Connect with us

National

How Alabama is tracking COVID-19 hospitalizations

Chip Brownlee | The Trace

Published

on

Stock Photo

Alabama on Saturday started publicly reporting the number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 on its data dashboard. As of Monday morning, 240 people have been hospitalized since March 13, according to that data.

The day before ADPH began publishing the number of cumulative hospitalizations on its dashboard, I reported that 255 people were hospitalized with a confirmed case of COVID-19, and another 586 people were hospitalized with a suspected case of the virus awaiting test results.

The number I reported Friday night, which I got from State Health Officer Scott Harris, is not the same number that ADPH began publishing on its dashboard Saturday morning. They do not align.

It might look like he gave me wrong numbers, or that I reported them out incorrectly. That’s not the case. Let me explain why.

The number of hospitalizations displayed on the Department of Public Health’s data dashboard (240) is a cumulative total of hospitalizations since March 13. That number is obtained by ADPH’s epidemiologists as they investigate each confirmed case of the virus. The epidemiologists follow up with everyone who has tested positive for the virus and determine if the person has been hospitalized.

“The way that works is you have a positive test that comes through. Our epidemiology staff contacts the patient. They ask, ‘Hey, what is your story? How old are you? What’re your symptoms? And were you in the hospital?’,” Harris told me.

The epidemiology staff also perform contact-tracing, asking those who have tested positive who they were around, who they live with, where they work and a lot more. These investigations clearly take time.

Public Service Announcement

“It’s a cumulative number because we can’t call these people every single day for the next two weeks to found out who’s still in the hospital and how many cases are hospitalized at the moment,” Harris said.

The reality is that there are only so many investigators and a ton of confirmed cases. There will inevitably be a delay in reporting the cumulative total as epidemiologists investigate each positive case.

This brings us to the numbers I reported Friday night.

ADVERTISEMENT

That data (255 confirmed, 586 suspected) was obtained from the Alabama Incident Management System, or AIMS. It’s the same system that is activated when there is a major hurricane, tornadoes or even an ice storm. Hospitals directly update these numbers daily, sometimes more.

The differences in the way the two numbers are obtained explain why the number I reported Friday night was higher than the cumulative total now displayed on the ADPH’s dashboard (and on our dashboard). It was simply more current.

But even the numbers from the Alabama Incident Management System are not perfect. Hospitals voluntarily report that data to the Department of Public Health.

Alabama does not have a law authorizing a statewide hospital discharge database, unlike 48 other states, Harris said, which makes tracking real-time hospitalization data difficult.

“We actually had legislation that we introduced this year to do that, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen now because the session is gone,” Harris said.

So the Alabama Department of Public Health has to ask hospitals to voluntarily report their hospitalization data in AIMS. Most of the state’s hospitals are doing so, Harris said. But it’s still possible that some hospitals are treating COVID-19 patients who are not reflected in the AIMS data.

While the state’s public-facing data dashboard is currently showing the cumulative total obtained by epidemiology staff at ADPH, Harris said the Department of Public Health will soon display the AIMS data instead.

“The question people want to know is not how many people have been in the hospital over the past week,” Harris said. “They want to know how many people are in the hospital today.”

When that switch happens, the number may appear to jump, but it’s really just a more current dataset.

 

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

Advertisement

National

Governor surveys damage from Hurricane Sally

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey held press conferences in Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island after touring the storm damaged Alabama Gulf Coast, which was battered by Hurricane Sally last week.

Three Alabama counties have been approved for individual and public assistance from FEMA. Baldwin, Mobile and Escambia counties were approved for both IA and PA.

“When I was on the coast Friday, it was clear that there has been significant damage, and people are in need of relief,” Ivey said in a statement. “My Office has been working on putting in the request for individual and public assistance to help bring the needed aid, and I appreciate FEMA for quickly delivering to the people of Alabama. Being approved for individual and public assistance is an important step in the recovery process. Coastal Alabama, we are with you the whole way!”

Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor’s Office/Hal Yeager)

FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne and Sen. Doug Jones also toured the damaged areas.

“I appreciate FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor for quickly getting down to Alabama to check out the damage from #Sally,” Byrne said. ”President Trump has already approved Alabama’s request for Public Assistance and Individual Assistance, so I encourage everyone to register for help from FEMA online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling the registration phone number at 1-800-621-3362. Residents of Baldwin, Escambia, and Mobile counties are currently eligible.”

“President Trump and his team have been outstanding to work with in making sure Alabama gets the help we need and deserve,” Byrne continued.

Public Service Announcement

Ivey toured the area by helicopter to survey the damage.

Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor’s Office/Hal Yeager)

 

ADVERTISEMENT

 

 

“I’m sure it could be worse, but from what I’ve seen this morning in the flyover it is really, really bad,” Ivey said.

Over 200,000 people lost electric power due to Hurricane Sally. Alabama Power said Sunday that more than 99 percent of those people have had their power restored.

“Our electric companies are making progress every hour to restore power,” Byrne said. “A lot more work remains, but know that crews are working hard to get all the power back online. Hurricane Sally caused major damage to our electric infrastructure, and I appreciate all those working to get our lights turned back on.”


Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor’s Office/Hal Yeager)

Alabama Power said that it may take into early this week to restore power to some portions of downtown Mobile, Bayou La Batre and Dauphin Island.

“With the Major Disaster Declaration, individuals may apply for disaster aid from FEMA,” Byrne explained.

You can apply online at disasterassistance.gov or by calling the registration phone number at 1-800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585).

Even though electric power has been restored, many homes have been severely damaged. Some are a total loss. Most homeowners are still waiting on insurance adjusters to complete their work. There was a lot of roof damage, not just in Gulf Shores, Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan and Orange Beach, but also in Foley, Robertsdale, Loxley, Bayou La Batre, Bay Minette and beyond — both from the winds and from the trees that fell.

Some homes near the coast were impacted by the storm surge, but many more well into Baldwin County as well as in Pensacola, Florida, were impacted by flooding. Many people are still in need of supplies for the cleanup as well as daily essentials.

“There are a number of food, water and supply distribution sites across Baldwin County,” Byrne said. “According to Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency, these locations have MREs, tarps, bottled water, ice, and other supplies.”

  • Baldwin County Coliseum (Robertsdale)
    19477 Fairground Road Robertsdale, AL
  • Seminole Fire Department
    32268 Highway 90 Seminole, AL
  • Lillian Community Club
    34148 Widell Avenue; Lillian, AL
  • Lana Park (Fairhope)
    523 Volanta Avenue; Fairhope, AL
  • Foley Soccer Complex
    18507 US Highway 98; Foley, AL
  • Orange Beach Community Center
    27235 Canal Road; Orange Beach, AL
  • Gulf Shores SportsPlex
    19025 Oak Road W; Gulf Shores, AL

On Saturday, literally hundreds of cars lined up to pick up supplies from the Robertstale Church of God in Robertsdale.

Hurricane Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores before dawn on Wednesday as a category two storm. Forecasters on Saturday had expected the storm to impact Louisiana but the hurricane turned to the northeast and made landfall in Alabama instead, gaining strength before coming ashore.

“No one expected this storm to be that strong,” Ivey said.

Ivey said most of the piers have been destroyed. Alabama’s State Fishing Pier had just finished a $2.5 million renovation. Now a large portion of the pier is missing. Most of the Gulf State Park campground went underwater. A few campers actually weathered the hurricane in their campers.

Debris removal is ongoing.

The Mobile County Commission announced that it will manage Hurricane Sally debris removal from all areas of Mobile County, located outside the 10 municipalities, except for the Town of Dauphin Island. Dauphin Island will be the only municipality to receive hurricane debris removal managed by the county.

To ensure pick-up removal, residents are asked to adhere to the following guidelines: Only Hurricane Sally-related vegetative and construction and demolition (C&D) debris will be collected. That excludes removal of normal household trash, appliances, electronics and household hazardous waste. Debris must be placed curbside or in right-of-way areas that do not block roadways or storm drains. Do not place material in drainage ditches. Vegetative debris should be piled separately from C&D debris material. Vegetative debris includes tree branches, limbs and non-bagged leaves. C&D debris includes building materials, fencing and bagged materials.

Continue Reading

Congress

Aderholt says that low Census response rate will come with big consequences for Alabama

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Congressman Robert Aderholt (VIA CSPAN)

Alabama trails the nation in 2020 Census response and that matters, says Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, in an email to his 4th Congressional District constituents.

“In more ways than we could possibly name, Alabama is the best state in the nation,” Aderholt said. “However, when it comes to the 2020 Census, we are sitting in last place in the country. Currently 81.5% of Alabama households have been counted, but that is nearly 10% less than the national count of 90.1%. I think we can do better, so let’s make Alabama count.”

“Why it Matters. One of the biggest questions asked every decade when the Census comes up is: why does it matter?” Aderholt said. “This is a great question, and I understand why it gets asked so often. So, I want to give you a few different answers that are grounded in facts. Federal Funds: It is estimated that per 100 people not counted in the Census, roughly $1.2 million dollars of federal funding is lost for your community. Here are just a few of the many items that would have funding severely cut due to a lack of Census responses: Schools, roads, hospitals, block grants, vocational education, and fire departments. These are all crucial aspects of living in a community, and they are all at risk of funding decreases.

“Jobs: Census numbers are used by both public and private organizations to determine where to build and bring business. This means that employment opportunities and economic development are at stake when it comes to the Census. This aspect is often overlooked, but it may just be the most consequential of them all. Representation in Congress: You probably know this one already, but Congressional districts are based on population.

“This means that the more people that are counted in your state the more representation your state has in the House of Representatives. For Alabama, we are in danger of losing a Congressional seat, so our count this year matters a great deal. Civil Rights: As a matter of fact, certain programs based around civil rights issues are directly correlated to the Census. Things like compliance with the National Voting Rights Act of 1965, housing, employment, and education anti-discrimination laws are monitored and enforced using the population count from the Census.”

Go to my2020census.gov and follow the instructions on screen, or you can call 844-330-2020.

“I would encourage you all to fill yours out today and make Alabama count for the next decade,” Aderholt said. ‘If you have already completed your Census, please tell your friends and family to fills theirs out and spread the word.”

Public Service Announcement

Aderholt explained that the Census first started in 1790 and was conducted by Thomas Jefferson. The nation then had a population of just 3,929,214, compared to roughly 328 million today.

“From 1790 to 1879, the Census was counted by Federal Marshals going door-to-door across the country,” Aderholt explained. “Back then they would show up to your house on horseback and fill out the numbers on parchment or animal skin. Although this sounds pretty cool to me, I am sure glad we can do it on our phones now. The Census started out with only 6 questions, then rose to 34 in 1920, but has settled back down to an even 10 the past couple decades.”

The state of Alabama has seven congressional districts currently, but it appears that the state is likely to lose at least one, given the state’s modest growth over the last decade and the people of Alabama’s awful Census response rate.

ADVERTISEMENT

Aderholt is in his 12th term representing Alabama’s 4th Congressional District. He faces a general election challenge from Democratic candidate Rick Neighbors.

Continue Reading

National

More than 99 percent of power customers have power restored following Sally

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Alabama Power said Sunday that 99 percent of customers who lost power in Hurricane Sally have had their power restored.

Alabama Power made the announcement on Twitter Sunday evening. “Alabama Power and assisting crews have restored power to 99% of customers able to receive it following the destruction of Hurricane Sally,” the company said.

More than 4,000 line workers and support personnel from 14 states are helping Alabama Power crews restore power to people of Mobile and Baldwin Counties following Wednesday’s Hurricane Sally. By Friday, outages in Central and Southeast Alabama had been resolved and all efforts were focused on the Mobile and Baldwin County areas, which took the brunt of the storm.

APR was among the reporters touring the area with Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday. Downed power lines were still everywhere but so were convoys of bucket trucks with linemen repairing and in some cases completely rebuilding destroyed power lines.

Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor’s Office/Hal Yeager)

Hurricane Sally was the first Hurricane to make landfall in the state of Alabama since 2004. The eye of Hurricane Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores but the impact was felt across the Alabama Gulf coast, and beyond, into Florida and Mississippi.

“Hurricane Sally will be remembered as the most damaging storm to affect Mobile since Hurricane Katrina in 2005,” said Patrick Murphy, Alabama Power Mobile Division vice president. “We appreciate our customers’ patience as we worked to restore power, and we’re committed to working alongside community leaders on full recovery efforts for the area.”

Public Service Announcement

Forecasters had predicted Sally to make landfall in Louisiana as a tropical storm but the storm made a sudden turn to the northeast, gaining strength as it moved just off the coast. Sally made landfall as a category two hurricane with 105 mile per hour winds.

“Nobody expected that storm to be so strong,” Ivey told reporters on Friday.

Despite rainy conditions on Saturday, crews worked through the inclement weather conditions from Tropical Storm Beta, which was offshore. Beta is expected to make landfall in Texas and then turn sharply to the northeast, impacting Louisiana before breaking up.

ADVERTISEMENT

Beta will bring more rainfall to the Alabama Gulf Coast, which is still recovering from the heavy rains and damage caused by Sally. Beta is already causing dangerous riptides off the Alabama coast. Many Texans who had evacuated from their homes due to Hurricane Laura had to evacuate again on Sunday due to Beta.

Alabama Power said that restoration efforts in the hardest-hit areas including downtown Mobile, Dauphin Island and Bayou La Batre may extend into early this week.

Alabama Power is part of the Southern Company.

Continue Reading

National

Auburn gameday adjusts to COVID-19

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

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 game day 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.

The Auburn Athletics Department on Thursday 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 game day experience.

“Everyone who enters Jordan-Hare Stadium this fall will participate in a shared responsibility for the health and safety of our campus community,” athletic director 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 game day 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 percent to begin the 2020 football season.

Public Service Announcement

In an effort to contribute to the on-campus experience of our current students, all general seating tickets outside controlled premium spaces and those designated for home and visiting team players 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 COVID-19.

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.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement