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Sewell says testing, contact tracing must increase before reopening Alabama’s economy

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, believes that to reopen Alabama’s economy fully COVID-19 testing and contact tracing must increase statewide, and especially among minorities, the elderly and those living in rural areas. 

Sewell released her report Wednesday on recommendations for safely reopening. The report came at the request of Gov. Kay Ivey, who asked that each member of Congress from Alabama to form groups to formulate individual plans. 

To draft her recommendations, Sewell formed the AL07 COVID-19 Advisory Group, made up of health professionals, business owners, non-profits, bankers, farmers, teachers and faith leaders from Alabama’s 7th district. The group partnered with the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama in the design of a survey, which was used to complete the report. 

Sewell recommends that instead of using the White House’s recommendation of reopening after 14 consecutive days of fewer confirmed COVID-19 cases, state officials should reopen only after COVID-19 hospitalizations trend downward for 14 consecutive days  “as determined by Public Health Districts.” 

“The Alabama Department of Public Health’s data shows that to date, the State has tested less than 1 percent of the state’s population. Until our state has tested more Alabamians, using reported hospitalizations provides a more stable and reliable measure,” Sewell said in the report.  

The report also states that while they believe hospitalizations are the most reliable data point for determining when it is safe to gradually begin reopening, Alabama officials should also take into consideration declines in overall confirmed cases and COVID-19 related death rates. 

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There were 197 COVID-19 deaths across Alabama and 5,832 confirmed cases as of Friday, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Statewide 768 people have been hospitalized due to the virus. 

Testing is being done even less in rural parts of Alabama, and Sewell suggests that state officials increase focus in those vulnerable communities. 

“The rural areas of the district have been woefully under tested. The lack of consistent reliable testing sites in the Black Belt is a cause for serious concern,” the report states. 

In the Black Belt’s Barbour County just .8 percent of the population had been tested as of Thursday, and in Bullock County .6 percent had received tests, according to Alabama Department of Public Health data

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“Vulnerable communities, including minorities, the elderly, and those living in rural areas, face increased challenges to accessing testing,” The report states. “We must always be mindful of the additional resources needed to expand testing in the Black Belt and minority communities across the state.”

Statewide, as of April 21, Alabama was testing at a rate of approximately 6,000 tests each week. The report notes experts who estimate that Alabama needs to be giving 11,200 tests weekly to move to core-based interventions. 

The majority of respondents to Sewell’s survey said that they would feel safe to reopen when testing is widely available, and almost 60 percent said that public health recommendations will have the greatest impact on resuming operations, according to the report. Respondents also said that access to testing is the largest challenge facing their communities.  

“We cannot effectively fight the COVID-19 pandemic and protect our constituents from a resurgence later in the year without widespread testing,” the report reads. 

Additionally, the report recommends that ADPH hires more people to conduct contact tracing and for state officials to continue to work on stockpiling personal protective equipment. 

To keep employees safe the report suggests at first only employees who have no underlying health risks be allowed to return to work, physical distancing should continue when work resumes and personal protective equipment should be given to employees at no cost to them. 

In an effort to keep the pubic safe once businesses begin reopening, the report suggests that the public must wear masks when entering a business, and protective items such as gloves, non-surgical masks and hand sanitizer should be offered to customers at entry points. 

Ivey is to review each of the recommendations from legislators along with members of her Coronavirus Task Force and is to make a decision prior to April 30, when her Stay-at-home order is to expire. 

Sewell’s plan also calls for state officials to follow the following recommendations for a phased reopening” 

  • Provide widespread availability of testing, recruit an aggressive and comprehensive contact tracing workforce, and ensure adequate availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Personal Safety Resources (PSR).
  • Ensure widespread access to affordable and effective treatment, when a safe and effective FDA-approved treatment comes to market. 
  • Maintain CDC/public health guidance for public and employee safety. Both the State and public and private businesses must maintain CDC and public health guidance on sanitation, hygiene and social distancing and establish routine health measures to ensure the safety and health of employees and the public. 
  • Establish information systems that allow for the swift detection of any increase in cases following the reopening. 
  • Institute a plan to reinstate restrictions, in the event that there is an upsurge.

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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Sewell votes in favor of National Apprenticeship Act

The bill would invest more than $3.5 billion to create nearly one million new apprenticeship opportunities.

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama

Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, last week voted in favor of the National Apprenticeship Act, legislation to reauthorize the National Apprenticeship Act for the first time since its enactment in 1937.

The new National Apprenticeship Act will create one million new apprenticeship opportunities over the next five years. Registered apprenticeships provide workers with paid, on-the-job training, and are the nation’s most successful federal workforce training program.

“As a long-time supporter of expanding registered apprenticeships, I am thrilled to support today’s legislation to provide 1 million new apprenticeship opportunities over five years,” Sewell said. “Our Nation is facing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and estimates show that more than 7 million of the pandemic’s job losses will be permanent. We need bold investments like those in the National Apprenticeship Act to accelerate the economy and help get the American people back to work in stable, good-paying jobs of the future.”

The bill invests more than $3.5 billion over the next five years.

The act establishes a $400 million grant program to support the expansion of apprenticeship opportunities, including pre-apprenticeships and youth apprenticeships, which will increase $100 million annually to reach $800 million by 2025.

The legislation also codifies and streamlines standards for registered apprenticeship, youth apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs to make it easier for both apprentices and employers to participate in high-quality apprenticeships and codifies the Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship.

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It directs the office to convene industry leaders, labor organizations, educators and others to expand apprenticeships into new occupations and sectors.

Supporters say the bill could yield $10.6 billion in net benefits to U.S. taxpayers in the form of increased tax revenue and decreased spending on public-assistance programs and unemployment insurance, and that nothing is more effective at breaking the cycle of poverty than a well-paying full-time job.

Sewell is about to enter her sixth term representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.

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Sewell named a conferee to Defense Authorization Act conference committee

This will be the second year that Sewell has been selected as an NDAA conferee.

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Terri Sewell (via Office of Rep. Terri Sewell)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, named Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, to serve on a conference committee of the House and Senate versions of the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.

NDAA conferees from the House and Senate will work together to resolve differences between the distinct defense authorization bills passed by each chamber in June 2020.

This will be the second year that Sewell has been selected as an NDAA conferee.

“The House and Senate have historically put politics aside on behalf of the American people to pass the NDAA,” Sewell said. “This critically important legislation authorizes our national defense priorities for the year and provides our brave men and women with the resources needed to carry out their missions across the world. I am committed to continuing this tradition and working to exclude any partisan provisions that threaten the defense and wellbeing of our nation. As a Representative from a state that plays such a major part in our national security, I am honored to be able to play such a significant role as a conferee for the second consecutive year.”

The NDAA authorizes funding to equip, supply and train U.S. troops and support military families. The bill has been passed by Congress for 58 continuous years.

Sewell is a senior member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and chair of the Subcommittee on Defense Intelligence and Warfighter Support.

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Sewell said that she is committed to continuing this bipartisan tradition of passing a smart defense bill that provides service members with the resources they need to address and counter today’s increasingly complex national security challenges.

As an FY2020 NDAA conferee, Sewell was successful in securing language to improve federal campaign election security, increase intelligence funding, and promote increased diversity in the Intelligence Community’s workforce.

She also worked closely with Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, to successfully repeal the Military Widow’s Tax, which unfairly taxed military widows and widowers’ survivor benefits.

The 116th Congress is likely not going to pass a formal budget again this year. At this time, it is still not clear if Congress will pass a continuing resolution or an omnibus bill to keep the government funded going forward.

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A government shutdown is possible but is not expected.

Sewell is serving in her fifth term representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional District. On Nov. 3, she was elected to her sixth term. The popular congresswoman did not have a Republican or Democratic opponent.

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Byrne donates congressional records to University of South Alabama

Byrne’s term representing the 1st Congressional District will end at the end of the year when the 116th Congress ends.

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Bradley Byrne

Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, on Thursday visited the University of South Alabama to formally sign an agreement donating his congressional records to the university.

“I visited The University of South Alabama today to sign an agreement officially donating my Congressional records to South Alabama for research purposes,” Byrne said. “This carries on a tradition started by Congressman Jack Edwards. South Alabama will now be home to records from Congressman Edwards, Congressman Callahan, Congressman Bonner, and myself. It was an honor to keep the tradition going!”

Byrne’s term representing the 1st Congressional District will end at the end of the year when the 116th Congress ends. Byrne ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate rather than running for re-election to the U.S. Congress.

Byrne has represented the 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2014. Byrne was elected in a special election to fill the vacant seat after Congressman Jo Bonner left Congress to accept a position working for the University of Alabama system. Bonner is presently Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s chief of staff.

Byrne previously served on the state school board, in the Alabama Senate and as chancellor of the Alabama Two Year College System. Byrne is an attorney. He has a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a law degree from the University of Alabama School of Law. He graduated from UMS-Wright Preparatory School.

Alabama’s 1st Congressional District has been in Southwest Alabama since 1843 (the First had been in Huntsville and North Alabama following statehood and then Northeast Alabama).

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Since the 1st was relocated to its present home in Southwest Alabama it has been represented by James Dellet with the Whig Party from 1843 to 1845, Democrat Edmund Strother Dargan from 1845 to 1847, Whig John Gayle 1847 to 1849, Whig William Alston 1849 to 1851, Democrat John Bragg from 1851 to 1853, Democrat Phillip Phillips 1853 to 1855, Know Nothing Percy Walker 1855 to 1857, Democrat James Stallworth 1857 to 1861, there was no representation in the U.S. Congress during and after the Civil War, Republican Francis Kellogg 1868 to 1869, Republican Alfred Buck 1869 to 1871, Republican Benjamin Turner 1871 to 1873, Liberal Republican Frederick Bromberg 1873 to 1875, Republican Jeremiah Haralson 1875 to 1877, Democrat James Jones 1877 to 1879, Democrat Thomas Herndon 1879 to 1883, Democrat James Jones 1883 to 1889, Democrat Richard Clarke 1889 to 1897, Democrat George Taylor 1897 to 1915, Democrat Oscar Gray 1915 to 1919, Democrat John McDuffie 1919 to 1935, Democrat Frank Boykin 1935 to 1963, the districts were inactive as Congress was elected statewide from 1963 to 1965, Republican Jack Edwards 1965 to 1985, Republican Sonny Callahan 1985 to 2003, Republican Jo Bonner 2003 to 2013, and Byrne since 2014.

The head of the Mobile County Commission, Republican Jerry Carl, is the congressman-elect for the 1st Congressional District. Carl will succeed Byrne when the 117th Congress begins on Jan. 3.

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Tuberville appoints Stan McDonald to chair his transition team

Stan McDonald is a Huntsville attorney and will be chair of Tuberville’s transition team.

Brandon Moseley

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Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville. (VIA TUBERVILlE CAMPAIGN)

Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville on Monday named Stan McDonald the chair of his campaign transition committee as well as the other members of his transition committee.

“I look forward to working with the committee as I prepare to serve Alabama in the United States Senate,” said Tuberville. “This is a job I do not take lightly.”

Stan McDonald, a Huntsville attorney, will be chair of the transition team, and the team includes: Tripp Skipper from Auburn, who is with the Skipper Group; Terry Harbin from Mobile, who is the Market President for BancorpSouth Bank; John Ferguson from Dothan, a Dothan City Commissioner; Duwan Walker from Prattville, the CEO of Hi.Ed; Jeff Brooks from Birmingham, the CEO of HighPoint Holdings; Steve Raby from Huntsville, with Direct Communications; RJ Rhodes from Huntsville, a retired businessman; Chester McKinney from Florence, the owner of McVantage; and John Wahl from Athens, the Vice-Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party.

Tuberville defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones last week in the Nov. 3 general election. Tuberville is a former Auburn University head football coach. This was his first run for public office.

Congressman-elect Jerry Carl also announced the chairman of his transition team.

“I am proud to announce that Zach Weidlich will serve as my Transition Aide and point of contact as I prepare to take office at the beginning of January,” Carl said. “Since November 3rd, I have been working to set up my office and assemble my staff, and I look forward to announcing key staff positions in the coming days. I am confident that we will have a team of exceptional people who will serve Alabama’s 1st Congressional District well.”

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Carl defeated Democratic nominee James Averhart on Nov. 3 to win Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.

Carl is currently head of the Mobile County Commission. Carl replaced incumbent Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, who did not run for another term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Carl previously started and ran a series of small businesses in the Mobile area.

Congressman-elect Barry Moore, the third newcomer to the Alabama congressional delegation, has not announced the members of his transition team yet in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District.

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