Connect with us

National

More than 100 COVID-19 cases, 23 deaths at Bill Nichols veterans home in Alexander City

Chip Brownlee | The Trace

Published

on

The Alexander City Fire Department displays an American flag outside of Bill Nichols Veterans Home.

More than 100 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at an East Alabama veterans home among residents and staff, and nearly two dozen residents have died from the virus since early April, the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs said Tuesday.

At least 91 residents have tested positive for the virus at the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home in Alexander City, Alabama, in Tallapoosa County, a department spokesperson said in an email.

At least 41 residents remain ill with the virus, and 23 have died.

Forty-one employees at the state-run veterans home have tested positive. Twelve of those have recovered and are back on staff, the department said.

Three employees have also tested positive at the William F. Green State Veterans Home in Bay Minette.

The department, in the statement, said there are currently no reports of residents testing positive at other state veterans homes in Bay Minette, Huntsville and Pell City.

ADVERTISEMENT

In an email to APR, Horton said the Nichols veterans home saw its cases increase when the home was able to test all residents beginning on April 18, “which allowed the home to identify those residents who were asymptomatic.”

State Veterans Affairs Commissioner Kent Davis is now “advocating for universal testing of residents at all state veterans homes,” Horton said.

Senior living facilities, nursing homes and long-term care facilities have been hit especially hard by COVID-19, which is far more deadly for those who are older and those who have underlying medical conditions. Early on, testing supply shortages made it difficult to test residents at long-term care facilities.

Horton said state veterans homes began screening all employees before they entered facilities on March 10. By March 12, veterans homes began restricting visitations to staff, necessary medical personnel and immediate families of residents who faced end-of-life situations.

Public Service Announcement

The first employee tested positive for COVID-19 at Bill Nichols on March 30, and the employee was not allowed to enter the home. At the time, CDC guidelines called for residents of long-term care facilities to be tested only if they exhibited symptoms. By April 3, the first resident showed symptoms, and by April 8, the first resident had tested positive for the virus.

“At the request of ADVA Commissioner Kent Davis, two independent reviews by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, April 20, and the Alabama Department of Public Health, April 21, show that the home has followed all VA, CDC, and state health guidelines for the use personal protective equipment and other preventive measures,” the state VA said in a statement to APR.

Across the state, more than 1,046 long-term care residents have tested positive for the virus, and 667 long-term care facility employees have tested positive.

As of May 4, at least 107 long-term care facility residents had died, which accounted for about 36 percent of the state’s deaths at the time. By Tuesday, the number of deaths among Alabama long-term care facility residents increased to 183, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.

The state’s nursing home association has called for more testing of residents and staff for months, including testing for those who are asymptomatic.

“It’s getting better, but we’re still not where we want to be,” a spokesperson for the association said last week. “I’m not casting any blame on the Alabama Department of Public Health. They’ve worked with us hand-in-hand. But when there’s just not enough tests available, there are not enough tests available.”

Across the country, nursing homes and long-term care facilities, including veterans homes, have been devastated by the virus. In New Jersey, half of the state’s COVID-19 fatalities have been linked to nursing homes. At a state veterans’ home in New Jersey, at least 74 deaths have been linked to the virus.

“Residents who test positive for the virus are moved to isolation areas inside the homes for further care and treatment,” the department’s statement said. “Employees who exhibit symptoms of the virus are prohibited entry into the facilities. The ADVA and HMR are working closely with the Alabama Department of Public Health, CDC, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, on all reported positive cases.”

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

Health

Vaccines should protect against mutated strains of coronavirus

Public health experts say it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public.

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

Multiple vaccines for COVID-19 are in clinical trials, and one has already applied for emergency use authorization, but how good will those vaccines be against a mutating coronavirus? A UAB doctor says they’ll do just fine. 

Dr. Rachael Lee, UAB’s hospital epidemiologist, told reporters earlier this week that there have been small genetic mutations in COVID-19. What researchers are seeing in the virus here is slightly different than what’s seen in the virus in China, she said. 

“But luckily the way that these vaccines have been created, specifically the mRNA vaccines, is an area that is the same for all of these viruses,” Lee said, referring to the new type of vaccine known as mRNA, which uses genetic material, rather than a weakened or inactive germ, to trigger an immune response. 

The U.S. Food And Drug Administration is to review the drug company Pfizer’s vaccine on Dec. 10. Pfizer’s vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, as is a vaccine produced by the drug maker Moderna, which is expected to also soon apply for emergency use approval. 

“I think that is incredibly good news, that even though we may see some slight mutations,  we should have a vaccine that should cover all of those different mutations,” Lee said. 

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found in a recent study, published in the journal Science, that COVID-19 has mutated in ways that make it spread much more easily, but the mutation may also make it more susceptible to vaccines. 

ADVERTISEMENT

In a separate study, researchers with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation found that while most vaccines were modeled after an earlier strain of COVID-19, they found no evidence that the vaccines wouldn’t provide the same immunity response for the new, more dominant strain. 

“This brings the world one step closer to a safe and effective vaccine to protect people and save lives,” said CSIRO chief executive Dr. Larry Marshall, according to Science Daily

While it may not be long before vaccines begin to be shipped to states, public health experts warn it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public. Scarce supplies at first will be allocated for those at greatest risk, including health care workers who are regularly exposed to coronavirus patients, and the elderly and ill. 

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking to APR last week, urged the public to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing for many more months, as the department works to make the vaccines more widely available.

Public Service Announcement

“Just because the first shots are rolling out doesn’t mean it’s time to stop doing everything we’ve been trying to get people to do for months. It’s not going to be widely available for a little while,” Harris said.

Continue Reading

National

UAB cancels third game

The only remaining game on UAB’s schedule is a game at Rice on Dec. 12.

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

The UAB Department of Athletics on Thursday announced that it is canceling its final home game of the season. UAB was scheduled to play Southern Mississippi on Friday at Legion Field, but the game was canceled due to continuing problems with COVID-19.

UAB has said that it will “continue to work with Conference USA on the remaining regular-season schedule.”

The only remaining game on UAB’s schedule is a game at Rice on Dec. 12.

UAB currently has a record of just four wins and three losses.

A win at Rice would guarantee the Blazers a winning season, but in this COVID altered season, a four and three or four and four record is probably good enough to be bowl eligible.

Southern Miss has had a dreadful season. They are two and seven and have two remaining games, against UTEP and Florida Atlantic. Both of those games were postponed from earlier in the season.

ADVERTISEMENT

Unless the season is extended a week to the 19th, there is no way for UAB and Southern Miss to make up the canceled game.

Continue Reading

National

Today is Thanksgiving

Today is a national and state holiday. Schools, banks, government offices and many private businesses are closed.

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

Four hundred years ago, on Nov. 11, 1620, after 66 days at sea, a group of English settlers landed near what is today Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Onboard the Mayflower were 102 men, women, and children, including one baby born during the Atlantic crossing, who made up the Pilgrims.

The Mayflower, captained by Christopher Jones, had been bound for the mouth of the Hudson River. The ship took a northerly course to avoid pirates, but the decision to avoid the then widely traveled sea lanes to the New World took the ship into bad weather, which had blown the Mayflower miles off course and left the ship damaged. Off Cape Cod, the adult males in the group made the fateful decision to build an entire colony where none had existed prior. They wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact.

“In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc. Having undertaken for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together in a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.”

After a few weeks off Cape Cod, they sailed up the coast until they reached Plymouth. There they found a Wampanoag Indian village that had been abandoned due to some sort of plague. During the Winter of 1620-1621 they lived aboard the Mayflower and would row to shore each day to build houses. Finally, they had built enough houses to actually move to the colony, but the cold, damp conditions aboard the ship had been costly.

Some 28 men, 13 women (one of them in child birth), and 8 children died in that winter. Governor John Carver would die in April. His widow, Kathrine White Carver, would follow a few weeks later. There is some recent archaeological evidence suggesting that some of the dead were butchered and eaten by the survivors.

The Mayflower and her crew left for England on April 5, 1621, never to return.

ADVERTISEMENT

About 40 of the Pilgrims were religious Separatists, members of a Puritan sect that had split from the Church of England, in defiance of English law. In 1609, they immigrated to Holland to practice their religion but ran into problems there too. Others in the group had remained part of the Church of England but were sympathetic to their Separatist friends. They did not call themselves Pilgrims, that term was adopted at the bicentennial for the Mayflower voyage. The members of core Separatist sect referred to themselves as “Saints” and people not in their sect as “Strangers.”

In March 1621, an English speaking Native American, named Samoset, visited the Plymouth colony and asked for beer. He spent the night talking with the settlers and later introduced them to Squanto, who spoke even better English. Squanto introduced them to the chief of the Wampanoag, Massasoit.

Squanto moved in with the Pilgrims, serving as their advisor and translator. The friendly Wampanoag tribe taught the Pilgrims how to hunt and grow crops. The two groups began trading furs with each other.

William Bradford, a Separatist who helped draft the Mayflower Compact, became the longtime Plymouth Governor. He was also the writer of the first history of the Plymouth Colony and the Mayflower. Bradford’s more notable descendants include author, dictionary writer and scholar Noah Webster; TV chef Julia Child; and Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

Public Service Announcement

In the fall of 1621, 399 years ago, the Pilgrims invited their Wampanoag Indian friends to a feast celebrating their first harvest and a year in the New World with a three-day festival. This has become known as the first Thanksgiving.

Today is a national and state holiday. Schools, banks, government offices and many private businesses are closed.

Continue Reading

National

Civil rights leader Bruce Boynton dies at 83

The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Selma attorney and Civil Rights Movement leader Bruce Carver Boynton

Selma attorney and Civil Rights Movement leader Bruce Carver Boynton died from cancer in a Montgomery hospital on Monday. He was 83. The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.

“We’ve lost a giant of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama. “Son of Amelia Boynton Robinson, Bruce Boynton was a Selma native whose refusal to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant led to the landmark SCOTUS decision in Boynton v. Virginia overturning racial segregation in public transportation, sparking the Freedom Rides and end of Jim Crow. Let us be inspired by his commitment to keep striving and working toward a more perfect union.”

Boynton attended Howard University Law School in Washington D.C. He was arrested in Richmond, Virginia, in his senior year of law school for refusing to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant. That arrest and conviction would be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where Boynton and civil rights advocates prevailed in the landmark case 1060 Boynton vs. Virginia.

Boynton’s case was handled by famed civil rights era attorney Thurgood Marshal, who would go on to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. The 1960 7-to-2 decision ruled that federal prohibitions barring segregation on interstate buses also applied to bus stations and other interstate travel facilities.

The decision inspired the “Freedom Rides” movement. Some Freedom Riders were attacked when they came to Alabama.

While Boynton received a high score on the Alabama Bar exam, the Alabama Bar prevented him from working in the state for years due to that 1958 trespassing conviction. Undeterred, Boynton worked in Tennessee during the years, bringing school desegregation lawsuits.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sherrilyn Ifill with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said on social media: “NAACP LDF represented Bruce Boynton, who was an unplanned Freedom Rider (he simply wanted to buy a sandwich in a Va bus station stop & when denied was willing to sue & his case went to the SCOTUS) and later Bruce’s mother Amelia Boynton (in Selma after Bloody Sunday).”

His mother, Amelia Boynton, was an early organizer of the voting rights movement. During the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in 1965, she was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She later co-founded the National Voting Rights Museum and annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma. His father S.W. Boynton was also active in the Civil Rights Movement.

Bruce Boynton worked for several years at a Washington D.C. law firm but spent most of his long, illustrious legal career in Selma, Alabama, with a focus on civil rights cases. He was the first Black special prosecutor in Alabama history and at one point he represented Stokely Carmichael.

This year has seen the passing of a number of prominent Civil Rights Movement leaders, including Troy native Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

Public Service Announcement

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement