Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, on a conference call Monday, told legislators that she will announce her plan to reopen the economy. Ivey was joined by her chief of staff, former Congressman Joe Bonner; State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris; State Finance Officer Kelly Butler; Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington; and Legislative Liaison William Filmore.
Ivey told the group that she is still finalizing her plan along with Harris, the Coronavirus Task Force and her staff after working over the weekend and last week to develop the plan. But the governor acknowledged to the lawmakers on the call that her guidelines will be controversial.
“Some will be thankful, others will say we went too far, some will say not far enough,” Ivey predicted. “There is no ideal plan.”
Ivey said that being flexible and working in a spirit of cooperation is important and encouraged legislators and leaders to continue to submit their opinions and feedback.
The governor will have a press conference Tuesday at 11 a.m. related to COVID-19.
“Alabama must protect the health and well-being of its citizens in the best way we can,” Ivey said.
Harris said as of Monday, the state of Alabama has just under 6,500 cases of COVID-19 and over 73,000 people have been tested. There have been 219 deaths.
The majority of the deaths are among senior citizens. Those who die of any age usually have chronic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes or chronic lung disease. Harris said that the state currently has no ventilator shortage and presently has an adequate number of ICU beds and hospital beds.
Harris said that the COVID-19 hotspots now are in Tallapoosa, Marshall and Mobile Counties. The Alabama Department of Public Health has sent additional testing to those sites. In Marshall County, the outbreak is centered around a poultry processing plant. In Tallapoosa County, it is a nursing home.
“The ability to increase testing is important,” Harris said.
The ADPH has reached out to 100 laboratories and measured their lab capacity. How many tests they are able to run.
“We have the ability to get to where we are based on lab capacity; however, it is unevenly distributed,” Harris said.
Jefferson County for example has more than adequate testing. Other counties still need more testing capacity.
“The challenge is how can we reach people to make it easy for folks to be tested?” Harris said. All federally qualified health care centers in the state have the ability to test. The health department also expected to work to expand testing through county health departments. Clinics are moving from county-to-county regularly.
Harris said ADPH needs increased contact-tracing ability. The ADPH has developed a contact tracing team. Medical students from Huntsville were recruited to be part of that team. The CDC has assigned public health professionals to all states to help with epidemiology.
Harris said that ADPH will continue to work through a unified command with state EMA and the Alabama National Guard as well as the departments of labor and commerce. The Alabama National Guard has done an exceptional job with missions, especially with disinfecting nursing homes.
Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, asked Harris to provide detail on flattening of the curve and how ADPH evaluates the numbers.
Harris said that the criteria they have been evaluating all along has to do with hospital capacity, deaths and the total numbers of cases. In the last few days, case numbers have plateaued but have no steady downward trajectory.
Harris attributed that success to social distancing.
“Alabamians have complied, for the most part,” Harris said.
Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, asked, “As Alabama has an opportunity to re-open, do we have statistical data related to those who have continued work during the Stay at Home Order?”
Examples are grocery store workers, Walmart workers. Have there been reviews of essential workers who have continued working? Have they contracted the virus?
Harris said that they do not have a study done on this group thus far.
“We do see that the overwhelming majority of cases in their forties and fifties are in the workforce,” Harris said. “We will do our best to get that information.”
State Finance Director Kelly Butler is the chairman of the Coronavirus Task Force.
Butler said that the taskforce was tasked with meeting and making recommendations to Ivey and Harris. The group met by telephone last week. The group also had one in-person meeting at Blue Cross Blue Shield headquarters in Birmingham.
Butler said that there are different opinions within the committee, but they are able to talk through and compromise.
Butler said that the committee looked at the White House guidelines, the Alabama Small Business Commission suggestions, Congressional delegation suggestions, legislator recommendations, business recommendations and individual recommendations.
Secretary of Labor Fitzgerald Washington said that he is proud of his staff’s responding to the enormous demands as more than 300,000 Alabamians have applied for unemployment over the last six weeks. The department is receiving many eligibility questions from employers and employees regarding the federal and state rules.
Washington said that Alabama was only one of twelve original states that administered the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program and was among the first five states to process payments under the $600 per week program.
Washington said that there were 4.4 million new jobless claims in the U.S. last week alone. The state has had 324,000 unemployment claims filed in the past six weeks. 55 percent of the total claims have been paid.
Washington explained that the Alabama Department of Labor still has to verify all claims. For example, an employee said she was fired because of COVID-19; however the employer stated she was terminated because her cash register allegedly kept coming up short.
The Attorney General’s Office will prosecute false COVID-19 claims.
ADOL will continue to improve efficiency related to claim filing.
The Alabama State legislature will go back to work on May 4 but will consider only the state budgets and legislator’s local bills. Everything else has been terminated for the remainder of the 2020 Legislative Session. According to reliable sources, the Legislature will sine die to end the session on May 8 — not May 18 as previously announced.
Governor issues call to action on mask wearing: “We are at war with an invisible enemy”
Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday issued a new call to action for all Alabamians to wear a mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Today we are at war with an invisible enemy.
Not that long ago, families across Alabama helped America turn the tide in World War II. Some joined the front lines in combat, while others led the fight on the home front.
Those sacrifices helped our nation win the war and go on to define the Greatest Generation. Now, we must answer today’s call. By comparison, our sacrifice is small.
But each of us can do our part. Mask up Alabama!
Democratic women condemn comments on Gov. Kay Ivey’s appearance
“These comments are disrespectful, inappropriate in every way, and represent a broader culture of casual sexism,” read a joint statement from four Democratic women.
A group of Democratic women on Wednesday issued a statement condemning comments made by a state school board member who was critical of Gov. Kay Ivey’s weight.
Wayne Reynolds, a Republican who represents portions of northwest Alabama on the board, wrote during a live stream event that Ivey, who is also a Republican, “is gaining weight.”
Afterward, in an interview with AL.com, Reynolds doubled — and then tripled — down on his comments as he critiqued Ivey’s choice of clothing.
“She looked heavy in that white suit,” Reynolds said of Ivey, who held a press conference on Wednesday to update the state’s “safer-at-home” order. “I don’t know what she weighs. I just made an observation.”
Later in the interview, Reynolds said the pantsuit Ivey wore was unflattering and that he had seen her wear other suits “that were more slimming on her.”
The backlash to Reynold’s comments was swift and bipartisan with women around the state rightfully taking issue.
“These comments are disrespectful, inappropriate in every way, and represent a broader culture of casual sexism,” read a joint statement from four Democratic women. “Women all over Alabama know what it is like to be subjected to unfair criticism on the basis of their appearance or weight.
“We need to cultivate an environment where individuals are judged on the basis of their skill and proficiency. Alabama elected officials should be discussing policy, not the physical appearance of policymakers. Anything less is a disservice to Alabamians. We are disturbed by Mr. Reynold’s remarks, and we hope other elected officials and candidates will likewise condemn his comments. Mr. Reynolds was wrong and we deserve better.”
The statement was signed by Amy Wasyluka, president of Alabama Democratic Women, Phyliss Harvey Hall, a District 2 congressional candidate, Dr. Adia Winfrey, a District 3 congressional candidate and Laura Casey, a candidate for president of the Alabama Public Service Commission.
Nine people protesting for Medicaid expansion arrested outside Alabama Capitol
Among those arrested was former State Sen. Hank Sanders.
Nine people were arrested during a protest in front of the Alabama Capitol on Tuesday, which for some was the second time they’d been arrested this month while trying to bring attention to expanding Medicaid in the state and to the need for racial reconciliation.
As members of Alabama Black Lives Matter and Alabama SaveOurSelves held a demonstration Tuesday, which was live-streamed on former State Sen. Hank Sanders’ Facebook page, some began attempting to spray paint the words “Good Trouble,” a reference to the late Georgia Rep. John Lewis and his civil rights work, and “Expand Medicaid” on the street in front of the Capitol and were arrested.
Still, others began to try and spray paint onto the street and were also arrested, as can be seen in the video.
Among those arrested was Sanders, who could be seen in the video being handcuffed and loaded into a Montgomery Police Department vehicle, and his wife, 75-year-old Faya Rose Toure, an attorney, civil rights activist and former municipal judge.
The groups had planned Tuesday’s demonstration to bring attention to their push to expand Medicaid and to the arrest of five members after a demonstration there on July 16, in which members tried to use yellow spray paint to paint the words “Black Lives Matter” and “Expand Medicaid” on the street. The five turned themselves into police on July 20.
Montgomery Police Department public information officer Capt. Saba Coleman in a press release Tuesday evening said that those detained had not yet been charged. Montgomery Police declined to identify those persons who were detained.
“On Tuesday, July 28, 2020, at about 12 noon, MPD responded to the area of the Capitol in reference to protesters painting the street in front of the Capitol steps. Upon arrival, MPD witnessed the protesters painting the street. At which time, MPD notified the City of Montgomery’s Traffic Engineering Department regarding the painting of the street,” Coleman said in the statement. “The paint was deemed noncompliant because organizers failed to request and obtain proper permitting and prior approval, which resulted in a crew being dispatched to the area. Protesters involved in the offense were subsequently detained; however, they were released with charges pending. There’s no additional information available for release.”
Faya Toure, Sanders’ wife, attorney, civil rights activist and former municipal judge, speaking to APR on Tuesday morning before the demonstration said she planned to once again work to bring attention to the need to expand Medicaid in Alabama in order to save thousands of lives a year and that she’s also addressed the arrests earlier in the month, of which she was one.
Sanders told APR on Monday that he was “mad as hell” over the arrests which included strip searches for the women but not for the men.
In an open letter to Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, Toure wrote of her experience being strip-searched at the police station.
“Some say I should have resisted, but I did not,” Toure starts the letter of, then describes the act of having to strip for officers. “Within minutes the ordeal that changed my soul was over.”
In a statement, ACLU of Alabama noted that the latest arrests came “just days after a memorial service honoring Representative John Lewis was held on the same steps.”
“Once again, we see Alabama police officers using the power of the government to unnecessarily seize and detain people who are exercising their constitutionally protected First Amendment right to assemble and protest,” said Randall Marshall, executive director of ACLU of Alabama in a statement. “While the Constitution does not explicitly protect people from legal repercussions when protesting crosses into civil disobedience, we paid tribute mere days ago to the life and legacy of Representative John Lewis, a man dedicated to peaceful civil disobedience.”
“His phrase ‘good trouble’ was called that precisely because protesting unjust laws means breaking those laws. Nevertheless, we have seen time and again that change does not happen without protesters who are willing to accept these consequences in order to upend the status quo and those who uphold it,” Marshall continued. “We stand with these freedom fighters–in Montgomery, Hoover, and across the state of Alabama–who are continuing to fight for a more just and equitable world where every social problem is not addressed with handcuffs.”
Congressman and Civil Rights icon John Lewis has died
“Our country has lost one of its most beloved Civil Rights leaders,” said Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey.
Alabama native turned Civil Rights Movement leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis has died.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Selma, mourned the passing of her friend, colleague and mentor.
“My heart breaks for the passing of my dear friend and mentor Congressman John Lewis, but my spirit soars for an angel walked among us and we were all touched by his greatness. He forever changed Selma and this nation,” Sewell said. “May we finish his life’s work and restore the Voting Rights Act.”
“Congressman John Lewis was a beacon of light, hope and inspiration throughout his life,” Sewell continued. ”To be in his presence was to experience love, whole-hearted and without exception. Though he was so often met with hatred, violence and racial terrorism, it never permeated his being. He remained until his passing a faithful servant-leader, whose righteousness, kindness and vision for a more equitable future inspired all who were blessed to know him. I am honored to have been able to call him a mentor and colleague and, above all, a friend.”
Lewis grew up on a farm outside of Troy, where his family were sharecroppers. At 21, he became a Freedom Rider. At 23, he was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington. He was a close colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Civil Rights Movement. King affectionately referred to him as “the boy from Troy.”
Lewis and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Hosea Williams organized the first Selma to Montgomery voting rights march. Then-Alabama Gov. George Wallace ordered the then all-white Alabama State Troopers to stop Lewis and about 600 marchers. On March 7, 1965, the State Troopers, local law enforcement and hundreds of white citizen volunteers attacked Lewis and the other voting rights marchers when they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.
Lewis was among the many marchers beaten that day. The event is remembered as “Bloody Sunday.”
“On Bloody Sunday in 1965, John was confronted by Alabama state troopers and their dogs, but he was determined to fight for equality and justice, putting his own life on the line in the service of others and a vision for a brighter future,” Sewell said. “So many times did John cross bridges, insisting that our nation live up to the promises enshrined in our constitution. As he always said, he gave a little blood on Selma bridge, but he also bridged the gaps that so often divide our political parties, working every day for a more just America.”
“John believed firmly that the best days of our nation lie ahead of us,” Sewell concluded. “It is his unwavering optimism that I will continue to call upon in moments of challenge and hardship. While John has left this earth, his legacy fighting for equality and justice lives on. I hope that our nation – and our leaders – will unite behind the cause most dear to John: voting rights. We must restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to its full strength so that every American – regardless of color – is able to make their voice heard at the ballot box. John, the ‘boy from Troy,’ was the conscience of the Congress. He will be dearly missed.”
“John Lewis was an American treasure,” said Martin Luther King III in a statement. “He gave a voice to the voiceless, and he reminded each of us that the most powerful nonviolent tool is the vote. Our hearts feel empty without our friend, but we find comfort knowing that he is free at last.”
“Our country has lost one of its most beloved Civil Rights leaders,” said Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. “I join my fellow Alabamians & the nation in mourning the death of Rep. John Lewis. He dedicated his life to serving his community & advocating for others. We’ll forever remember his heroism & his enduring legacy.”
Lewis announced that he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer in December.
He was absent at this year’s annual remembrance of Bloody Sunday in Selma on March 1. The annual Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama had been led by Lewis every year until this one.
“Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way,” former President Barack Obama wrote. “John Lewis did. And thanks to him, we now all have our marching orders — to keep believing in the possibility of remaking this country we love until it lives up to its full promise.”
Lewis was age 80. He was preceded in death by his wife, Lilian Miles Lewis, who died in 2012 after a long illness.