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Opinion | Reopening the state will require effort from everyone

Josh Moon



I am tired of sitting at home. 

I miss sports. I miss going out to eat — there might not be enough salsa at the Mexican restaurants when this coronavirus quarantine is over. And I miss just doing normal things. 

But I don’t miss them enough that I’m OK with large numbers of people dying so I can go back to something similar to the way things were. 

I fear that a lot of people might not share my reservations. 

And that is what makes me pause whenever I hear national and state lawmakers talk about “reopening the country.” 

I think we can begin that process in a couple of weeks, and I think we can begin a slow march back to some semblance of normalcy … if people follow the guidelines, take appropriate precautions and don’t get stupid. 

And if there are enough tests and enough Alabama Department of Public Health employees to adequately handle the amount of contact tracing that will be necessary to quarantine those who are carrying the virus.  

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The “if” carries a lot of weight. 

And that’s why that group of people who might be willing to sacrifice large numbers of Americans to cure their own boredom worries me so much. Because that group seems hellbent on convincing everyone that this virus is a hoax, that it’s not as bad as doctors tell us, that it’s treatable with whatever concoction is being pushed in the latest Facebook video posted by a podiatrist in Queens who has the secret cure the government doesn’t want you to know about.  

Look, I get it, I really do. This sucks. 


People aren’t working. Their businesses are drying up. We have food lines stretching for miles. Unemployment numbers make you long for the better numbers of the Great Depression. And there’s nothing you can do but watch it all float slowly away. 

I see it all around me. And it’s terrible. 

Which is why so many people are accepting wild conspiracy theories and have taken to marching in the streets over lockdown orders — they want to believe that it’s not real, that it’s something they can knock down if they just get angry enough or expose the right person. 

But here’s the simple fact: this not-so-serious virus has already killed nearly 35,000 Americans in less than two months. And more than 2,000 Americans per day are dying now from the disease. 

On Thursday, nearly 5,000 Americans died from coronavirus. 

To put that one day total in perspective, that’s 1,000 more deaths than the total U.S. fatalities in eight-plus years of war in Iraq. 

So, let’s kill the ridiculous notion that this virus is being “overhyped” or that doctors and scientists — all of them — were way wrong with their predictions because a lot less people are dying than they told us. 

If 35,000 dead Americans in two months isn’t enough for you, I think maybe you should consider some sort of therapy. And I don’t want to get too deep into the variances of scientific modeling, but a couple of factors, such as human behavior changes, can dramatically alter the outcomes of a forecasted event.

That’s why they did the models — to show you what could happen if certain things did and didn’t occur. Strict orders were issued that changed behaviors and the projections changed because of that. That’s how it works — cause and effect. When you take a Tylenol for a headache, are you angry 30 minutes later when your headache is gone because you wasted a Tylenol on that half-hour headache?

It’s ridiculous. And those sorts of attitudes will get people killed when we do start reopening businesses and restarting life. 

That process will begin in Alabama soon. And it should begin. 

We can absolutely do this safely and do it in a manner that doesn’t cause another spike in coronavirus cases. But that effort will require everyone doing their part, and it will require the yahoos of society to dial back the crazy to around 7 for a couple of months and just comply with the safety ordinances. 

If we continue to only go out when we need to, limit our contact with people, wear face masks and continue to wash the skin off our hands, we can begin the process of putting people back to work. And that’s a good thing. 

I know when you say something like that, the automatic reaction from many Democrats is to think that it’s placing more value on money than on people. But that’s not true. 

The rich people in this country mostly won’t have their lives turned upside down by this. But the poor people will. They will lose jobs and cars and homes and apartments and health insurance. The stress and worry for many will be all-consuming. 

That’s people too. That’s real life. And it’s something very much worthy of being weighed during this crisis. 

Look, I don’t know what the right thing is here. But I do know this: if we all care a little more about each other, look out a little more for the most vulnerable, do a few extra things to make sure our parents and grandparents are a little safer and genuinely treat this virus as the real threat that it is, we’ll have a shot to be OK.


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.



Alabama unemployment rate drops more than 2 points to 5.6 percent

Micah Danney




The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased to 5.6 percent in August, down from 7.9 percent in July, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. 

The figure represents 127,186 unemployed people, compared to 176,556 in July. It compares to an August 2019 rate of 2.8 percent, or 62,149 unemployed people.

“August showed a larger drop in the unemployment rate than we’ve seen for a few months,” said Alabama Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “We are continuing to see our initial claims drop, staying under 10,000 for the past several weeks. We regained another 22,200 jobs this month but are still down more than 86,000 from this time last year.”

Washington said that the number of people who are working or actively looking for work is at its highest level ever, which he described as a sign that people are confident that there are jobs to be found. 

Gov. Kay Ivey said the numbers are good news for Alabama. 

“We have worked extremely hard to open Alabama’s businesses safely, and to put our hard-working families back to work,” Ivey said in a statement. “We know that challenges remain, and we will endeavor to meet them so that we can get back to our previous, pre-pandemic record-setting employment numbers.”

All the state’s counties and metro areas experienced a decrease in unemployment rates from July to August. The most gains were seen in the government sector, the professional and business services sector and the trade, transportation and utilities sector.

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Counties with the lowest unemployment rates were:

  • Clay County – 3.4 percent
  • Randolph, Franklin, Marshall, Cullman, Cleburne and Cherokee Counties – 3.6 percent
  • Blount County – 3.7 percent

Counties with the highest unemployment rates were:

  • Wilcox County – 14.8 percent
  • Lowndes County – 13.8 percent
  • Greene County – 10.9 percent

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are:

  • Vestavia Hills – 3 percent
  • Homewood  – 3.2 percent
  • Madison – 3.3 percent

Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are:

  • Prichard – 15.4 percent
  • Selma – 12.9 percent
  • Bessemer – 10.7 percent

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New unemployment claims drop slightly

Micah Danney




There were 8,848 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, slightly fewer than the 8,902 filed the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.

Of the claims filed between Sept. 6 and Sept. 12, 4,485, or 51 percent, were related to COVID-19. That’s the same percentage as the previous week.

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Inaugural Alabama Works innovator awards presented






The inaugural AlabamaWorks! Innovator Awards were presented by Gov. Kay Ivey and Deputy Director of Commerce and AIDT Director Ed Castile Thursday during the AlabamaWorks! Virtual Conference.

The awards were developed to highlight people and programs across the state that take an innovative approach to solving workforce challenges and help advance Ivey’s Success Plus attainment goal of adding 500,000 highly skilled workers by 2025.

At the time of the inception of the awards, Alabama was unaware of the impact COVID-19 would have on the workforce and although the attainment goal has not changed, our economic and workforce recovery post-COVID-19 will hinge on innovators like those recognized.

“The workforce challenges that we face today are not the same ones that we faced six months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has completely reshaped the workforce landscape,” said Gov. Kay Ivey. “The State of Alabama is relying on those who are leading the charge by implementing innovative solutions in their cities, counties and regions to further economic and workforce development.”

The recipients are visionaries, outside-of-the-box thinkers and problem solvers. The programs test boundaries, explore new opportunities and reach deeper to bring about change. “It is important to recognize these leaders of innovation and to thank them for their hard work and dedication to the citizens, communities and industries of Alabama,” said Ed Castile, deputy director of commerce and AIDT director. “Their innovative approach to workforce development will be key to opening doors, breaking barriers and propelling Alabamians forward.”

The recipients of the first-ever AlabamaWorks Innovator Awards are as follows:

Region 1 – North AlabamaWorks – Beth Brumley, Colbert County Schools

Beth Brumley built the Health Science Program for Colbert County Schools from the ground up by using her experience in the healthcare field to provide critical, real-world skills to her students. She developed key relationships within the healthcare community to provide her students enhanced learning opportunities and exposure, which resulted in increased demand for program graduates. Beth was also named the 2020 National New Teacher of the Year through the Association for Career and Technical Education. By bridging the gap between education and employer, Beth has created a formula for success that positively impacts the workforce.

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Region 2 – East AlabamaWorks – The Sylacauga Alliance for Family Enhancement (SAFE)

SAFE has been a model for supportive services to empower individuals and families while fostering positive and healthy development of the community for nearly 25 years. In their program, SAFE combines occupational and employability skills to help job seekers be ready to enter the workforce regardless of barriers they may have faced in the past. Their dedication to providing practical solutions to modern problems is a testament to their heart for service and passion for helping their community and region.

Region 3 – West AlabamaWorks – Dr. Mike Daria, Superintendent Tuscaloosa City Schools

Dr. Daria has played a crucial role in the success of West Alabama’s workforce development by fostering important relationships between industry and education. His leadership has focused on increased Career Technical Education (CTE) enrollment, supporting local Worlds of Work events and the Educator Workforce Academy. Dr. Daria’s emphasis on the importance of identifying career pathways for the students in his district and then providing viable opportunities for students to take those paths, make him invaluable to West Alabama.

Region 4 – Central Six AlabamaWorks – Ed Farm

Ed Farm is the signature program of TechAlabama that focuses on encouraging children and adults to discover and pursue STEM careers. Ed Farm has a vision for a world full of invention, led by citizens who have been equipped with the necessary tools to fill or create the careers of the future. Through equipping educators and communities with innovative tools, strategies and programs they are able to support active learning for all students. With three signature tracks, Ed Farm is poised to help increase educational equity and improve learning outcomes through technology all while preparing the future tech workforce.

Region 5 – Central AlabamaWorks – Tiger Mochas, Auburn City Schools


Tiger Mochas is a collaborative effort between special education students, FCCLA (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America) members and peer volunteers at Auburn High School. This student-led organization is serving up a lot more than hot cups of coffee to their peers because through their work, students are provided meaningful, hands-on work experience that teaches important functional, social and daily living skills. Graduates of the program leave with not only work and employability skills, but in-demand soft skills that will help them succeed in life and work.

Region 6 – Southeast AlabamaWorks – WeeCat Industries

WeeCat Industries uses a simulated workplace model to meet the growing demand for a skilled workforce. WeeCat saw an opportunity to begin teaching work ethics and employability skills as early as preschool, and rose to the challenge. Their students clock into work, run an assembly line, fill orders, check invoices, meet production quota, interview for new positions and implement quality control all while earning a “paycheck” to be spent at the WeeCat Store before they can even spell the word “school”. WeeCat Industries places invaluable skills at a crucial age in development which will shape the future of the workforce.

Region 7 – SAWDC AlabamaWorks – Ed Bushaw

Ed Bushaw with the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce researched and developed initiatives to address the region’s workforce supply to meet the needs of the growing hospitality and tourism industry in his region. His collaborative efforts with business and industry officials resulted in the development of the first Hospitality and Tourism registered apprenticeship program in Alabama. Apprentices receive classroom instruction as well as valuable real-world experience within the hospitality and tourism industry and finish the program with a credential that can be used to advance their career. Ed’s ability to adapt to the needs of industry and implement programs that address those needs are vital to the continued success of southwest Alabama.

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Report: Transitioning to electric vehicles could save Alabama millions in health costs

Alabama would experience approximately 500 less asthma attacks per year, about 38 fewer premature deaths and prevent more than 2,200 lost workdays annually.

Micah Danney




Alabama could save $431 million in public health costs per year by 2050, if the state shifted to an electric transportation sector between now and then, according to a new study by the American Lung Association.

Such a transition would reduce other health-related issues, said the organization, which used data on pollution from vehicles and from oil refineries to calculate its findings.

Alabama would experience approximately 500 less asthma attacks per year, about 38 fewer premature deaths and prevent more than 2,200 lost workdays annually.

The transportation sector is one of the main contributors to air pollution and climate change, said William Barrett, the association’s director of advocacy for clean air and the study’s author.

“We have the technology to transition to cleaner cars, trucks and buses, and by taking that step we can prepare Alabama for the future while also seeing the health and economic benefits forecasted in ‘The Road to Clean Air,’” Barrett said. “Especially as our state faces the impacts of climate change, such as extreme storms, this is a powerful and practical opportunity to take action to improve our economy, our health and our future.”

Trading combustion-powered vehicles for electric ones could result in $11.3 billion in avoided health costs across southern states by mid-century, the report estimated, and prevent roughly 1,000 premature deaths.

Nationally, Americans stand to save $72 billion in health costs and $113 billion in avoided climate change impacts, the ALA said.

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The path to that future depends on leaders factoring public health effects into decisions about transportation, Barrett said.

That involves steps like pursuing electric vehicle fleets when purchasing decisions are being made and supporting the creation of enough charging stations along highways, roads and at truck stops.

Investing in that infrastructure can drive wider economic benefits, Barrett said. He cited California’s increased manufacturing of electric vehicles.


Tesla is the most well-known producer that has located there, but Barrett said that makers of trucks and buses have also chosen to locate their facilities in the state.

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