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After March for Life, Roby says “we must stand for life”

Brandon Moseley

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Monday, Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) said in an email that she supports the Pro-Life movement and their efforts to protect the unborn.

“I believe that human life begins at conception, and our laws and policies should reflect a commitment to protecting life at every stage,” Roby wrote in an email to constituents. “I feel a strong responsibility to do everything in my power to fight for the unborn. This platform I have been given is a special opportunity to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.”

“Every year, thousands of Americans gather in our nation’s capital to participate in the March for Life,” Roby added. “This annual event is an opportunity for pro-life advocates from across the country to join together and voice their concern for protecting all life. Many traveled far and wide to be in Washington for this year’s March, which occurred this past week. I know that some pro-life supporters traveled from Alabama’s Second District – almost 900 miles – to defend the unborn.”

On Friday, President Donald J. Trump (R) became the first President of the United States to personally attend and address the annual March For Life in Washington.

“Every child is a precious and sacred gift from God,” Pres. Trump told the thousands in attendance. “Together we must protect, cherish, and defend the dignity and sanctity of every human life.”

“When we see a baby in the womb we glimpse the majesty of God’s creation,” Trump added. “Every child born and unborn is made in the holy image of Almighty God.”

“It is my profound honor to be the first president in history to attend the March for Life!” Trump told the crowd. “We are here for a very simple reason: To defend the right of every child – born and unborn – to fulfill their God given potential. Young people are the heart of the March for Life and it is you who is making it the pro-family, pro-life generation.”

The people of Alabama in 2018 passed a state constitutional amendment banning abortion. This amendment, as well as laws passed to protect the unborn and regulate the abortion industry, are being blocked by unelected federal judges, citing the controversial 1973 Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade claiming that abortion is protected by the U.S. Constitution. In 2018 the Alabama legislature passed the nation’s strongest abortion ban, hoping that the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the case and overturn the controversial ruling.

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Roby recently spoke on the House floor stating her support for the Pro-Life movement.

Congresswoman Roby has represented Alabama’s Second Congressional District since 2011, but is not seeking election for another term.

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Health

Five patients with COVID-19 have died at EAMC hospital in Opelika

Chip Brownlee

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Five patients who were being treated for COVID-19 at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Alabama, have died since Friday, the hospital said in a statement Saturday.

“Our hospital family expresses its collective condolences to the families of these five patients,” said Laura Grill, EAMC President and CEO.  “As everyone knows, this virus has taken a toll on our nation and world, and our community is not exempt from that. Our hearts and prayers are with these families at this very difficult time.”

Three of the patients were from Chambers County and two were from Lee County. The Alabama Department of Public Health is still investigating the deaths and has not updated their website to reflect them.

Hospital officials and ADPH are working through the process for official state determination before adding them to the COVID-19 death count.

“The ICU staff, respiratory therapists and physicians who worked most closely with these patients are especially struggling and we ask that the community lift them up today just as they have been lifting up our whole organization the past two weeks,” Grill said.

EAMC is currently treating 19 patients hospitalized with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. Five patients who were previously hospitalized with COVID-19 have been discharged. There are 22 patients who are currently hospitalized at EAMC with suspected COVID-19.

The number of hospitalized patients has more than doubled from seven on Tuesday. It anticipates more.

The county had at least 56 confirmed cases of COVID-19 by Saturday afternoon, more per capita than Jefferson County, Shelby County and Madison County. That number has also continued to grow. To the north, Chambers County, which falls under EAMC’s service area, has the most cases per capita in the state, meaning there are more confirmed cases per person than any other county. That county’s total stands at 17.

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Many of the patients who have tested positive, according to EAMC, had a common “last public setting” in church services.

“While there are no absolute patterns among the confirmed cases in Lee County, one nugget of information does stand out a little—the last public setting for a sizable number of them was at church,” East Alabama Medical Center said in a statement Friday night.  “Not at one church, or churches in one town, but at church in general.”

The hospital has urged churches to move online and cancel in-person services. Some churches have continued to meet, as recently as last Sunday, despite “social distancing” directives from the Alabama Department of Public Health that prohibited non-work gatherings of 25 or more people.

EAMC is urging the public to act as if they are under a “shelter-in-place” at home order, as the state has so far refused to issue such a directive.

“EAMC is asking everyone to shelter in place at home,” the hospital said in a statement Friday night. “Sheltering in place means you stay at home with immediate family members only and should not leave your home except for essential activities such as food, medical care, or work. You should not host gatherings of people outside of your immediate family. You should also maintain a 6-foot distance from other people as much as possible, wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds each time, and frequently disinfect high-touch surfaces.”

It’s also asking businesses that have access to personal protective equipment like gowns, masks, latex gloves and hand sanitizer to bring those items to a collection site outside of EAMC’s main lobby. The site is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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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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