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Opinion | In a party without a plan, Ainsworth stands alone

Josh Moon

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I am a practical person. 

I place a lot of value on a practical, sensible approach to problem solving. Which is why I tend to vote for people who also think like me — who have a plan, who can identify problems and offer reasonable, fact-based solutions. 

Those people make the world go around. 

During the 2018 midterm elections, when Alabama was voting for a new governor and replacing dozens of legislative seats, I begged this state’s voters to take such an approach. To identify things that matter to them, to pick out specific issues within their communities and within the state that make the most difference to them, and then to vote for only the candidates who offer reasonable, fact-based, specific plans to address those issues. 

Instead, Alabamians, in overwhelming numbers, gave me the middle finger, donned their “R” jerseys and checked the box for straight-ticket Republican. And they ushered in a governor, and expanded a Legislature, that is filled with men and women who have no plan for anything. 

Not even common, everyday problems. 

They’re still stumped by what to do about pollution and grappling with whether public corruption is truly that bad. 

And when I say that Alabama voters selected these people despite them not offering a single real solution to any problem, well, check this: Gov. Kay Ivey, who defeated Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, refused to debate anyone, including her Republican challengers in the primary. She never offered a realistic plan for doing anything but showing up to ribbon cuttings. 

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The other GOP sheep ushered in by voters were similarly void of ideas for pretty much anything. At one point leading up to the election, I visited the websites of all GOP candidates running for office and pulled their ideas for improving Alabama’s public education system — one of the top issues listed by all voters. 

Not one had a single specific idea, much less a comprehensive plan. 

And if you’re that unable to provide leadership and planning when you’ve got all the time in the world to address common problems known to all, well, it’s hard to imagine how bad you’ll be in a crisis. 

Or, it was until the past couple of weeks. 

Until Wednesday afternoon, the state of Alabama has been without leadership throughout the COVID-19 crisis. 

It has been an embarrassment on a grand scale, as we struggle to do even basic things, such as provide testing for those with symptoms. By late Wednesday, Alabama had tested fewer than 3,000 people. New York tested more than that in a single hour on Wednesday. 

As coronavirus patients start to stack up at our hospitals, there remains no viable plan to accommodate them. No workable plan to get ventilators. No workable plan to test or treat our most rural areas. No workable plan to address the shortage of doctors and nurses. 

And then Will Ainsworth dropped in. 

Alabama’s lieutenant governor has been unusually outspoken in the last few days — cutting a PSA telling people to stay inside and take warnings seriously and offering his views on social media. 

But by Wednesday, Ainsworth had seen enough. He fired off a lengthy letter to Ivey’s COVID-19 Response Team that basically said: What are we even doing out here, man? 

Ainsworth set fire to everything — calling the state’s response to this point unprepared and unrealistic. He talked about his conversations with healthcare providers and how they’re scared to death of the “tsunami of patients” that are about to overtake the state’s hospitals, sucking up every available resource and then some. And he did the math on how awful this virus outbreak could be — or maybe even likely will be — for this state. 

And he offered suggestions for addressing the problems. 

But if I know Republicans like I think I do, Ainsworth’s letter and plans and warnings will be treated not as a wake-up call, but as a traitorous act. He has dared to question the other GOP leaders publicly, and that is what they will take from this. 

Because anything else is outside of their skill set. 

This is a party built on opposing things, not on fixing things. It is a party that has only ever sold two things — Jesus and anti-abortion legislation. Never mind that their bills involving those things have ever once made the state even slightly better. 

Ainsworth made himself a unicorn on Wednesday. He became a planner in a party that has never had one. 

He should be commended for his stand. But he won’t be. 

ALGOP hunts unicorns.

 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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Health

Ivey awards more than $17 million in federal coronavirus aid to local agencies

Eddie Burkhalter

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More than $17 million in coronavirus relief aid has been awarded to 20 state community action agencies, Gov. Kay Ivey’s office announced Friday. 

“COVID-19 has disrupted lives in many ways and in varying degrees,” Gov. Ivey said in a statement. “It is my hope that the services provided by these funds will help people as they work toward a quick and complete economic recovery.”

The Community Service Block grants made available by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be used by the various local agencies to provide aid to those impacted by the pandemic, including seniors,  the disabled and low-income families, according to a press release from Ivey’s office. 

“Gov. Ivey is determined to help Alabama and Alabamians emerge from this pandemic as strong if not stronger than ever,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “ADECA stands ready to be a part of that process with the funds made available through our programs.”

Agencies, amounts and coverage areas include:

  • Community Action Agency of Northwest Alabama Inc. – $668,160 (Colbert, Franklin and Lauderdale counties)
  • Community Action Partnership Huntsville/Madison and Limestone Counties – $1.05 million (Limestone and Madison counties)
  • Community Action Agency of Northeast Alabama Inc. – $1.35 million (Blount, Cherokee, DeKalb, Jackson, Marshall, and St. Clair counties)
  • Community Action Partnership of North Alabama – $775,602 (Cullman, Lawrence and Morgan counties)
  • Marion-Winston Counties Community Action Committee Inc. – $226,538 (Marion and Winston counties)
  • Walker County Community Action Agency Inc. – $273,782 (Walker County)
  • Community Action Agency of Talladega, Clay, Randolph, Calhoun and Cleburne counties – $1.02 million (Calhoun, Clay, Cleburne, Randolph, and Talladega counties)
  • Community Action of Etowah County Inc. – $379,592 (Etowah County)
  • Pickens County Community Action Committee and Community Development Corp. Inc. – $117,329 (Pickens County)
  • Community Service Programs of West Alabama Inc. – $1.65 million (Bibb, Choctaw, Dallas, Fayette, Greene, Lamar, Perry, Sumter and Tuscaloosa counties)
  • Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity – $2.19 million (Jefferson County)
  • Community Action Committee Inc. of Chambers, Tallapoosa, Coosa – $351,259 (Chambers, Coosa and Tallapoosa counties)
  • Community Action Partnership of Middle Alabama Inc. – $793,918 (Autauga, Chilton, Elmore and Shelby counties)
  • Montgomery Community Action Committee and Community Development Corp. Inc. – $911,887 (Montgomery County)
  • Alabama Council on Human Relations Inc. – $550,919 (Lee County)
  • Macon-Russell Community Action Agency Inc. – $375,068 (Macon and Russell counties)
  • Organized Community Action Program Inc. – $806,165 (Bullock, Butler, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Lowndes and Pike counties)
  • Community Action Agency of South Alabama – $1.24 million (Baldwin, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Marengo, Monroe, and Wilcox counties)
  • Southeast Alabama Community Action Partnership Inc. – $827,944 (Barbour, Coffee, Geneva, Henry and Houston counties)
  • Mobile Community Action Inc. – $1.77 million (Mobile and Washington counties)
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Crime

More prison workers, inmates test positive for COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

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Four more prison workers and three inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, the Alabama Department of Corrections announced Thursday. 

Workers at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, the Elmore Correctional Facility, the Kilby Correctional Facility and the Bibb Correctional Facility self-reported positive coronavirus test results, according to an ADOC press release. 

Fifty-one cases among prison staff remain active while 25 workers who tested positive have been cleared to return to work. 

One inmate at the Easterling Correctional Facility and another at Tutwiler prison were moved into isolated areas in the facilities’ infirmaries after testing positive for the virus, according to the release. There have been 17 confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff at Tutwiler and 2 infected inmates. 

In addition to those two new confirmed cases, an inmate at the St. Clair Correctional Facility who had pre-existing medical conditions was taken to a local hospital after exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, where he tested positive for the virus. 

Thirteen of 22 confirmed COVID-19 cases among inmates remain active, according to ADOC. 

ADOC has tested 191 of approximately 22,000 inmates as of Wednesday.

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Crime

Second inmate dies after testing positive for COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

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William Hershell Moon, 74, died Wednesday at a hospital after testing positive for COVID-19, the Alabama Department of Corrections announced Wednesday. 

Moon, who was serving a life sentence at the St. Clair Correctional Facility, had a history of chronic medical problems, ADOC said in the statement.

He began exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 after returning to the facility from a local hospital and was tested and confirmed to have the virus, according to the statement.

An exact cause of death is pending an autopsy.

“The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) extends its sympathies to the Moon family and his loved ones during this difficult time,” the statement reads. 

Moon became the second inmate in the state who died after testing positive for COVID-19. Dave Thomas, 66, a terminally ill man serving at St. Clair prison, died April 16 after testing positive for the virus. 

ADOC on Tuesday said four inmates who had been housed in the same area as Moon have also tested positive for COVID-19, and the area was placed on level-two quarantine, limiting those inmates to that area.

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The entire infirmary at St. Clair remains on level-one quarantine, in which inmates are monitored for symptoms and have temperature checks twice daily, according to ADOC. 

In addition to Moon’s death, ADOC announced four more prison workers have tested positive for coronavirus.

A worker at Elmore Correctional Facility, an employee at Fountain Correctional Facility, one at Kilby Correctional Facility and another at Montgomery Women’s Facility all self-reported confirmed cases of the virus. 

The new cases among staff make 72 confirmed COVID-19 cases in 20 state facilities. Twenty-one of those workers have since been cleared to return to work. 

Ten of 19 confirmed cases among inmates remained active as of Wednesday, according to ADOC. The department has tested 178 of the state’s approximately 22,000 inmates as of Tuesday, according to ADOC.

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Crime

Seven inmates, seven workers test positive for COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

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The Alabama Department of Corrections on Tuesday said in a statement that seven more prison workers and seven additional inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Four workers and one woman serving at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women all tested positive for coronavirus, according to an ADOC press release. There are 16 confirmed cases among staff at the facility. 

The woman serving at Tutwiler prison continues to be asymptomatic and was tested pre-operation for a scheduled surgery, according to the release, which states she has been moved to “medical isolation” and the dormitory where she was housed has been placed on on level-one quarantine, meaning inmates will be monitored for symptoms and have temperature checks twice daily. 

Other positive test results came back for a worker at Ventress Correctional Facility, another at the Alex City Community Based Facility and Community Work Center and one at the Birmingham Community Based Facility and Community Work Center, according to ADOC. 

Four inmates at the St. Clair Correctional Facility who also tested positive for COVID-19 were living in the same small area within the prison’s infirmary as an inmate who previously tested positive for the virus, according to the release. That living area remains on level-two quarantine, meaning inmates remain there for all daily activities, and the entire infirmary at St. Clair remains on level-one quarantine.

One inmate at the Kilby Correctional Facility and another at the Frank Lee Community Based Facility/Community Work Center also tested positive for  COVID-19. 

The man serving at Kilby prison was housed in the facility’s infirmary, and was transferred to a local hospital after showing symptoms of the virus, where he tested positive, according to ADOC. Kilby’s infirmary has been placed on level-one quarantine.

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The inmate at Frank Lee developed symptoms of COVID-19 and was taken to the Staton Correctional Facility to an area under level-two quarantine, where he subsequently tested positive, according to the department. He was then taken to medical isolation at Kilby prison,  and the facility was placed on level-one quarantine. 

There have been 68 confirmed cases among prison workers in the state, while 17 have since been cleared to return to work. 

Ten of the 19 confirmed COVID-19 cases among inmates remain active, according to ADOC. As of Monday the state has tested 176 of Alabama’s approximately 22,000 inmates, according to the department.

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