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Americans for Tax Reform: Tax reform produced good news for Alabama

Brandon Moseley

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Americans for Tax Reform are promoting the benefits that Americans received from passage of the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which passed the Congress and signed by President Donald J. Trump (R) last year. Ninety percent of wage earners have higher take-home pay today due to the landmark legislation.

Senator Richard Shelby (R) voted yes on the tax cuts.

The tax cuts benefitted many workers in Alabama. Americans for Tax Reform has prepared a partial list that includes:

Overseas Hardwoods Company in Stockton, Alabama) paid $1,000 tax reform bonuses to employees. Sabel Steel in Montgomery is expanding facilities, hiring new employees, and providing pay increases for most of its 230 employees.

“When you’re a business, there are a lot of things to consider,” said Sabel Steel President and CEO Keith Sabel. “Taxes are a large part of it.”
Because the tax rate for companies like Sabel Steel, a family-owned steel distributor, has been lowered under tax reform, Sabel is able to maximize the benefits for his company.

“We gave a raise to everyone across the board,” said Sabel. “We improved everyone’s pay. We have incentives for as many workers as possible. If they meet or beat expectations, we’re making sure they’re rewarded. We have quality perks. Good insurance. Good benefits. We’re constantly trying to improve, and now we’re able to. Morale is very good. We’re a family business, and we run it like a family business—where we take the time to get to know people, their families. I try to look out for my employees all the time.”

Sabel Steel plans to reinvest its tax reform savings in its business by expanding and upgrading facilities in Newnan, Georgia, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and adding new equipment that will make its facilities more productive and innovative, including purchasing a new plasma machine for its plant in Theodore, Alabama, a machine that offers smoother and more efficient steel-cutting techniques. It also plans to make further upgrades to its equipment as needed and plans to hire more workers.

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Cogent Building Group in Point Clear paid $2,000 bonuses for all four employees.

American Proteins Inc. based in Cumming, Georgia has 700 employees at its operations in Georgia and Alabama. It announced it would give employees $1,000 bonuses “in response to the tax reform package signed into law earlier this year.”

“President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress have reduced taxes for businesses and individuals and I’m excited what this means for our company and its employees,” said American Proteins Inc. Chairman Tommy Bagwell.

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Otelco in Oneonta realized a benefit of over $0.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2017. The reduced maximum tax rate also lowered the Company’s deferred tax liabilities and raised net income for the quarter and year.

“We recently announced to our employees that everyone would be receiving a special bonus of $500,” said Otelco President and CEO Rob Souza. “Coupled with the lower tax withholding rate that most employees should experience, everyone should start 2018 with more take home pay.

Alabama Power Company announced that its customers will see a reduction in their bills because of the federal income tax cut. The Alabama Public Service Commission announced that the reduction in 2018 will be for $257 million, about a 9 percent cut. The reduction took effect in July and continued through December.

“This is a great day for Alabama consumers and taxpayers,” PSC President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh said.

Protective Life Corporation in Birmingham raised their base wage to $15 per hour and paid $1,000 bonuses to 75 percent of its employees.
Russell Lands in Alexander City, Alabama paid $500 bonuses to about 400 full-time non-management staff.

“We are thrilled that our company is strong, the economy is good, and that our national leaders recently approved a tax plan that should be very positive for all of us,” said Chairman Ben Russell. “This is a token of the company’s, and my personal, genuine appreciation for what our folks have done to make Russell Lands such a great company. It’s because of our employees’ efforts that we have been able to accomplish so much.”

Great Southern Wood Preserving, Inc. in Abbeville began an active and ongoing process to increase employee benefits by reinvesting its tax savings in its people, the company has announced. The company expects full implementation to take place in 2018. This includes lowering healthcare costs for eligible employees, allowing employees to accrue more paid time off based on length of service, developing scholarships for dependents of employees and enhancing other benefits.

“I’m very pleased that every employee across the company will see the results of the change in tax laws,” said Greater Southern Wood founder, President and CEO Jimmy Rane. “The success we’ve enjoyed as a company comes from every one of us working hard and doing our part, and I can’t think of a better way to apply our tax savings than by further investing in benefits programs for our employees. We strive to be an employer that draws the best and brightest to our company, and we believe that providing stronger benefits is essential to this continuing effort.”

Great Southern has almost 1,200 employees at locations in Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Florida.

Regions Financial Corporation in Birmingham raised their base wage to $15 per hour; made $40 million in charitable donations; and spent $100 million on capital expenditures.

“Regions is making these investments in anticipation of the savings it will recognize as a result of federal tax reform intended to support economic growth,” Regions said in a press release.

DTI Partners Inc. in Mobile paid $1,000 bonuses to its full-time employees and $300 bonuses to its part-time employees.

“The tax bill was the primary reason we were able to do this as a company,” said DTI CEO Tom Busby. “The bonuses were a great morale booster. We are a very small company but we believe this will help us grow in the long run.”

Xante Corporation in Mobile handed out $1,200 bonus checks to most of its employees. CEO Robert Ross thanked the Republican tax reform bill and Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose).

Xante provides high-end printers and related software for use by professional graphics and printing operations and employs a little over 100 people in Mobile and about 15 more in Europe. Ross said that anyone who’d been with the company for a year or more was getting a $1,200 bonus, while those employed less than a year were getting a different amount. The company has additional plans for money saved as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

T.J. Maxx, which has 25 stores in Alabama paid its worldwide eligible associates a one-time, discretionary bonus, an incremental contribution to the Company’s defined contribution retirement plan, provided parental leave, and enhanced vacation benefits for certain U.S. Associates. The company also made meaningful contributions to TJX’s charitable foundations around the world.

AT&T has 5,071 Alabama-based employees. The company paid them $1,000 bonuses and announced a $1 billion increase in nationwide capital expenditures.

Walmart has 144 retail locations in Alabama and over 22,000 Alabama-based Walmart and Sam’s Club employees. They are receiving wage increases as well as tax reform bonuses ranging from $200 to $1,000 for a statewide total of $37,111,483. The starting wage rate was raised for all hourly employees to $11 an hour. The company also announced expanded maternity and parental leave as well as $5,000 for adoption expenses.

Apple, which has store locations in Birmingham and Huntsville, paid its Alabama-based employees $2,500 bonuses in the form of restricted stock units. Nationally, Apple announced that it plans $30 billion in additional capital expenditures and 20,000 new hires as well as increased support for coding education and science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. Apple also promised increased U.S. manufacturing.

BancorpSouth Bank has 30 branch locations in Alabama, announced pay increases and /or one-time bonuses to nearly all non-commissioned employees. The investment of over $10 million in 2018 will benefit 96 percent of the Company’s non-commissioned workforce.

“We are proud to reward our team with this opportunity since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act should benefit everyone” said BancorpSouth Chairman and CEO Dan Rollins. “BancorpSouth’s continued and future success is based on the economic vitality of the communities we serve and taking care of our teammates allows us to provide the very best service to our customers, communities and shareholders.”

70 percent of BancorpSouth employees received higher compensation and 20 percent received $1000 bonuses. BancorpSouth employs 4,000 people in more than 230 locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas, plus an insurance location in Illinois.

Home Depot, which has 28 locations in Alabama, paid bonuses to all hourly employees of up to $1,000.

“This incremental investment in our associates was made possible by the new tax reform bill,” the company announced.

Cintas Corporation, with multiple locations in Alabama, paid $1,000 bonuses for employees of at least a year and $500 bonuses for employees of less than a year.

Comcast, with multiple locations in Alabama, paid $1,000 bonuses to all its employees and announced at least $50 billion infrastructure investment over the next five years.

Chipotle Mexican Grill, with multiple locations in Alabama, paid bonuses ranging from $250 to $1,000; increased employee benefits; and announced $50 million investment in its existing restaurants.

Ryder, with seventeen locations in Alabama, announced tax reform bonuses for its employees.

Starbucks Coffee Company, with Multiple locations in Alabama, announced $500 stock grants for all retail employees, $2,000 stock grants for store managers, and varying plan and support center employee stock grants. The company announced 8,000 new retail jobs and an additional wage increase this year, totaling approximately $120 million in wage increases, increased sick time benefits and parental leave.

U-Haul, which has multiple locations in Alabama, paid $1,200 bonuses to full-time employees and $500 for part-time employees.

Wells Fargo, which has 125 bank locations in Alabama, raised their base wage from $13.50 to $15.00 per hour; announced $400 million nationally in charitable donations; and $100 million in increased capital investment over the next three years.

Republicans passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Democrats have vowed to repeal the bill.

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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Elections

Secretary of state says office will assist voters in complaints if local authorities punish voters without masks

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told the Alabama Political Reporter that all 1,980 polling places will be open on Tuesday for in-person voting if a voter chooses to cast their ballot in person.

COVID-19 has been a paramount concern for people across the state and citizens have to deal with a number of business, Church and government office closures since March, but Merrill insisted that voters will be able to vote in either the Republican or Democratic Party runoffs on Tuesday at the polling place they are assigned.

A number of cities and counties are requiring masks whenever anyone goes out in any public place and government offices and businesses are refusing service to persons who do not have a mask or who refuse to wear one.

Merrill told APR that the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Scott Harris and other public health authorities are suggesting that you should wear a mask when you go out. Many polling places will provide them to voters that need them, but wearing a mask is not required to vote.

“There are only five requirements to vote in Alabama: You have to be 18 years of age. You have to be a citizen, You have to be a resident of Alabama, You must not have been convicted of an act of moral turpitude that has taken away your voting rights, and you must have a valid photo ID,” Merrill told APR. “When you meet those requirements you can vote in the state of Alabama.”

When asked whether voters in those jurisdictions with face mask requirements have to wear masks when at the polls, Merrill said, “I don’t think anybody at the local level is trying to prevent people from voting.

Merrill said if localities place police or other law enforcement outside polls and attempt to ticket those who try to enter or exit without the required mask his office would get involved.

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“If they want to try to do that, we will assist the voter in filing a lawsuit on infringement of their civil rights,” Merrill said.

Public health authorities are urging that everyone wear masks or cloth face coverings to protect themselves from becoming infected with the coronavirus and to avoid spreading the virus to others. Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Alabama press corps Tuesday that 20 to 40 percent of people infected with the virus have no symptoms and don’t event know that they are infected.

Thursday is the last day to apply for an absentee ballot to participate in the Tuesday, July 14 party primary runoff election. The close of business Thursday is the last day to apply for an absentee ballot. The last day to return those completed absentee ballots is the close of business on Monday.

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Voters with a health concern due to the possibility of getting or transmitting the coronavirus may obtain an absentee ballot. The voter will still have to check a reason for asking for the absentee ballot. If the reason is fear of the coronavirus, mark that there is a health reason for the application. You will be allowed to vote absentee. Remember to fill out all the paperwork completely and to mail or return the ballot on time.

In the Republican primary runoff, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville and former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions are running for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate. Judge Beth Kellum faces challenger Will Smith for the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

There is no statewide Democratic primary runoff races, but in the 1st Congressional District, James Averhart and Kiani Gardner are running for the Democratic nomination for Congress.

On the Republican side, former State Sen. Bill Hightower, R-Mobile, and Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl are running for the Republican nomination for Congress.

In Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District, former State Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, faces Dothan businessman Jeff Coleman. There are also a number of local races being decided in primary runoffs on Tuesday.

Notably in Etowah County, the revenue commissioner’s race is a runoff between State Rep. Becky Nordgren, R-Gadsden, and Jeff Overstreet for the Republican nomination.

In Jefferson County, State Rep. Rod Scott, D-Fairfield, faces Eyrika Parker in the Democratic primary runoff for county treasurer.

If either Nordgren or Scott win the local offices they seek, that will lead to a special election for what would become open seats in the Alabama House of Representatives.

The polls open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday and close at 7 p.m. A valid photo ID is required to participate in any Alabama election.

Absentee ballot applications are available online.

On Wednesday, the Alabama Department of Public Health reported that 25 more Alabamians have died from COVID-19, raising the state death toll from the global pandemic to 1,032. Also, on Wednesday, another 1,162 Alabamians learned that they were infected with the novel strain of the coronavirus, raising the number of cases in the state to 46,424.

Only about 9 percent of the state has been tested at this point in time.

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Elections

Sessions says that he will never stop fighting for law enforcement officers

Brandon Moseley

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Jeff Sessions testifies before a Congressional committe. (CSPAN)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Sessions said on social media that he will “never stop fighting” for law enforcement officers. This was in response to the Saturday slaying of Ohio police officer Anthony Dia.

“We must end the violence against police,” Sessions said. “The last words of Officer Anthony Dia before he died on Saturday was ‘Tell my family I loved them.’”

“The disrespect and even attacks on our courageous law enforcement officers have reached a totally unacceptable level,” Sessions continued. “It is immoral and insane.”

Sessions prioritized good relations with law enforcement while he was U.S. attorney general.

“I understand how difficult their job is and how important it is for the peace and safety of our people,” Sessions said. ”I will never stop fighting for them. Let us remember Officer Dia and pledge that we will not forget his sacrifice.”

Toledo Police Officer Anthony Dia was 26-years old when he responded to a call about an intoxicated man in a store’s parking lot. When he “approached the male to check his safety,” the man turned around and fired a single bullet from a handgun, police said, citing witnesses account.

“He bled out, pretty much. They did what they could with lifesaving measures, but there was nothing they could do,” Dia’s widow Jayme told the Toledo Blade newspaper. “The last thing he said over the radio was, ‘Tell my family I love them.’ He lived for his family, and he loved, just loved, being a police officer.”

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American law enforcement has come under heavy criticism by politicians, the media and the public alike following the death of George Floyd during an arrest by the Minneapolis Police Department.

Sessions served in the Senate from 1997 to 2017, when he was confirmed as U.S. attorney general in the Trump administration. Sessions is also a former U.S. attorney, Alabama attorney general and assistant U.S. attorney.

Following his service as U.S. attorney for both the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, Sessions was chairman of the Alabama Republican Party. Sessions is a former U.S. Army reserve officer. He has a bachelor’s degree from Huntingdon College in Montgomery and a law degree from the University of Alabama School of Law.

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Sessions and his wife, Mary Blackshear Sessions, started the first college Republican club at Huntingdon College. They have three children as well as grandchildren. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was born outside of Camden in Wilcox County in 1946. Sessions is a native Alabamian. He is 73 years old.

Sessions is running in Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff. His opponent is former Auburn University head football Coach Tommy Tuberville. The winner of the GOP nomination will face incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, in the Nov. 3 general election. Defeating Jones is considered critical for Republicans efforts to try to retain control of the Senate.

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Courts

Supreme Court hands down two rulings expanding religious liberty

Brandon Moseley

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The United States Supreme Court. (STOCK PHOTO)

The United States Supreme Court on Wednesday handed down two decisions strengthening religious liberty and expanding freedom of religion.

In the first case, the Court ruled in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor, saying that the Catholic nuns do not have to pay for medical procedures that they object to including abortion.

The decision was written by pro-life Justice Clarence Thomas. The 5-4 decision majority opinion is the biggest pro-life decision of the Trump presidency. This overturns a lower court ruling saying employees are entitled to abortion and birth control services.

The Montgomery-based Foundation for Moral Law praised the Supreme Court’s decision in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania. The Foundation had filed an amicus brief with the Court arguing in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor’s case.

This case arose from Obamacare’s contraception mandate. The Little Sisters objected to complying with the Obamacare mandate of contraception and abortion services based on their religious convictions. The Trump administration issued new rules that exempted employers with religious and moral objections to complying with the mandate. The States of Pennsylvania and New Jersey sued, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled against the Trump administration and the Little Sisters.

The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Third Circuit. The Court held that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 allowed the Trump administration to craft these regulations and that the Trump administration had complied with the Administrative Procedures Act in enacting the rules.

Consequently, it did not reach the religious freedom claim, but it held that it was proper for the Trump administration to consider the effect of federal religious freedom law when it passed the rules.

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“GREAT win at the Supreme Court today on the Obamacare abortion drug mandate,” said Republican Senate candidate Jeff Sessions. “For the first time in nearly a DECADE, the Little Sisters of the Poor & other religious groups can do their good work without fear of being forced to violate their beliefs.”

“As Attorney General, I reversed the Obama administration’s position in the Little Sisters of the Poor litigation, and said NO MORE to government persecution of religion,” Sessions said. “I have a lifelong record of fighting to protect religious freedom. This is one of many issues on which President Donald J. Trump and I worked on together to take a strong stand for religious liberty. I also started the Religious Liberty Task Force at the Department of Justice to protect religious freedom across the entire government.”

Sessions is running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in the Republican primary on July 14. His opponent is former Auburn head football Coach Tommy Tuberville.

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“Although the majority opinion focused more on administrative law than on religious liberty, the Court’s decision was a win for religious freedom because it upheld important rules that protect Americans with religious and moral objections to Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate,” said Matt Clark, the attorney who wrote the Foundation’s amicus brief in this case.

“Justice Alito’s concurring opinion importantly emphasized that the courts must defer to a person’s interpretation of his religious obligations when he raises a religious objection,” Clark continued. “As James Madison wrote in 1785, ‘The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.’”

Kayla Moore is the President of the Foundation for Moral Law.

“The main opinion said that Congress considers religious liberty to be an ‘unalienable right,’” Moore said. “We commend Congress and the Court for recognizing it as such, and we hope that the Court will take that principle to its logical conclusion in every religious freedom case that it considers.”

Bible scholar and cultural commentator Dr. Michael Brown said, “This is a tremendous victory for freedom of religion and conscience in America. Under Obamacare, employers were forced to provide birth control coverage as part of their health plans, which for many Catholics in particular would be in violation of their faith. The court has overwhelmingly ruled for religious freedom, honoring moral objections of employers who now may opt out of providing abortion or birth control services.”

The Supreme Court also released a ruling Wednesday saying religious institutions have the right to pick their own employees and are exempt from secular anti-discrimination laws.

“Trump and moral conservatives won two big ones,” Brown said.

In Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru the Court ruled that the First Amendment prevents courts from intervening in employment disputes between religious schools and the teachers at those schools who are entrusted with the responsibility of instructing their students in the faith.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “The religious education and formation of students is the very reason for the existence of most private religious schools, and therefore the selection and supervision of the teachers upon whom the schools rely to do this work lie at the core of their mission. Judicial review of the way in which religious schools discharge those responsibilities would undermine the independence of religious institutions in a way that the First Amendment does not tolerate.”

Brown is the author of the new book, “Evangelicals at the Crossroads: Will We Pass the Trump Test?” He has written 35 books and hosts a nationally syndicated daily talk radio show The Line of Fire, as well as the host of shows on GOD TV, NRBTV, and METV.

Barbara Ann Luttrell is the Vice President of External Affairs for Planned Parenthood Southeast.

Planned Parenthood SE was upset with both rulings.

“Today, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld two Trump administration rules that allow employers and universities to push their religious or moral beliefs on employees and students by denying them access to insurance that covers birth control,” Luttrelll said in a statement. “Bosses and universities will be able to decide — based on their own objections — if their health insurance plans cover birth control.”

Staci Fox is the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast.

“Today’s ruling deals yet another devastating blow to health care access in this country,” Fox said. “As is so often the case, it will hit people of color and low-income people hardest, and in the middle of a global pandemic that is already ravaging those communities. It is more proof that reproductive rights are under attack at all levels – not just abortion access.”

Both decisions were victories for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall. The State of Alabama, under Marshall’s leadership, had previously joined multistate amicus briefs to the Supreme Court in both cases, supporting the Little Sisters of the Poor and Our Lady of Guadalupe School: Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania; and Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru.

“The First Amendment rightly recognizes that one of the unalienable rights all men and women possess is the right to exercise their faith,” Marshall wrote in a statement. “And today the Supreme Court has reaffirmed that fundamental truth in two important decisions. Thankfully, the Court recognized that the federal government need not force nuns to violate their sincerely held beliefs by providing contraceptive coverage to employees who help them care for the sick. And the Court likewise reaffirmed that the government has no authority to tell religious schools who they must hire or retain to teach their faith.”

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Health

COVID-19 kills 228 Alabamians in last three weeks as deaths pass 1,000

At least 1,007 Alabamians have died from COVID-19 since the first case was diagnosed in the state in mid-March.

Brandon Moseley

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At least 1,007 Alabamians have died from COVID-19 since the first case was diagnosed in the state in mid-March. (Stock Photo)

The Alabama Department of Public Health reported Tuesday that more than 1,000 Alabamians have now died from COVID-19. At least 228 of those were killed in just the past three weeks.

At least 1,007 Alabamians have died from COVID-19 since the first case was diagnosed in the state in mid-March, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Another 26 deaths are listed as probably COVID-19 deaths.

By June 1, 18,246 Alabamians had tested positive. By June 17, 26,914 cases had been diagnosed in the state. In the twenty days that have followed, another 18,349 Alabamians have tested positive. As of Tuesday, 45,263 tested positive, with another 888 positive coronavirus tests announced on Tuesday.

Alabama’s coronavirus epidemic was expected to peak in April while the state was under a shelter in place order. By April 30, the state began lifting restrictions to reopen the economy.

On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci told reporters that Alabama and other states may have reopened their economies “too soon.” Since the Memorial Day weekend, cases of coronavirus have risen at an alarming pace. On Monday, hospitalizations for COVID-19 set a new record at 1,016.

The combination of a surge of cases, many Alabamians out and about without masks or face coverings, and large holiday gatherings over the Fourth of July weekend make many public health officials concerned that we could be seeing dramatically higher numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and even deaths moving forward into late July and early August.

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Fauci told members of the Alabama press corps that 20 to 40 percent of people who are infected are not showing any symptoms, but they could still be spreading the virus.

Fauci said that wearing a mask or cloth face covering and staying at least six feet away from other people is the best way to avoid becoming infected with the coronavirus — or transmitting the virus to other people if you are already infected, but just don’t know it.

Several cities and counties in Alabama have already implemented a mask requirement.

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State officials are urging Alabamians to take personal responsibility for their own health.

Thus far the global pandemic has killed 543,596 and known coronavirus cases are rapidly approaching twelve million.

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