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Montgomery hospitals are out of ICU beds, mayor says

Chip Brownlee | The Trace

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Some of the River Region’s major hospitals have run out of intensive care beds and others only have one or two beds left, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said Wednesday at a press conference in Alabama’s capital city.

“Right now, if you’re from Montgomery, and you need an ICU bed, you’re in trouble,” Reed said. “If you are from Central Alabama, and you need an ICU bed, you may not be able to get one because our health care system has been maxed out.”

The mayor said Baptist Medical Center East, as of Wednesday morning, only has three remaining ICU beds available. Baptist South has no ICU beds, and Baptist Health Prattville has no ICU beds left. Jackson Hospital, in downtown Montgomery, has one ICU bed remaining.

Statewide, over the past week, the number of people hospitalized has increased and is above the levels seen in early to mid-April when Alabama was expected to hit a “peak” of resource usage.

This shortage is despite efforts to expand hospital capacity, limit non-essential medical procedures and measures taken to add new “COVID-19 preparedness floors” to the hospitals.

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“I want us to really think about the seriousness of that because none of us knows who may need that ICU bed today,” Reed said.

As of Wednesday, the Baptist Health system reported it is treating 96 COVID-19 inpatients across its three hospitals, up from 88 on Tuesday. At least 54 ventilators, out of 88 total, were in use, the hospital said, up from 52 on Tuesday. At least 9 inpatients are awaiting test results at the three hospitals.

Jackson Hospital, as of Tuesday, was caring for 25 COVID-19 inpatients and 23 others who are awaiting the results of tests.

Patients are being diverted to hospitals in Birmingham, where more ICU beds are available. Sending patients 90 miles north to Birmingham area hospitals has not happened before during the crisis, Reed said, and it is something officials have tried to prevent.

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“Our health care system is at a critical point right now,” Reed said. “And we’re at a point that we are now diverting acute care patients to Birmingham because of our ICU bed shortage. That’s very serious.”

Despite the ICU bed shortage, the area’s hospitals do currently have enough ventilators to meet demand, EMA Director Christina Thornton said at the press conference.

“Right now we’re okay,” she said.

The increase in hospitalizations comes almost three weeks after Alabama lifted its “stay-at-home” order on May 1. And a week and a half after the governor relaxed her “safer-at-home” order to allow restaurants, bars and barbershops to reopen.

“Who I probably heard from the most over the last five to seven days, no question has been from the medical professionals,” Reed said. “They have been yelling for us to be more vocal and visible in letting the public know what they’re seeing in our hospital system in this region, and they are very concerned about the levels of people that are coming in.”

Over the last two weeks, more than 470 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Montgomery, a dramatic increase since the beginning of the month. Before May 1, Montgomery County had only 355 cases of the virus. As of Wednesday morning, 950 cases of the virus have been confirmed since the pandemic began.

Montgomery now has more cases than any other Alabama county aside from Jefferson County and Mobile County, which have much larger populations. Over the last week, Montgomery has added more confirmed cases than any other county.

The mayor and EMA director urged Montgomery County and River Region residents to continue practicing social distancing and to stay at home if at all possible.

“Try to be mindful of others,” Thornton said. “Do be very aware of your Memorial Day weekend. This isn’t the time to have big block parties. This isn’t the time to get 50 or 75 people crammed in an apartment because you can’t go to a club. That’s where these numbers would triple. That’s where these numbers will get very, very bad in a very quick amount of time.”

On Friday, the governor and state health officer also urged Montgomery-area residents to be mindful, noting that Montgomery had been placed on a White House “watch list” of potential hot spots.

“I just want to reiterate, we are not there yet,” Reed said of getting key metrics down. “We are still in a place where we can go either way. And we don’t want to slip and fall off the cliff.”

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris told APR last week that statewide numbers are not heading in a good direction, saying he was concerned about the growth in new cases, despite increases in testing.

“I would say we’re really concerned,” Harris said. “The numbers are not headed in the right direction, especially in some parts of the state,” pointing to Montgomery and Mobile.

Testing has increased across the state, Harris said, which is contributing in part to more positive cases being identified. Wednesday, more than 164,000 people had been tested in Alabama, up from 95,000 on May 1.

But the increase in testing, while it may explain rising case counts, does not explain stubbornly high hospitalization numbers and the rising death toll.

Across the state, at least 514 people have died. In Montgomery County, the death toll stands at 26, as of Wednesday afternoon.

Reed urged residents to hold on a little longer and keep trying to fight the virus.

“It is important for us to take steps that are not only important for our own well being but those of our friends and our neighbors,” Reed said. “And so what I want to express to not only the city of Montgomery but to the River Region, all of Central Alabama, all of this state is be careful. I understand COVID-19 fatigue. People are ready to get back to sports, they’re ready to get back to recreation, they’re ready to get back to doing things they are used to doing. I certainly respect that and I understand that.”

We are tracking COVID-19 data on our mapping and data dashboard.

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.

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Governor orders flags lowered in honor of former Rep. Alvin Holmes

Ivey’s directive calls for flags to be lowered on Sunday when Holmes is to be buried.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday ordered the flags at the State Capitol and in State House District 78 to be lowered to half-staff in honor of former State Rep. Alvin Holmes, a tireless advocate for the Black community who served in the House for 44 years. 

Holmes, 81, died Saturday. Ivey’s directive calls for flags to be lowered on Sunday when Holmes is to be buried and remain lowered until sunset that day. 

“A native of Montgomery, Rep. Holmes served the people of Alabama in the House of Representatives for 44 years,” Ivey wrote in her directive. “As the longest-serving representative in our state’s history, it is only fitting that we pay homage to his decades of dedicated service. Anyone that had the privilege of working with or hearing Rep. Holmes address the legislature, knows that he was passionate about his work and cared deeply about improving our state, specifically in matters regarding civil rights. His unique approach to conveying the importance of causes he supported garnered much respect from his colleagues and is something the people of our state will not soon forget. I offer my sincere condolences and prayers to his family, friends and constituents of his beloved community.”

A caravan honoring Holmes took place in Montgomery on Monday.

State Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, the chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, released a statement mourning Holmes’s passing.

“Representative Alvin Holmes was a great Democrat and a fighter,” England said. “He stood on the frontlines of the fight for civil rights and was willing to sacrifice everything in his fight for justice for all. He not only had a long and distinguished career as a civil rights leader, but also as a member of the Legislature, serving his constituents faithfully and dutifully for 44 years. Alabama has lost a giant, whose wit, intelligence, fearlessness, selfless determination, and leadership will be sorely missed. My prayers are with his friends, family, and colleagues.”

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Governor announces 3rd year of record Alabama foster care adoptions

In the 2020 fiscal year, there were 814 foster care adoptions, which is an all-time record for the state.

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Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday announced that for the third year in a row Alabama reported a record number of foster care adoptions. In the 2020 fiscal year, there were 814 foster care adoptions, which is an all-time record for the state. That is up from the previous year’s record of 731 adoptions.

“I am so proud that Alabama has set yet another record and placed so many children in permanent homes,” Ivey said. “I am so appreciative for the innovative work of our adoption professionals and the Department of Human Resources, during this unique time, to complete this record number of adoptions. Also, I sincerely thank our foster families, and most importantly, the forever families, for giving these children loving homes and for your sacrifice and love for our children.”

In the 2020 fiscal year, 70.5 percent of children who left foster care, went home to family members or their parent(s). While most children in the state’s foster care system do return to their families, there are still children that need adoptive families.

“This is a truly important milestone in a year that has seen many delays to finalizing adoptions, due to the pandemic. We are proud to have found permanency for these 814 children that deserve forever families,” said Alabama Department of Human Resources Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “We could not have accomplished this milestone without our vital partners in the permanency and adoption process, especially the judges and adoptive parents. However, we must be mindful that the work is not done. We have hundreds of additional children that continue to wait for his or her permanent family. Our staff and others are working hard every day to give these children that needed permanency. There are no unwanted children, just unfound families.”

Currently, there are 468 children in Alabama’s foster care system that need forever homes. Ivey also proclaimed November 2020 as National Adoption Month in the state of Alabama.

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Governor awards nearly $19.4 million in block grants for Alabama communities

The CDBG funds will be used to repair dangerous roads, provide safe water, build community and senior centers, improve sewer systems and more.

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More than 60 Alabama cities and counties will soon see improvements in their communities thanks to almost $19.4 million in Community Development Block Grants awarded by Gov. Kay Ivey. 

The CDBG funds will be used to repair dangerous roads, provide safe water, build community and senior centers, improve sewer systems and more.

“Community Development Block Grants help raise the living standards for thousands of Alabamians who may have struggled with dangerous roads, sewage backed up in their homes or find it difficult to wash clothes because of inadequate water pressure,” Ivey said. “I am pleased to award these grants and I must commend those local elected officials who recognized those struggles and responded to address needs in their communities.”

Grants are awarded on competitive basis in several categories including small city, large city, county, community enhancement, Black Belt and planning. Some cities received planning grants in addition to other competitive grants.

In most instances, awarded governments are required to allocate some local funds to projects as a match for the grants.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grants from funds made available by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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“Many local governments, particularly this year with the COVID-19 pandemic, often struggle for funds to provide basic services for residents,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “ADECA is pleased to join Gov. Ivey in awarding these funds from the CDBG program, which enables governments to accomplish worthwhile projects to make their communities better places to live.”

Grants awarded and projects (grouped by geographical region) include:

North Alabama

  • Ardmore– $350,000 to replace sewer lines and ensure safe disposal of sewage.
  • Colbert County – $182,876 to raise the roadbed and improve drainage to eliminate pavement flooding on Gnat Pond Road, Cassie Davis Street and Marthaler Lane. 
  • Courtland– $350,000 to replace aging water lines and provide safe drinking water to residents.
  • Fort Payne– $450,000 to demolish and clear the abandoned Fort Payne General Hospital complex. 
  • Glencoe– $450,000 to replace sewer lines on East Air Depot Road, Taylor Road and Lonesome Bend Road.
  • Haleyville– $450,000 to upgrade sewer, water and streets in several areas of the city. 
  • Holly Pond– $250,000 to construct a new senior citizen center to help meet the needs of the growing program.
  • Limestone County – $301,000 to provide pavement and drainage improvements on Chapman Hollow Road south of the town of Lester. The project is designed to alleviate flooding.
  • Morgan County– $250,000 to upgrade and add an addition to the Falk Senior Center. 
  • North Courtland– $347,300 to improve drainage along Davis Street and other parts of the town.
  • Red Bay– $445,000 to improve sewer lines in the southeast part of the city. 
  • Sheffield– $210,000 to demolish and clear multiple dilapidated residential and commercial structures throughout the city.
  • Tuscumbia– $365,000 to raze and clear 23 dilapidated structures located throughout the city.
  • Vina – $348,650 to install a new boost pump at a water storage tank to improve water flow and pressure.
  • Winfield– $450,000 to improve drainage and upgrade streets to alleviate flooding along Regal Street. 

North Central Alabama

  • Blountsville– $250,000 to repair and resurface parts of College Street, Chestnut Street, Church Street and Ratliff Street. 
  • Chilton County– $350,000 to pave more than four miles of county roads including County Roads 127, 128 and 201
  • Cleburne County – $350,000 to extend public water services to 32 households along portions of County Roads 49, 689, 114 and 447. 
  • Columbiana– $450,000 to improve the city’s main sewer line to prevent sewage backup and related problems.  
  • Detroit– $350,000 to install new water lines and add fire hydrants to benefit more than 100 residents.
  • Talladega (city)- $250,000 to demolish and clear dilapidated structures at several locations throughout the city. 
  • Woodland– $350,000 to replace water lines at several locations throughout the town to improve water quality and flow.
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South Central Alabama

  • Boligee – $350,000 to improve the town’s sewer lines and manhole covers to ensure no infiltration into the lines from rain and other sources. 
  • Brantley– $350,000 to rehabilitate or replace sewer lines and other components of its sewer system. 
  • Brantley– $32,000 for a planning grant to help develop a land-use plan, subdivision regulations and zoning ordinances.
  • Demopolis– $450,000 to resurface portions of nine streets to include South Glover Street, McGee Street, Hilltop Circle, East Capitol Street, East Lyon Street, North Chestnut Avenue, North Cherry Avenue, North Ash Street, and North Front Avenue. 
  • Franklin– $32,000 for a planning grant designed to help the town develop future plans. 
  • Greene County -$350,000 to improve 4.5 miles of roads including Basketball Lane, Sandy Way, Smoke Lane, Brush Creek Circle, Curve Lane, Country Road Lane, Plum Lane, Star Lane and Jasmine Lane.
  • Linden– $350,000 to resurface and improve drainage on Easley Street, Adams Drive, Ford Street, Brandon Avenue, Barkley Street, Lucas Street, Gardner Street and Louisville Avenue/Pool Street. 
  • Livingston– $450,000 to replace sewer lines in the north-central part of the city. 
  • Pine Hill– $350,000 to rehabilitate two sewer system lift stations. 
  • Phenix City– $250,000 to fund a city-wide cleanup of multiple dilapidated structures. 
  • Selma– $450,000 to improve drainage along LL Anderson Avenue, Arsenal Place, Alabama Avenue and Mechanic Street, and Highland Avenue.
  • Selma– $40,000 for a planning grant to help the city develop a strategy to deal with dilapidated structures, housing and economic development. 
  • Sumter County– $250,000 to renovate the Sumter County E911 Call Center to streamline emergency operations. 
  • Union Springs – $450,000 to improve water, sewer and drainage along Bloomfield Street, April Street and Tye Avenue.
  • Uniontown– $250,000 to demolish and clear several dilapidated buildings in the town. 
  • York– $350,000 to upgrade sewer lines and rehabilitate sewer mains in the Grant City community. 

Southeast Alabama

  • Ariton – $250,000 to resurface and improve drainage along Dillard Street, Zumstein Avenue, Williams Street, Barnes Street and Claybank Street.
  • Ariton– $30,000 for a planning grant to help the town develop long-range plans and goals. 
  • Crenshaw County– $350,000 to repave Helicon Cross Road and Rising Star Road north of Petrey. 
  • Cottonwood– $350,000 to replace old and damaged sewer lines and a failing lift station.
  • Daleville – $292,500 to replace water lines along Culpepper Street, Wells Avenue, Ennis Street and Holman Street.
  • Dozier– $250,000 to improve water pressure and improve fire protection capability in an area along Main Street.
  • Eufaula– $450,000 to implement the fourth phase of its housing rehabilitation program. The program will be in the Edgewood subdivision area. 
  • Hartford– $350,000 to replace sewer lines and components in the vicinity of Third Avenue. 
  • Headland- $450,000 to rehabilitate up to 30 substandard houses in the central and north part of the city. 
  • Florala– $350,000 to continue to rehabilitate old and damaged sewer lines in a project that has been ongoing with CDBG funds since 2005.
  • New Brockton– $314,000 to renovate and upgrade three sewer pump stations to improve sewage collection. 
  • Ozark– $250,000 to resurface at least a portion of nine streets including Brown Drive, Lowery Road, Julian Street, Wilson Avenue, Hall Drive, McDonald Avenue, Woodview Avenue, Brookview Drive and Parkview Drive. 
  • Pike County – $350,000 to resurface County Road 7749 (McLure Town Road), northeast of Troy and pave County Road 2256 south of Troy.
  • Troy– $250,000 to renovate a portion of the historic Academy Street School and convert it to a community and cultural arts center.  

Southwest/Coastal Alabama

  • Beatrice– $350,000 to replace deteriorating water lines and add fire hydrants. 
  • Conecuh County – $350,000 to pave sections of 26 roads throughout the county.
  • East Brewton– $337,000 to rehabilitate sewer lines and pumping station in the southeast part of the city. 
  • Elberta– $350,000 to improve drainage along Baldwin County Road 83 (Main Street) to alleviate flooding.
  • Escambia County – $350,000 to replace and extend water lines and install fire hydrants in the Ridge Road community. 
  • Frisco City– $250,000 to resurface at least part of several streets including Harvestview Drive, Martin Luther King Jr. Street, School Street, Wiggins Avenue, and Wild Fork Road. 
  • Fulton– $350,000 to pave at least sections of Main Street, Eighth Street, First Street and Green Acres Road.
  • Jackson– $208,000 to improve drainage on Cemetery Road including adding curbs and gutters. 
  • Lisman– $350,000 to resurface parts of Commerce Street, Thomas Drive, Kinnon Heights/Circle, Broad Street, Tower Street, Coleman Circle and West Second Avenue.

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Governor announces $200 million “Revive Plus” small business grant program

Revive Plus is the second wave of funding for organizations with 50 or fewer employees and will award grants of up to $20,000 for expenses.

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (VIA GOVERNOR'S OFFICE)

Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced Revive Plus, a $200 million grant program to support small businesses, non-profits and faith-based organizations in Alabama that have been impacted by COVID-19. Revive Plus is the second wave of funding for these organizations with 50 or fewer employees and will award grants of up to $20,000 for expenses they have incurred due to operational interruptions caused by the pandemic and related business closures.

“As the state has rolled out over $1 billion of the CARES Act monies to the individuals and businesses affected by COVID-19, it became evident the group most overwhelmingly hurt during the pandemic were the small ‘mom and pop’ shops,” Ivey said. “A second round of assistance through Revive Plus will ensure that the small business owners who have borne the brunt of the downed economy can be made as whole as possible. As we head into the holiday season, my hope is that this will be welcome news for our businesses and help ease their burdens from what has been a very hard year.”

Entities may receive up to $20,000 to reimburse qualifying expenses if they have not received federal assistance for the corresponding item they are claiming with the state of Alabama. The Revive Plus grant is in addition to any state of Alabama Coronavirus Relief Fund grant previously received, including the Revive Alabama Small Business, Non-Profit, Faith-Based, and Health Care Provider grants. There is no set cap on the number of entities that may be awarded a Revive Plus Grant. Grants will be awarded to qualifying applicants on a first-come, first-served basis until the funds are exhausted.

“The Revive Plus program is much needed in our small business economy,” said Senate General Fund Chairman Greg Albritton, R-Atmore. “I commend Governor Ivey for taking this action, recapturing unspent dollars and using a proven program to bring economic relief to our small business owners.”

Alabama received approximately $1.9 billion of CARES Act funding to respond to and mitigate the coronavirus pandemic. Alabama Act 2020-199 initially designated up to $300 million of the Coronavirus Relief Fund for individuals, businesses, non-profit and faith-based organizations directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. After the initial $100 million for small business that was reimbursed starting in July 2020, legislative leadership approved a second round of $200 million from allocations made to reimburse state government and from other grant programs that have ended with the full allocation unspent.

“This second round of funding for Alabama entities will provide much needed resources for our state’s economy,” said Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro. “I appreciate the governor and the Finance Department’s work to ensure we utilize these funds to the benefit of our citizens.”

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Entities may access grant information and the grant application through the Coronavirus Relief Fund website. The application period for the Revive Plus Grant Program will open at noon, Nov. 23, 2020 and run through noon, Dec. 4, 2020.

“This is welcome news for small businesses, non-profits and faith-based organizations that are continuing to feel the adverse effects of the Covid-19 virus,” said House General Fund Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark. “Time is of the essence and I urge all qualified entities to apply as soon as possible beginning Monday, November 23rd.”

A coalition of the Business Council of Alabama, the National Federation of Independent Business of Alabama (NFIB Alabama) and the Alabama Restaurant Association worked closely with the governor’s office to revisit the grant program after the initial round of Revive Alabama reached the $100 million cap.

“Businesses throughout the state are working diligently to keep their employees and customers safe, all while ensuring commerce throughout Alabama continues to move,” said Business Council of Alabama President and CEO Katie Britt. “Revive Plus will be essential in giving Alabama businesses access to the necessary and needed funding to keep their doors open and keep hard working Alabamians employed. Our broad coalition of businesses, associations and chambers commend Governor Ivey and her administration for putting these critical funds into the hands of businesses who need it most.”

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Qualifying entities must have been in business March 1, 2020, are currently in business and have a valid W-9 to apply for a Revive Plus Grant.

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