As cases continue to mount and hospitalizations related to COVID-19 rise, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, said Tuesday that Alabama remains “in very dangerous territory” when it comes to the coronavirus.
“We are still in very dangerous territory,” Jones said. “We are in the middle of this first wave, not in a second wave.”
As of Tuesday, 45,263 Alabamians have tested positive for the virus. The state has recorded record hospitalizations in the last week.
National Institutes for Allergies and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci, who joined Jones on a press call Tuesday, said he favored requiring masks, requiring social distancing and closing bars as steps that will work on controlling the virus.
“Any covering is better than no masks,” Fauci said. “The best masks are the N95 masks, but we need to reserve those for healthcare workers.”
Fauci said that we have reopened the economy and sometimes it was opened “a bit soon,” adding that the U.S. has recently been reporting more than 50,000 cases of coronavirus per day — ”almost double what it was during our high baseline,” he said.
Fauci said that we should reopen the economy, but it should be done with precautions.
“I don’t think it should be all or none — a complete shutdown or throw caution to the wind,” Fauci said.
Fauci said the coronavirus is being spread through the respiratory route.
“Twenty to 40 percent of the people who are infected have no symptoms at all,” he said. “If you are within six feet of someone who is infected, even if they have no symptoms, you can be infected.”
Jones said that the median age for persons being infected has dropped fifteen years in recent weeks, but Fauci noted that the issue of young people getting infected has two issues: It is true that young people typically have less incidence of serious cases, but young people are still getting sick, being hospitalized and dying, just at rates lower than older populations. But Fauci also said that young people getting infected are propagating this epidemic, which could end up affecting more vulnerable populations.
“We should try to get the schools back open,” Fauci said. Closing the schools, he said, “has ripple effects for the family that override the health effects.”
Fauci said that the death rate for COVID-19 has dropped as the median age of persons infected has dropped and also because hospitals are doing a better job of treating COVID-19 patients, adding that there is no conclusive evidence that the virus has mutated into a less dangerous strain.
Fauci said that schools will reopen with different rules based on the level of infection in the community on a county-by-county basis. Masks may be required at all times, while schools should be working to increase the distance between desks modifying their schedules.
“It is not going to be a one size fit all,” he said.
Fauci was asked if a coronavirus vaccine, when it is developed, will be mandatory.
“I don’t think we have ever had a situation where we mandate a vaccine for the general population,” Fauci said. “That has not ever happened at a national level or even a state level.”
Fauci said that individual employers, like hospitals, may mandate the vaccine, but that he doubted there would be a vaccine mandate for the general population because it would be “encroaching on a person’s ability to make their own choices.”
Fauci said that we already have two therapeutics for COVID-19 for patients in advanced stages, including dexamethasone but more treatments are still needed.
“Over a thousand Alabamians have now died from this,” Jones said. “That is not acceptable.”
“30 percent of Alabama’s cases have come in the last two weeks,” Jones explained.
Most have come since Memorial Day and the weeks since Gov. Kay Ivey began loosening state restrictions. Many citizens are ignoring the warnings by not wearing a mask.
Jones said that four of Alabama’s five largest cities already have county-wide ordinances or the largest city has passed ordinances requiring masks in public places, adding that he has talked with Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, where the number of cases have tripled and hospitalizations are up 660 percent.
“We talk about how we are doing in the United States,” Jones said. “Only Brazil has done worse than we have, and we just received news that the president of Brazil has tested positive. The United States has not done a good job.”
Jones said that the number of tests in Alabama that come back positive has gone up in recent weeks. “That shows that we are getting community spread,” he said. The Alabama Political Reporter’s tracking of COVID-19 trends shows that the percentage of tests that are positive has gone up to 14 percent in recent weeks.
Jones said that Perry, Dallas, Bulloch, Marshall, Montgomery and Conecuh counties have been especially hard hit and some of those areas already have access to healthcare problems.
“We have seen some movement from Sen. McConnell” on another coronavirus relief bill, Jones said. “He says that he will have a package.”
While the House has passed a third relief package, that bill is not perfect, Jones said, but he said there are a lot of good things in that bill, the HEROES Act.
“He wants to write this bill himself,” Jones said. “We have no early idea what will be in that package. He is going to write this himself behind closed doors.”
Jones said that another red state has opted to expand Medicaid when voters in Oklahoma passed that last week. Alabama is now among just thirteen states that have not expanded Medicaid.
The Senate will be working on the National Defense Authorization Act as well as the coronavirus relief bill when they return this month, Jones said.
“We have got to take care of our military,” Jones said. “Several amendments will be offered, but I expect that it will pass in a bipartisan way.”
Reporters asked Fauci if Alabama would benefit from a statewide mask requirement.
“I do believe that a statewide mask order is important,” Fauci said. “Masks are important. … We should all be wearing masks when we are out in public.”
SEC moving forward with football even as the PAC 12, Big 10 postpone season
Tuesday, the Big 10 and PAC 12 conference presidents both voted to postpone all fall sports including football to the spring. The decision follows similar decisions by the Ivey League, SWAC (which includes Alabama State and Alabama A&M), University of Connecticut, MAC, and Mountain West. Four of the ten Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision conferences will not be playing this fall including two of the Power Five conferences. Despite this the Southeastern Conference (SEC), which includes both the University of Alabama and Auburn University, announced that they are moving forward with the football season.
“I look forward to learning more about the factors that led the Big Ten and Pac-12 leadership to take these actions today,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement Tuesday evening. :I remain comfortable with the thorough and deliberate approach that the SEC and our 14 members are taking to support a healthy environment for our student-athletes.”
“We will continue to further refine our policies and protocols for a safe return to sports as we monitor developments around COVID-19 in a continued effort to support, educate and care for our student-athletes every day,” Sankey said.
The PAC 12 and Big 10 conferences made the decision based on advice from the conference’s medical advisory boards. The fatality rate of COVID-19 among college age people is miniscule; however college students can and do get COVID-19. One side effect of surviving COVID-19 is myocarditis, a heart inflammation. Myocarditis is a weakening of the tissue between the chambers of the heart. It is treatable; but is irreversible. Once those tissues are weakened; they will remain weakened causing a number of health challenges for victims over the course of the remainder of their lives. It can lead to premature death.
Sources say that at least five Big 10 athletes have been diagnosed with myocarditis after surviving a bout with COVID-19. https://www.yahoo.com/now/report-at-least-five-big-ten-athletes-found-to-have-heart-inflammation-potentially-caused-by-viral-infections-224809885.html
Sankey told Dan Patrick that the conference has “been given the greenlight” from their medical advisory board. The ACC and Big 12 are also moving forward with plans to play football this fall.
SEC teams will open their fall camps on August 17. The SEC has already reduced the season to ten conference only games and moved back the start of the season from September 5 to Sept. 26. The move gives the conference more time to make a decision.
The conference is under political pressure from fans, players, coaches, and even President Donald J. Trump (R) to play football this season.
“We Must Do Everything Possible to Have Football this Year,” said former Montgomery Quarterback Club President and the father of three former Auburn football players Perry O. Hooper Jr. “We need College football this fall, period. It would be a terrible disservice to these young student/athletes who have worked so hard for so many years to throw in the towel without trying. This is not the American way.”
President Trump said, “Canceling the college football season would be a tragic mistake.”
“The SEC has it right, Start the schedule in late September with a conference only schedule with a set of protocols in place to be monitored by the SEC office,” Hooper said. “The College football hierarchy must listen to the players, the vast majority want to play.”
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence stated, “We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football. Having a season also incentivizes players being safe and taking all the right precautions to try to avoid contracting Covid because the season/ teammates safety is on the line. Without the season, as we have seen already, people will not social distance or wear masks and take the proper precautions.”
The Big 10 presidents voted to postpone fall sports to the spring; but the PAC 12 presidents went even further and voted to suspend all sports till at least January 1, 2021. This move impacts winter sports including basketball. College basketball players already lost the 2020 NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in March due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The decision by the PAC 12 and Big 10 conferences leave the college football postseason in shambles. There can be no playoffs without two of the Big Five conferences and with at least four of the ten major college conferences not playing it will be impossible to find enough teams with winning records to fill half the bowl spots. It is not at all certain that any of the bowls will actually be played.
167,671 Americans have already died from the COVID-19 global pandemic. 2,756,157 have recovered from their bought with the novel coronavirus strain, SARS-CoV-2. Now we are learning that some of those COVID survivors are facing debilitating conditions moving forward. It is heart inflammation for some and loss of some lung function for others.
Alabama GOP chair says Harris “drags the Democrats’ ticket even further to the left”
Tuesday, Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan released a statement critical of presumed Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden’s choice of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) as his running mate in the November 3 general election. Biden announced the pick to supporters via text message.
“Joe Biden’s VP pick drags the Democrats’ ticket even further to the left,” Lathan charged. “Kamala Harris was the first proud co-sponsor Bernie’s Medicare for All government healthcare takeover. She’s applauded efforts to defund the police and even led the charge to block meaningful police reform in the Senate. She even wants to use the federal government to ban plastic straws and to control what we eat – a move that would devastate the U.S. dairy and beef industries – all in the name of ‘climate change’.”
“We look forward to the clear contrast in policies in the Vice Presidential debate with Mike Pence and Senator Harris,” Lathan concluded. “It will be a true mirror of the obtuse plans the Democrats want for our nation. This ticket does not represent the values of the American people. They will see through all bogus attempts by the Democrats who will pretend to move to the center. They will fail, as their policies have, and America will vote to re-elect President Trump on November 3rd.”
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel similarly blasted the decision.
“A hiding, diminished, & incoherent Biden didn’t just select a VP candidate, he chose the person who will actually be in charge if he were somehow able to win,” Chair McDaniel said. “Harris’ radical policies may be popular among liberals, but they are well outside the mainstream for most Americans.”
“Kamala Harris’ extreme positions, from raising taxes to abolishing private health insurance to comparing law enforcement officials to the KKK, show that the left-wing mob is controlling Joe Biden’s candidacy, just like they would control him as president,” McDaniel concluded.
Harris is a U.S. Senator, former 2020 presidential candidate, and former California Attorney General. Her father is an immigrant from Jamaica and her mother is an immigrant from India. She identifies as Black and is the first non-White woman to be on a major party presidential ticket. Harris is the fourth woman to appear on a major party presidential ticket. The previous nominees: 1984 Democratic VP candidate Geraldine Ferraro, 2008 Republican VP candidate Sara Palin, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton all lost in the general election.
Current Vice President Mike Pence is expected to return as President Trump’s running mate.
Biden is expected to make a joint appearance with Harris on Wednesday in Delaware.
Polls taken prior to the Harris pick show Biden with a significant lead in polling, both nationally and in several key swing states. Alabama is expected to support Trump by a large margin.
Judge dismisses lawsuit against statewide face mask order
A Montgomery Judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit alleging Gov. Kay Ivey’s statewide mask order was illegally adopted.
Montgomery Circuit Judge Greg Griffin dismissed the lawsuit, filed by Debbie Mathis, a real estate agent, retired sheriff’s Deputies Larry Lewis and Barry Munza, which alleged that the Alabama Emergency Management Act of 1955 does not give the governor the ability to order Alabamians to wear face masks.
Ivey’s order, which went into effect July 16, requires the wearing of face masks when within 6 feet of those outside of their own household when indoors or outside when in gatherings of 10 or more people, with exceptions. The lawsuit was filed against Ivey, Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris and the Alabama State Board of Health.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall in the defendants’ motion to dismiss wrote that the plaintiff’s lacked standing to file the lawsuit and the defendants are immune to such lawsuits as accorded by the Alabama Constitution of 1901.
In a court filing supporting the motion to dismiss, Marshall wrote that “COVID-19 has threatened to overwhelm the State’s healthcare system with a large number of patients in need of Intensive Care Unit (“ICU”) capacity.”
“On July 15, 2020, with the State’s ICU bed capacity at 87%, Governor Ivey issued an emergency proclamation to implement State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris’s recommendation that masks or facial coverings be worn under certain circumstances,” Marshall wrote.
Despite the plaintiff’s allegations that the order was illegal, Marshall wrote in the filing that Ivey and Dr. Harris had the authority to issue such an order.
The judge agreed, and dismissed the case. The plaintiffs’ attorney said after the ruling that he planned to appeal the judge’s decision, according to Al.com.
Alabama Democratic Party: Mitch McConnell, Senate GOP are playing politics at the expense of families
Monday, the Alabama Democratic Party released a statement blaming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Senate Republicans for the inability of the two parties to come together to pass a bipartisan coronavirus aid bill before adjourning for the August recess.
“We are furious. You should be too. Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are once again playing politics at the expense of Alabama families,” the Alabama Democratic Party wrote in an email to its donors and supporters. “Mitch McConnell waited over two months after the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act to begin negotiations on a new relief package. He knew full well that many of the programs that Americans have relied on during this crisis would expire at the end of July. Now, many Alabama families are in dire straits and facing evictions. As Senator Doug Jones said, “this is completely inexcusable.”
Negotiations on a deal failed Thursday night https://www.alreporter.com/2020/08/07/negotiations-on-a-bipartisan-coronavirus-relief-bill-appear-to-have-broken-down/. Trump responded to the impasse by passing a series of executive orders to extend benefits for the unemployed and provide a break from payroll taxes.
“The President’s executive order is a thinly veiled attempt to fulfill his promise of cutting Medicaid and privatizing Social Security,” the Alabama Democrats responded to the President’s actions. “His payroll tax collection moratorium also leaves open the possibility that the taxes may need to be paid in a lump sum next year. We need a bipartisan solution from the Senate, not political stunts, and hollow executive orders.”
House Democrats wanted a $3.4 trillion stimulus; while the Republicans want to limit it to just $1 trillion.
“Tell Senate Republicans to extend unemployment benefits to 600 dollars weekly by signing our petition,” the Alabama Democratic Party wrote. “Alabama workers, displaced by the pandemic, should be able to provide for their families and pay their bills. Tell Mitch McConnell to quit playing games and act now.”