resources and help protect Americans throughout the country. I am confident that this legislation will pave the way for us to overcome the current economic and public health crisis we are facing, allowing us to emerge stronger on the other side.”

“Tonight, the Senate came together to pass a much stronger, bipartisan bill that will get more money to working folks, small businesses, and our health care workers on the front lines—but this won’t be our last step,” said Senator Doug Jones. “In the meantime, take care of yourselves & each other, folks.”

The CARES Ac passed by a vote of 96 to 0.

The bill provides resources for state and local governments straining from the effects of the pandemic; support for hospitals and health care workers; funding for medical equipment; support for law enforcement and first responders; funding for scientists researching treatments and vaccines; aid for small businesses; support for local schools and universities; and funding for affordable housing and homelessness assistance programs.

Shelby’s office said that he measure contains provisions, that will impact Alabama:$150 billion for State and Local Governments; $45 billion for the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund; $1.5 billion for State and Local Preparedness Grants;$3.5 billion for Child Care Development Block Grants; $250 million for Hospital Preparedness; $100 billion for Reimbursements for Health Care Providers; $30.75 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund; $400 million for First Responder Grants; $10 billion for Airport Improvements Grants; $1.5 billion for Economic Development Administration Grants; $450 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program; $350 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program; $349 billion for Small Business Administration Loan Guarantees; $425 million for Mental and Behavioral Health Services; $265 million for Small Business Grants for Counseling, Training, and Related Assistance; $300 million for Fishery Disaster Assistance; $850 million for Byrne JAG Grants; and $23.5 billion for Support for Agricultural Producers.

The legislation also provides $339.855 billion in emergency supplemental appropriations to aid Americans during the Coronavirus crisis. More than 80 percent of the total funding provided in the Coronavirus emergency supplemental appropriations division of the package will go directly to state and local governments.

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This package follows two previous Coronavirus emergency relief bills passed by the Senate to provide relief for the American people during this unprecedented time. The first emergency supplemental package was passed by the Senate on March 5, 2020, which provided $8.3 billion in total resources to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the Coronavirus. The second legislative initiative – the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which passed the Senate on March 18, 2020 – provides flexibility for the Departments of Treasury and Labor to assist small businesses, establishes emergency paid family and medical leave for those affected, and increases unemployment benefits and food aid.

“The recently negotiated Senate stimulus deal will be great for Alabama,” said Trump finance committee member former State Representative Perry O. Hooper Jr. (R-Montgomery). “Adults in Alabama, making up to $75, 000 would receive payments of $1,200 and their children would see $500 dollar checks.”

“Furloughed employees will be eligible immediately for up to 4 months full pay,” Hooper added. “Small Alabama businesses will receive financial assistance they need to keep their doors open. I commend Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Chuck Schumer who put aside their political differences to work for America. They worked around the clock with the White House team of Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and newly appointed Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in hammering out this deal. Now it is up to the House. I pray that speaker Pelosi does not play games with everyday Americans economic livelihood and leads the House in passing this bill by unanimous consent.”

The Senate has now adjourned, meaning that the CARES Act has to be passed as is by the U.S. House of Representatives. Upon passage in the House, the legislation will advance to the President’s desk for his signature.

Critics of the bill argue that it increases the national debt and there is no plan to pay for it with either new taxes or with budget cuts. The national debt is already $23.6 trillion and the deficit is $1,268 billion and this and the forced economic shutdown will only worsen the deficit further adding to the already skyrocketing national debt.

1032 Americans have died from COVID-19 as of press time, with 473 dying in the past two days alone. 21,297 people globally have died. 7,503 Italians have perished, more than any other nation. In the U.S. there are presently 67,063 active cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. 1,455 are currently in serious or critical condition; while 394 Americans have made a full recovery from their illness.

The authorities recommend that Americans shelter in place rather than going out and potentially contracting and spreading the virus.

 

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National

45 COVID-19 cases hospitalized at UAB, 18 on ventilators

Chip Brownlee

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UPDATE: For a more recent look at UAB’s hospitalization numbers, look at this page.

UPDATE: The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday afternoon passed Mayor Woodfin’s shelter-in-place order. You can read the ordinance at the bottom of this story. Birmingham is the first city in the state to issue such an order to curb the spread of COVID-19.


Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, speaking at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, said he would seek a shelter-in-place order for the city of Birmingham as the number of cases in the city and Jefferson County continues to rise.

The mayor said at least 45 people are currently hospitalized at UAB Medical Center in Birmingham. Dozens more are under observation, and at least 18 are on ventilators. UAB is the state’s largest and most advanced hospital.

It is likely caring for patients from outside Jefferson County, but the hospital said it could not confirm where the patients are from.

By Tuesday morning, more than 200 cases were confirmed in the state of Alabama. Ninety of them are in Jefferson County. It’s unclear if Jefferson County is more affected by the virus or if residents in the county have had access to more testing.

Dr. Sarah Nafziger, the co-chair of UAB’s emergency management committee, confirmed the cases at UAB and said the hospital has experienced an “exponential increase” in patients seeking care in the last week.

“Evidence is overwhelming that Jefferson County, and beyond, is, and has been, experiencing rapid community spread of COVID-19,” Nafziger said. “This is a dangerous situation that our community needs to take seriously. Everyone has an important responsibility right now to save lives.”

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Nafziger said the situation is “unprecedented.” Her tone at the press conference was markedly solemn.

“It is known to us, as leaders of UAB Medicine, that we will have to make some very difficult decisions in the coming days and weeks,” she said. “We ask for your cooperation, and we ask for your prayers for our health care workers as we face this unprecedented event.”

Dr. Sarah Nafziger holds up a chart showing the exponential increase in patients seeking care for COVID-19 at UAB hospital.

“This is very different from 11 or 12 days ago,” Woodfin said. “I think it’s very important, at this time, for our city and community to take this seriously. The last few weeks have been unprecedented obstacles that we’ve faced.”

Woodfin presented to the Birmingham City Council a shelter-in-place ordinance Tuesday morning. The council is expected to vote on the ordinance Tuesday afternoon.

“The city must take every reasonable effort to slow the spread of this virus,” Woodfin said.

The ordinance would require city residents to stay at home when at all possible except when they must go out to get essentials like groceries, gas, medicine, health care or food. Residents will still be allowed to leave their homes for solitary outdoor activity.

“A shelter-in-place simply means stay at home,” Woodfin said.

Services and deliveries will still be made.

“For those of us on the front lines of the pandemic, we urgently need the public’s cooperation today,” Nafziger. “If you can stay at home, stay at home.”

The shelter-in-place, Woodfin said, does not conflict with the Jefferson County Department of Health’s ordinance. It will allow Birmingham police to enforce the county’s recommendation. So far, Jefferson County, and now Birmingham, have put in place the most expansive restrictions on their residents to try to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Today, we’re simply asking you to remain apart, so that we can come back stronger than ever,” Woodfin said. “I want to reassure you that we will be on the right side of history by making this decision.”

The full order and its exceptions can be found below. More information is available here.

City of Birmingham Proposed… by Chip Brownlee on Scribd

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