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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. 

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

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. 

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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.

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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Auburn gameday adjusts to COVID-19

Brandon Moseley

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Auburn football vs Georgia South on Saturday, September 2, 2017 in Auburn, Ala. (Via Wade Rackley/Auburn Athletics)

Auburn University will play its first college football game on Saturday. Fans will be in attendance; but the gameday experience will see a number of changes to mitigate the COVID-19 threat.

Only 20 percent of the capacity of Jordan-Hare Stadium, about 17,000 fans will be on hand, mostly Auburn students, to watch Auburn play Kentucky for their season opener.

Thursday, the Auburn Athletics Department announced that in collaboration with Auburn University, the Southeastern Conference and state and local public health guidance, several safety measures have been implemented for the 2020 football season.

The Athletics Department said that these policies and procedures are designed to create a safe and healthy environment while maintaining Auburn’s renowned gameday experience.

“Everyone who enters Jordan-Hare Stadium this fall will participate in a shared responsibility for the health and safety of our campus community,” director of athletics Allen Greene said. “We’re counting on all attendees to do their part by practicing physical distancing, personal hygiene and wearing face coverings. Adherence to these guidelines will lead to the safest possible gameday for everyone.”

Fans are asked to review the following guidelines regarding gameday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

As announced on Aug. 19, under the direction of state health officials, Jordan-Hare Stadium capacity will be reduced to 20% to begin the 2020 football season.

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In an effort to contribute to the on-campus experience of our current students, all general seating tickets outside of controlled premium spaces and those designated for home and visiting team player and coach guests will be reserved for Auburn students.

The ticket allocations for future games will be announced at a later date. As the season progresses, the seating plan and configuration may change as additional information related to COVID-19 becomes available.

Handicap accessible parking for non-Tigers Unlimited donors will be located in the East Coliseum parking lot. Golf cart shuttles will be available from the East Coliseum handicap lot.

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In accordance with the CDC and state and local guidelines, tailgating will not be permitted on campus for the 2020 football season, including Tailgate Guys turnkey tailgating packages. No RVs will be allowed on campus for the 2020 season. RVs found on campus are subject to a ticket or tow. The Tiger Transit shuttles will not be operational for the 2020 season.

Student locations are general admission and first-come, first-served, but students are asked to sit in the designated sections listed on their game ticket. Students will also receive an email communication during the week of the game that identifies their assigned zone. For the Kentucky game, students should only sit in the orange chairbacks; blue chairbacks are for home team and visiting player guests.

Physical distance signage and markings will be placed at all entry gates. Walk-through metal detectors will be operational for the 2020 season. Students will be required to show a green screen from the GuideSafe app before entering the metal detectors.

Public (non-student) ticket holders and working staff will have their temperature read prior to entering the stadium.

The clear bag policy will remain in effect for the 2020 football season and ticket holders are encouraged to bring as few items as needed into the stadium. Bags must be clear plastic and not exceed 12″x 6″ x 12.” One-gallon clear resealable plastic storage bags and small clutch purses not exceeding 4.5″ x 6.5″ may be permitted in the stadium.

Individual hand sanitizer bottles not exceeding 3.4 ounces and disinfecting wipes will be permitted into the stadium.

Non-prohibited item check stations on the exterior of JHS have been eliminated for the 2020 season. All prohibited items will have to be disposed of or returned to vehicles before entry into the stadium.

Enhanced cleaning and sanitization procedures throughout the stadium prior to and during all games will be in effect for the 2020 season. All cleaning and disinfection products have been certified by the Environmental Protection Agency or the Centers for Disease Control for disinfection of COVID19.

180 hand sanitizer stations will be strategically placed in restrooms, elevators and throughout Jordan-Hare Stadium. All athletics department workspaces will be supplied with hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray and wipes to clean game day workspaces frequently.

The “AU Clean Team” will regularly disinfect all high-touch surfaces in all common areas, including entry gates, restrooms, point-of-sale locations, concessions counters, elevators and handrails, among other high-touch surfaces. AU Clean Team staff will be assigned to each public restroom in the stadium.

Fans are required to wear face coverings (over both the nose and mouth) while in the stadium. Stadium workers and athletics staff will wear face coverings at all times.

Directional signage, stanchions, and barriers will be installed to facilitate six-foot physical distance at entry gates, concourse pathways, concessions and merchandise queues and seating areas.

The event staff will assist in directing ticket holders through appropriate routes to seating areas, concession stands and restrooms. Seating arrangements will provide for physical distance. Ticketed seats will be pre-marked with an Auburn Athletics provided chairback. Empty bleacher seats between pre-marked seats will not be available for seating. Blocked rows will be marked with tape and not available for seating but will be used as a means of ingress/egress in and out of the section.

Physical distancing will be maintained throughout the facility to the fullest extent possible, including limiting field access in accordance with SEC and NCAA recommendations.

Jordan-Hare Stadium will provide for contactless transactions, including touchless walk-through metal detectors, digital ticketing, digital scanning of tickets at entry gates and self-swiping of credit cards at concessions and merchandise outlets. All transactions for concessions and merchandise locations at JHS will be contactless and cashless (credit cards only).

The Auburn University Athletics Ticket Office announced mobile-only ticketing, enabling contactless entry into all venues beginning with the 2020 football season. The Athletics Department said that the shift to mobile-only ticketing provides a safer environment for fans, and guards against the production of fraudulent tickets.

Auburn Athletic Ticket Office personnel will be located at the Auburn Arena Ticket Office and the West, Northeast, and Southeast ticket windows at Jordan-Hare Stadium to assist ticket holders. Ticket purchasers will receive their tickets via email, allowing for download to Apple Wallet (iPhone) or Google Pay Wallet (Android). Prior to reaching the gates, fans will simply open their digital wallet.

For more information visit AuburnTigers.com/gameday

Many people as late as mid-August thought the 2020 season would not be played. Several conferences, including the PAC 12, are not playing football this year citing fears of the coronavirus global pandemic, The SEC will play a ten game conference only schedule starting Saturday, with the SEC Championship game scheduled for December 19.

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Courts

Justice Ginsburg’s death will supercharge a heated 2020 campaign

The passing of one of the court’s most liberal justices so close to the Nov. 3 general election has set off a political firestorm as to what president should pick the next justice — President Donald Trump or Joe Biden, should he defeat Trump in November.

Brandon Moseley

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President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden, right, are running for president in 2020. (STAFF SGT. TONY HARP/AIR NATIONAL GUARD AND GAGE SKIDMORE/FLIKR)

Just hours after the death of 87-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday, conservatives, including the Alabama-based Foundation for Moral Law, said Ginsburg’s passing is an opportunity to reverse the ideological trend of the nation’s highest court.

The passing of one of the court’s most liberal justices so close to the Nov. 3 general election has set off a political firestorm as to what president should pick the next justice — President Donald Trump or Joe Biden, should he defeat Trump in November.

The controversy over when and how to confirm a new justice will likely supercharge an already heated 2020 election campaign. Trump was at a campaign rally on Friday night when he learned about the justice’s death from reporters.

“Just died? Wow, I did not know that,” Trump said. “She was an amazing woman. Whether you agreed or not she led an amazing life. She was an amazing woman. I am sad to hear that.”

Ginsburg, since her appointment by President Bill Clinton, has been bastion of the court’s more liberal wing. The court was divided with four “liberal” justices led by Ginsburg and four “conservative” justices led by Samuel Alito.

Chief Justice John Roberts, though appointed by President George W. Bush, has been the swing vote on a number of major issues since the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2018. Her death gives Trump the opportunity to appoint her replacement and potentially shape the direction of the court for decades to come.

Conservatives want Trump to select the nominee and the current GOP-controlled Senate to confirm the Trump appointee.

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The Foundation for Moral Law — a conservative legal group founded by former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore — released a statement saying that Ginsburg’s passing is an opportunity to move the court in a more conservative direction.

“For many years United States Supreme Court has been a bastion for liberal anti-God ideology,” Moore said. “The passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg will be an opportunity to reverse this trend. I’m hopeful that President Trump will immediately nominate a true conservative who understands that our rights come from God and no authority in this country can take those rights from us.”

“This is a very critical time for our country and our future and the future of our posterity depends upon our vigilance and direction,” Moore said.

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Judicial Watch, another conservative legal group, echoed Moore’s statement.

“Judicial Watch sends it condolences to the family of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She had a wonderful judicial temperament that will always be remembered,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “President Trump now has a historic opportunity to nominate yet another constitutional conservative who will honor the Constitution and the rule of law across the full spectrum of constitutional issues.”

“And the U.S. Senate should move quickly to work with President Trump to consider and approve a new justice who will faithfully apply the U.S. Constitution,” Fitton said. “There is no reason we cannot have a new justice by Election Day.”

Trump is expected to put forth a nominee to fill Ginsburg’s seat in the coming days, according to ABC News.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, wrote in a statement that, “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

But Democratic senators and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, disagree.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” Schumer wrote on social media Friday, parroting a similar quote McConnell used in 2016 when he refused to give then-President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, hearings and a vote for confirmation to the court. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

Republicans in the Senate blocked Obama from selecting Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement. Scalia was the most conservative jurist on the court.

Ginsburg was a staunch supporter of abortion rights and voter protections, and she played a major role in upholding Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision protecting abortion rights. She also voted in favor of same-sex marriage and to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

Most political observers expect Trump to appoint a woman to fill Ginsburg’s spot. Political insiders have suggested that Trump believes that appointing a woman to the court could help him with woman, a key swing demographic that will likely decide the next election.

Will the Senate confirm Trump’s appointment before the election or wait until after the public votes? If Republicans lose control of the Senate, could a lame duck GOP majority select the direction of the court on their way out?

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones has been widely criticized for his vote against the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. If the vote comes before the Nov. 3 election, Jones’s decision on whether to confirm Trump’s appointee will be heavily scrutinized.

The questions about the Supreme Court is likely to only further inflame passions on both sides this election cycle.

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

Eddie Burkhalter

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(APR GRAPHIC/SUPREME COURT PORTRAIT)

United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — a champion of women’s rights and voter protections on the nation’s highest court — died Friday at the age of 87 from complications from metastatic pancreas cancer.

The justice died at her home in Washington D.C., surrounded by family. Only the second woman ever to be appointed to the highest court in the nation, she served 27 years on the court, becoming a champion for women’s rights and voter protections. 

“This news is a devastating loss for our country and for all those who have been inspired by the inimitable Justice Ginsburg during her long and historic career. Justice Ginsburg led a life guided by principle and filled with purpose. A true trailblazer in the legal field in her own right, she inspired generations of young women to reach for heights that previously felt impossible. Through her quiet dignity, her willingness to bridge political divides, and her steady pursuit of justice, she was a standard-bearer for positive leadership,” Sen. Doug Jones said in a statement. 

“Her bold dissents in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Shelby County v. Holder cases are particularly meaningful to me, and to so many in Alabama and across the country. She stood for what was right and for the constitutional principles of equality and democracy that she held dear, even if it meant she was in the minority on the Court. As only the second woman to ever serve on the Court, she made full use of her opportunity to serve as a voice for women on the bench.

“Beyond her legal acumen, Justice Ginsburg will also be remembered for her sharp wit, her tireless advocacy for voting rights, and her historic role in fighting for a more equal society for women across the country. She will be greatly missed. Louise and I extend our sincerest condolences to Justice Ginsburg’s loved ones. We’re praying for them as they grieve this tremendous loss,” Jones said. 

Margaret Huang, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, in a statement Friday said that our country has lost a monumental and transformative figure. 

“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not only a trailblazer, a hero, and a singular inspiration, she was also a deeply principled person who demonstrated great courage and conviction throughout her entire legal career,” Huang said. 

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“At the time of her appointment in 1993, Justice Ginsburg was only the second woman to be seated on the U.S. Supreme Court, but it wasn’t her first time in the Court. As director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, she argued and won five cases before the Justices. And from her first term, she made it her mission to guarantee equal protection for women and other marginalized communities. We are eternally grateful for her decades of work — and landmark achievements — in pursuit of this essential goal.

“In her later years, she became an icon for a younger generation. Her resolute determination for justice inspired millions, including all of us at the Southern Poverty Law Center. With her countless accomplishments in mind and some of her courage in our hearts, we recommit ourselves to continuing her mission to achieve justice and equity for all,” Huang continued.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said our nation has lost a justice of historic stature.

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“We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her, a tireless and resolute champion of justice,” Roberts said.

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Elections

Prisoners quarantined at formerly closed prison kept in unconstitutional conditions, groups say

Conditions are so bad that inmates have been forced to urinate and defacate on themselves because restrooms are not accessible, the complaint alleges.

Eddie Burkhalter

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The male intake area at an ADOC facility. (VIA ADOC)

The Alabama Department of Corrections is violating the constitutional rights of inmates being quarantined in deplorable conditions in the previously decommissioned Draper prison, several civil rights groups wrote in a letter to the state’s prison commissioner.

The ACLU of Alabama, the Southern Center for Human Rights, Alabama Appleseed and other groups in a letter to Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn on Thursday detail those conditions, which include no indoor toilets or running water, repeated power outages, deprivation of regular showers and the requirement of incarcerated men to urinate in “styrofoam cups and plastic water” bottles.

“These conditions fail to meet the most basic constitutional standards and present a substantial risk of serious harm to people already suffering from a potentially fatal disease,” the letter reads. “We therefore request that you immediately cease using Draper to house and/or quarantine COVID-19 patients, and instead house them in medically appropriate settings in accordance with Eighth Amendment standards.”

The groups note that Draper was closed after the U.S. Department of Justice, during its investigation of violence in Alabama prisons, noted Draper as exceptionally “dangerous and unsanitary” with “open sewage” near the entrance, rat and maggot infestations and “standing sewage water on the floors.”

In October 2017, the Justice Department informed ADOC of the department’s shock at the state of the facility and a month later ADOC’s engineer concluded that Draper was “no longer suitable to house inmates, or to be used as a correctional facility,” the letter states.

ADOC reopened a portion of Draper earlier this year to house incoming inmates from county jails being quarantined amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but the civil rights groups note in the letter that ADOC failed to indicate plans to also use a classroom without bathrooms, running water or adequate medical care at Draper to house COVID-19 patients from other state prisons.

The groups allege in the letter that approximately 15 cots are located in the approximately 500 square feet former classroom, where at any given time between 5 and 15 inmates are being kept. The only restroom facilities the men can use are portable bathrooms outside, and the men have to “bang on the classroom windows to get officers’ attention.”

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“Though officers sometimes escort the men when asked, they decline at other times and fail to maintain a schedule; thus, the men do not have access to bathroom facilities when needed,” the letter reads, adding that the men aren’t allowed to use the outdoor restrooms between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

“We have further reason to believe that one man was permitted to use the bathroom only three times during a 13-day quarantine. Another man was not taken to the bathroom until his third day at Draper, while another was forced to urinate on himself on multiple occasions after being denied bathroom access,” according to the letter. “One man suffering from diarrhea was forced to wait hours to use the restroom to defecate. Many others could only relieve themselves into styrofoam cups, plastic bottles, portable urinal containers, or trash cans.”

“They had to hold onto urine-filled bottles for hours at a time until they were allowed to leave the classroom to empty them. It is also our understanding that some men held in these conditions did not receive bottles at all; correctional officers simply told these men that they were ‘out of luck,’” the letter continues.

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The letter also details instances of alleged inadequate medical care, including a man who was sent to a local hospital with heart attack symptoms after not receiving his heart medication for several days.

The groups are also unaware of any Inmates leaving Draper who were tested for COVID-19 before being returned to Elmore and Staton prisons, the letter also states.

“We also have reason to believe that many of the symptomatic men at Staton and Elmore have not reported their symptoms to prison staff for fear of being held at Draper in the deplorable conditions described above,” the letter continues.

APR has learned from several sources in recent weeks, who asked not to be identified because they have loved ones in Alabama prisons and are fearful of retributions for speaking out, that many inmates who have symptoms of COVID-19 aren’t reporting those symptoms to prison staff for fear of being quarantined. Those family members are concerned that the disease is spreading much more broadly in Alabama prisons than is known as a result, putting their loved ones at greater risk of contracting the deadly disease.

Many of the concerns expressed in the letter were first reported by AL.com reported on Sept. 13, which found that access to medical care in Draper is limited and the conditions unsanitary.

In a response to AL.com’s questions for that article, an ADOC spokeswoman wrote that inmates at Draper have access to “medical and mental health care, telephones, law library, mail services, and showers.”

“Please remember — Inmates remanded to our custody have been convicted of a crime and handed a sentence to serve time as determined by a court. The unfortunate reality is that he or she, as a result of the crime committed and subsequent conviction, loses his or her freedoms,” ADOC said in the responses.

“This response is unacceptable as a matter of principle, and inadequate as a matter of law,” the letter from the civil rights group states.

“As ADOC knows, the fact of a criminal conviction does not strip incarcerated people of their rights under the Eighth Amendment, nor does it relieve ADOC of its constitutional obligations to the people in its custody, which are to provide them with ‘humane conditions of confinement,’ ‘adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care,’ and ‘reasonable safety,’” the letter continues.

On Sept. 16, ADOC reported that there have been 403 confirmed COVID-19 cases among inmates, 21 deaths of inmates after testing positive for COVID-19, and 375 cases among prison staff. Two prison workers have died from COVID-19, ADOC previously said.

As of Sept. 14, there had been 1,954 inmate tests for coronavirus, out of the approximately 22,000 state inmates, according to ADOC.

ADOC on Sept. 16 said that on Thursday the department was to begin rolling out a plan to provide free COVID-19 tests to ADOC staff and contracted healthcare staff using fixed and mobile testing sites.

“In addition, we will test all inmates in facilities that house large numbers of inmates with high risk factors as an enhancement to our current testing protocols,” ADOC said in a press release.

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