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Ivey reports that the state has started conversation on post pandemic economy

Brandon Moseley and Nicole Jones

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Monday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) hosted a conference call with state Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington, and EMA Director Brian Hastings.

“We are one week in to our Stay at Home order. While it seems to be working, we have to remain vigilant and continue to follow the orders,” said House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville).

Governor Kay Ivey (R) offered prayers for the Alabamians that had to deal with the Easter storms. There were eleven deaths in Mississippi and six in Georgia; but no reports of deaths in Alabama.

Ivey said that we need a full two weeks to examine the effects of the stay at home order, which will be 17 April. Ivey said that there is not enough personal protective equipment (PPE), and the state is working to acquire more.

Ivey said that constituents are asking: why are we not seeing a surge like the models predicted. The models are not the only medium used to make decisions. We also use hospital data, number of deaths, and other data to make decisions.

Ivey said that the state will continue to increase testing in Alabama, along with the rest of the U.S. Ivey said that she hopes that within the next few days hope to announce a partnership with a well-known company to assist Alabama with testing services.

Ivey said that the state has started conversations on post-pandemic economy. “We do know that reversing “normal” too soon, the virus will re-surge and can hurt us more.

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Ivey said that the state would implement incremental steps in getting back into the post-pandemic economy and will be watching other states to see their response to re-introducing economic means.

Ivey encouraged state leaders to submit ways we can improve, ongoing initiatives during the COVID-19 response. Examples include the virtual education program.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris reported from the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) effort.

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At that point, Alabama has over 95 deaths. Dr. Harris said that two thirds of the COVID-19 deaths in the state are over age 65. Of the victims under age 65, most have a heart disease or diabetes. There have only been two deaths that had no other health problems. The African-American community is being disproportionately affected. This is most likely due to chronic disease: heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and lung disease.

Harris said that based on reports from around the world, about 80 percent of the infected will recover on their own. An estimated 15 percent require hospitalization and are discharged, one to two percent die.

Dr. Harris said that as Governor Ivey mentioned, the models for predicting surge are changing. Social distancing measures are helpful in predictions. Harris predicted that the state would see peak COVID-19 in seven to eight days.

Harris said that as of this morning, Alabama hospitals are reporting 298 inpatients with COVID-19 and 337 with symptoms awaiting testing.

Harris expected to have 81 to 83 percent hospital bed capacity when the state reaches peak, which our hospitals can handle.

Harris said that ADPH should have testing in every county frequently in the near future. PPE is the number one request from Alabama hospitals and nursing homes. The ADPH has made another purchase of supplies that we will receive within the next few days. Alabama received 15 new machines from ABT Labs. The machines have been identified as gaps in the ability to test. ABT labs is working to produce more. ABT is ramping up to produce 300,000 tests per week for the United States.

Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) said that we need more testing in Mobile.

Harris said that the ADPH recognizes that Mobile is a hotspot and has a large number of African American population. The ADPH has made a reservation for 500 additional test kits to be shipped to Mobile.

ADPH is working through the Mobile County Health Department to ensure that people who cannot pay will not have to pay for the testing.

ADPH will need and can use over 160 ventilators, would prefer 400, but will have difficulty obtaining them now. The Department will handle the surge within our own hospitals. There is potential for a shortfall in the number of ICU beds. ADPH is following this model closely.

Fitzgerald Washington is the Secretary of Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL).

Washington said that layoffs for workers are common. The U.S. unemployment rate increased. Alabama will announce on Friday the March unemployment rates. The CARES Act, signed by President Trump on 27 March allocated $2 trillion dollars for COVID-19. People who applied who have not paid in self-employment taxes who have received a $0 payment will be reconsidered and processed.

Washington said that ADOL will be able to pay all eligible retroactively once received. The federal government is paying $600 a week stipend to individuals eligible for unemployment. The state of Alabama is kicking in up to $275 per week for a maximum combined compensation of $875 per week.

Washington said that Alabama was one of five states to pull the trigger on paying stimulus once the federal government funds were received. Claimants can receive unemployment benefits for a longer period of time if diagnosed with COVID-19; or if a member of the individual’s household is diagnosed; or are a primary caregiver responsibility means that they are unable to attend school or work as a result of COVID-19.

Washington said that there is a list of frequently asked questions available at: www. labor.alabama.gov. Tens of thousands of claims, 264,000, have been filed in the last weeks This is over 130,000 more than claims than last year. ADOL has almost $700 million in the trust fund to pay out claims.

Washington said that ADOL has repurposed 150 employees to answer calls and process claims. ADOL has interviewed outside call center vendors to help field calls. ADOL has taken in 264,000 claims in the last four weeks and paid out $73 million in payouts so far.

State Senator Greg Reed (R-Jasper) asked: You Mentioned repurposing employees abd interviewing call centers. Are you going to have federal resources aware of for funding these additional expenses for ADOL?

Washington answered, Yes, part of the CARES Act, will allow agencies administrative funding to subsidize additional help needed.

Alabama Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Brian Hastings said that 100 percent of EMA staff is activated and delegated tasks. One third are still working on flooding issues from earlier this year and dealing with storms from last night. We are also providing logistics support and personnel support to procure PPE. The Alabama National Guard (ANG) has mission assignments and are working with counties to distribute necessary PPE and supplies.

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Alabama reports zero COVID deaths on Sunday and Monday

In the month of September, at least 319 Alabamians have died from COVID-19 including 62 in the last week alone.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

For two days in a row, the Alabama Department of Public Health reported zero COVID-19 deaths in the state. The state’s death toll from the COVID-19 global pandemic stands at 2,501 as of Monday afternoon.

Though the state reported no new deaths in the past few days, in the month of September, at least 319 Alabamians have died from COVID-19 including 62 in the last week alone.

The state has shown a steady improvement in the number of deaths from COVID-19 since July when 607 Alabamians died. At least 536 Alabamians died in the month of August. The pandemic killed 297 Alabamians in June, 358 in May, 249 in April and 13 in March.

The state averaged nearly 17.9 deaths from COVID-19 in the month of August, a decrease from July when more than 19.5 Alabamians a day died from the pandemic. To this point, the state has averaged 11.4 deaths per day in September, the lowest mortality since June.

ADPH reports that just 741 Alabamians were hospitalized with COVID-19, down substantially from the pandemic’s peak in excess off 1,600 per day in late July and early August.

On Monday, ADPH reported that 662 more Alabamians tested positive for the novel strain of the coronavirus. That raises the total number of cases of coronavirus in the state to 152,983. At least 64,583 Alabamians have recovered from their coronavirus infections, but the state still has 85,899 active cases, the eighth highest number in the country.

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ADPH reported 5,107 more coronavirus tests on Monday, raising the state’s total number to 1,116,346 total tests. The state has the 40th highest testing rate in the country.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R), with consultation from State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, imposed a statewide mask order on July 15. The mask order is being credited with the state’s improved coronavirus situation since July. The mask order remains in pace through Friday, Oct. 2.

White House Coronavirus Task Force Member Dr. Deborah Birx, as well as members of the Alabama medical community, have urged Ivey to extend the mask order to November. Former Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) and the Montgomery based Foundation for Moral Law has sued the state arguing that the Governor has exceeded her constitutional authority with the mask order as well as business capacity restrictions.

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The entire state remains under a “safer-at-home” order. If you do not need to leave your home, then don’t leave and don’t invite people to your home.

Citizens are advised to continue to stay at least six feet from people outside their household at all times, wash their hands frequently, use hand sanitizer and avoid unnecessary trips.

If someone in your household is sick, isolate them from the rest of the people in the home. Dr. Harris is also urging everyone to get the flu vaccine this year. The fear is that a heavy influenza season, in a population with a high rate of COVID-19 infections, would lead to overwhelming the hospital resources.

To date, 1,006,129 people have perished in the global pandemic, including 209,808 Americans. The novel strain of the virus was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. Since then 33,513,714 people worldwide have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

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Education

New website for state resources for children, families launches

The website provides access to all the state’s resources for children and their families, including child care, education, family services and health services.

Eddie Burkhalter

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A screengrab of the Alabama Family Central website.

Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday announced the creation of a centralized website for the state’s social service programs and services for children and families. 

Alabama Family Central was created through a $500,000 allocation by the state Legislature from the state’s Education Trust Fund budget and provides access to all the state’s resources for children and their families, including child care, education, family services and health services, according to Ivey’s office. 

“Alabama Family Central will ensure that all parents and children in our state have access to crucial information and resources from numerous state agencies and non-profit organizations,” Ivey said in a statement. “Great parents need strong partners, and I am proud of the strong collaboration between the state and private sector to offer a one-stop shop of assistance for Alabama families. I appreciate the Alabama Partnership for Children spearheading this effort.”

In addition to pointing visitors to state programs and services, the website also points families who are undertaking remote school learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic to A+ Education Partnership, which advocates for quality education in Alabama.

The state website specifically directs visitors to a page that provides COVID-19 resources for parents, including sections on guidance and decision-making, supporting learning from home and coping and well-being. 

“When I learned that our students would be learning remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my heart immediately went out to the parents who would need assistance teaching their children at home,” said State Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, in a statement. “I requested funding to set up such assistance, so I humbly thank Governor Kay Ivey and Senator Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, for granting that request. It was a pleasure working with A+ Education Partnership and the Alabama Partnership for Children to incorporate this idea into their programs, and I look forward to its expansion. Every child deserves access to the highest quality education, no matter their circumstances.”

The Alabama Family Central website includes:

  • A+ Education Partnership
  • Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention
  • Alabama Department of Early Education
  • Alabama Department of Education
  • Alabama Department of Human Resources
  • Alabama Department of Mental Health
  • Alabama Department of Public Health
  • Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services
  • Alabama Medicaid

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1 in 3 parents don’t plan to vaccinate their kids against flu even amid COVID-19

Health care experts nationwide and in Alabama in recent weeks have highlighted the importance of flu vaccines, especially this year.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

One in three parents don’t plan to have their children vaccinated for the flu this year despite health experts’ pleas that doing so could help prevent an overrun of U.S. hospitals as COVID-19 continues to spread and may spike as the weather turns colder, according to a poll released Monday. 

Two-thirds of parents polled also don’t think it’s more important to get their children vaccinated for the flu this year than it was last year, according to the national poll by C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital with the University of Michigan Medical School. 

Among parents who said they wouldn’t get their children vaccinated this year, one in seven said they wouldn’t do so because they wanted to keep their children away from health care facilities over concerns about COVID-19, according to the study, which also found that less than half the parents said their regular health care provider strongly recommended flu vaccines this year. 

Health care experts nationwide and in Alabama in recent weeks have urged the public to get flu vaccines this year, both to protect themselves from possible severe health outcomes and to prevent stressing hospitals that continue to care for COVID-19 patients. Dr. Erin DeLaney, assistant professor in the department of family and community medicine at UAB’s School of Medicine, told reporters last week that she encouraged everyone to get a flu vaccine as soon as possible. 

“We know that there are other respiratory pathogens that together, combined with the influenza virus, can have poor outcomes,” DeLaney said. “And we know that the flu and COVID separately can have poor outcomes, so we’re hoping to protect as many people as we can.” 

Researchers polled 1,992 parents nationwide during August who had at least one child aged 2-18. 

“Public health experts have emphasized the particular importance of flu vaccination during the COVID pandemic as a tool to limit the stress on health care systems. This includes reducing the number of influenza-related hospitalizations and doctor visits, and decreasing the need for diagnostic tests to distinguish influenza from COVID,” the report reads. “Children should get flu vaccine to protect themselves and to prevent the spread of influenza to family members and others.” 

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The U.S. leads the world in COVID-19 deaths, with 204,033 deaths due to the disease as of Sunday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Alabama, 2,501 people have died from COVID-19, and there have been 152,321 confirmed cases of the disease statewide since the start of the pandemic. Alabama currently has the eighth-most active COVID-19 cases in the United States at 85,899 cases.

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Health

Country star Amanda Shires to donate funds from single to Yellowhammer Fund

Eddie Burkhalter

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(PHOTO VIA AMANDA SHIRES/FACEBOOK)

Grammy-winning country musician Amanda Shires will donate all proceeds from a new single to the Yellowhammer Fund, a nonprofit that provides assistance with abortions in Alabama. 

Shires and her musician husband, Jason Isbell, partnered on the single “The Problem,” which is set to be released Sept. 28, according to a press release from the Yellowhammer Fund.

The song can be purchased here

“‘The Problem’ is a song that showcases what loving support looks like through what is often an emotional time,” Shires said in a statement. “The Yellowhammer Fund offers a similar type of support to Alabamians and the Deep South. The fund provides safe options for people in a segment of America where reproductive health is very often at high risk of government interference. Everyone has the freedom to choose how to care for their own body. Individual health care decisions are difficult enough without the added pressure of stigma and ever-changing legal hurdles.”

Laurie Bertram Roberts, executive director of Yellowhammer Fund, said the nonprofit is thankful for Shires help, which comes at a critical time. 

“Here in the Deep South, abortion is already incredibly difficult to access, even before a new president is elected or another Supreme Court Justice is appointed,” Roberts said in a statement. “As a fellow southerner, Shires understands those difficulties as well as the negative stigma surrounding abortion. We are thankful that she wrote this song and is telling a story that’s rarely heard.”

“It feels natural to align this song with The Yellowhammer Fund,” Shires said. “Having someone in your corner, offering unconditional support when you’re making hard choices is invaluable. Together, I know we can help make a difference.”

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Roberts said at this point the best actions we can take are to go vote, donate to a local abortion fund, and stay active in the fight for reproductive justice. 

“Our abortion rights are always on the line — regardless of who is in office — and we must continue the battle to expand access to everyone, no matter what rulings or laws may be in our future,” Roberts said.

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