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Jones sponsors bill for insurance plans to cover COVID-19 vaccines when they’re available

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Tuesday announced bipartisan legislation that would require health insurance plans to cover treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 whenever they should become available.

There are currently no vaccines or medicines that treat or prevent infection. It could take a year to 18 months for a vaccine to be developed.

“We have to do everything we can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This bill will allow Americans to rapidly access vaccines for this novel coronavirus as soon as they are available. Congress should immediately pass the Rapid Coverage for Coronavirus Vaccines and Treatments Act as part of a robust response to this virus,” Jones said in a statement. 

The Rapid Coverage for Coronavirus Vaccines Act is co-sponored by Senators Bill Cassidy, R-La., Tina Smith, D-Minn, and Steve Daines, R-Mont, and would require private insurance plans to cover, with no cost sharing, any coronavirus treatment or vaccine that gets an A or B rating by the United States Preventive Health Services Task Force. 

“When a vaccine is released for coronavirus, it needs to be available for all Americans as soon as possible. Vaccine coverage by insurance companies is key to this. This bill ensures that coverage,” Sen. Cassidy said in a statement. 

“Amid this public health emergency, it’s critical that we prepare to protect the health and safety of people in Minnesota and across the country in every possible way,” Sen. Smith said in the statement. “One of the many steps we should take is to expedite the process requiring insurers to cover the cost of a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. This coverage could help more folks access treatment and offer some economic relief to families. I’m glad to help introduce this bipartisan effort and will work to move it forward.”

 “This bipartisan bill mitigates the coronavirus outbreak by ensuring that folks have access to testing and vaccines without costs,” Sen. Daines said. “Montana families need access to these important preventive services, and financial barriers should not stand in the way during this national emergency.”

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Gov. Kay Ivey addresses death of former Auburn coach Pat Dye

Eddie Burkhalter

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via Madison Ogletree / The Auburn Plainsman

Gov. Kay Ivey in a statement Monday expressed sadness over the death of former Auburn head football coach Pat Dye, who died Monday after being hospitalized for kidney problems. He had also been diagnosed with COVID-19. 

Dye, 80, was being treated for kidney problems when he tested positive for COVID-19, although he was asymptomatic, his family said at the time. 

“I am saddened to hear of the passing of Coach Pat Dye — a great man, coach and member of the Auburn family,” Ivey said. “Not only was he a phenomenal football coach, but an even better person. For years, I have known Pat personally and have always valued his friendship and colorful commentary. He had great takes on both football and life. Coach Dye truly embodied the Auburn spirit. He will be missed not only by the Auburn family, but the entire state of Alabama. War Eagle, Coach. Your life and legacy lives on.”

Ivey graduated from Auburn University, where Dye served as head football coach from 1981 to 1992. He was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

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Crime

Alabama Democratic Party chair: “Where systemic racism endures there are no winners”

Eddie Burkhalter

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The Chair of the Alabama Democratic Party on Monday called for Alabamians to come together to address systemic racism and inequality in the wake of the death of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. 

“I am angry and I am hurt. Unfortunately, I am not shocked,” said state Representative and  Chair of the Alabama Democratic Party Chris England, in a statement. 

“Inequality pervades every facet of our society. Confronting this truth is difficult, especially for those who have never experienced their race as an issue. For Black people, watching George Floyd be killed on camera felt not only horrifying, but familiar. It felt familiar because we know what it is like to be harassed by an officer or made to feel unwelcome in a certain part of town. We know what it is like for our schools, neighborhoods, and economic concerns to be ignored outright,” England continued. 

“I stand with each person who is fighting for the just and fair treatment of every Alabamian. Until ideologies rooted in racism and hate are confronted head-on, communities of color will suffer. Until we expose the lies keeping us divided, communities who do not experience their race as an issue will continue misdirecting their frustrations, and scapegoat communities of color. Where systemic racism endures there are no winners, only losers. 

“Unity demands justice. I call on every Alabamian, especially people of faith, to be on the frontlines of love and compassion. We have not come this far to only come this far.”

Two days of peaceful protests in Birmingham turned violent early Sunday morning, and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin declared a state of emergency and enacted  a city-wide curfew to prevent a repeat of the rioting that saw numerous business burned and at least two reporters attacked.

Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday announced the authorization of Alabama National Guard members, but said it was no immediate need to activate them.

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Health

Alabama’s Missing and Endangered Person Alert goes into effect today

Eddie Burkhalter

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Beginning today, Alabama’s Missing Senior Alert becomes the state’s Missing and Endangered Person Alert, and includes a broader coverage of those who may be in danger. 

The previous Missing Senior Alert issued alerts for those who may have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and while the Amber Alerts and Emergency Missing Child alerts can be called for those under 17, there was no alert for persons 18 or older who had mental or physical disabilities in danger.

The expanded version, signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey, provides coverage for those vulnerable people. 

“In the past, our Alabama Fusion Center has faced the challenge of how to alert the public when a missing individual is too old to meet the criteria for an AMBER or Emergency Missing Child Alert and too young to meet the criteria for a Missing Senior Alert,” Hal Taylor, secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said in a statement. “We appreciate Governor Ivey and the Legislature’s support in working with us to ensure some of the state’s most vulnerable individuals who are reported missing are found as quickly as possible.”

For more information on current alerts, visit app.alea.gov.

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Health

Unified Command Center at heart of COVID-19 response

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama’s fight against the coronavirus is headed from the Unified Command center, a “war room” set up by the governor, where 175 state employees lead Alabama’s response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The Unified Command Center is located in the RSA Tower in downtown Montgomery.

Alabama’s Unified Command for COVID-19 Response is a team comprised of four state agencies: the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA), the Alabama National Guard and Alabama Forestry Commission.

Together, they have joined forces to lead the state’s effort to fight the deadly coronavirus.

Former State Representative Perry O. Hooper Jr., R-Montgomery, represents Alabama on Pres. Trump’s national finance committee, Hooper praised Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) for her leadership.

“All four state agencies have been working together since late March, putting aside all individual egos, and doing what is best for the state of Alabama,” Hooper said. “This operation is another prime example of Governor Kay Ivey’s leadership. She does not crave attention posturing in front of the cameras as so many Blue State governors are doing. Her only motivation is to get Alabama safely back to work and back to school while taking extra precautions protecting the most vulnerable from this unseen enemy.”

Hooper praised the men and women working at the Unified Command Center as “unsung heroes.”

“Please join me in giving a special thanks to these unsung heroes, Hooper said.

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Retired Col. Jim Hawkins of the Alabama National Guard came back from the private sector to help coordinate this effort. The agencies are working together collaboratively for the good of the state.

AEMA Director Brian Hastings said that at any time other cabinet agencies can be called upon to assist.

“People bring so many different skill sets and so much expertise,” State Health Officer Dr. Harris said. “Things that we don’t have internally at the Health Department, and so we are so fortunate to have all of that in Alabama and have all of that on the same team working together.”

“Were not making policy in the unified command. Were arming the administration with the facts,” Harris explained.

The Unified Command Center is tasked with providing Alabama medical facilities and first responders with more protective equipment like masks and gloves.

They use the National Guard, Alabama Forestry Commission and public health employees to distribute the material from the state’s stockpile to places where it is most needed.

They have had to develop new supply chains including some made in Alabama that did not exist before the pandemic.

Medical Operations Branch Chief Col. Lisa Pierce and her team are tasked with monitoring the state’s nursing homes. That is a very vulnerable population that can have tremendous losses when COVID-19 gets inside those facilities.

There have been 1,695 cases among nursing home residents and 1,031 among long term care facility employees in Alabama. Unified Command focuses its attention on the decontamination of infected nursing homes.

Making sure that the hospitals have sufficient ventilators, intensive care and other resources is another area of Unified Command’s focus.

The Alabama Department of Public Health reported Sunday that 12 more Alabamians lost their fight with COVID-19 on Sunday, taking the death toll in the state to 630. At least 17,952 people have tested positive for the virus.

The Alabama Department of Public Health reports that 9,355 of them are presumed to have recovered. 106,198 Americans have died in the global pandemic.

 

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