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Alabama high school football to open on schedule with social distancing

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama High School Athletic Association announced Thursday that high school football and other fall sports will be played on schedule — but with modifications to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We’re looking forward to starting football practice on Aug. 3,” AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese told reporters. “I’ve asked all of our schools to be flexible, to be patient and be understanding because our life has not been as normal as we’d like it to be.”

Many school systems will start the school year remotely through e-learning and others have given the parents the option of educating their child through remote classes.

Savarese confirmed that those students will be allowed to participate in athletics if cleared by both the family and the school.

“We’re all going to have to adjust,” Savarese said. “Schools will try to make as many accommodations for individuals as possible, but we’re all going to have to be patient and understanding as we deal with this health issue.”

Many football fans applauded the decision.

“I have witnessed firsthand what the experience of playing football means to players at all levels,” said former State Rep. Perry Hooper Jr. “I applaud Steve Savarese Executive Director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association for developing a plan for High School fall sports to be played.”

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Dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic brings with it unique challenges.

According to the plan approved on Wednesday, any student with a prior confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis should undergo an evaluation by their medical provider. Written medical clearance is recommended prior to participation. Any student who was isolated or quarantined must complete a minimum five-day acclimation period once released before returning to sports.

A gradual return to activity is advised, and any athlete showing abnormal health issues should be evaluated and cleared by a physician prior to a return to sports activities. As much as possible, practices, training, workouts, meetings, etc. should be held outdoors. In accordance with the ALSDE “Roadmap to Reopening Schools,” contact-tracing is an ADPH function and not the responsibility of local schools.

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All individual mitigation practices should be observed at all times including non-athletic related activities.

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Editorial Committee prepared a document outlining modifications “meant to decrease potential exposure to respiratory droplets by encouraging social distancing, limiting participation in administrative tasks to essential personnel and allowing for appropriate protective equipment.”

The NFHS announced that to allow for more social distancing the members of the team box will be extended on both sides of the field to the 10-yard lines. Coaches however will continue to be restricted from 25 to 25-yard lines.

Cloth face coverings are permissible. Plastic shields covering the entire face (unless integrated into the face mask and attached to the helmet and clear without the presence of any tint) shall NOT be allowed during the contest.

Gloves are permissible but still must comply with Rule 1-5-2b by meeting either the NOCSAE Standard or the SFIA Specification.

Charged time-outs will be extended to a maximum of two minutes in length.

It will be permissible for more than one coach to be involved in the conference and for technology (headsets) to be used.

The intermission between periods (first/second and third/fourth) as well as the time period following a try, successful field goal or safety and prior to the succeeding free kick will also be extended to a maximum of two minutes.

Only one captain from each team may be present at the coin toss with the referee and umpire. The same procedure will be utilized for overtime.

In addition to the rule changes, the NFHS also made a list of best practices.

  • Individuals should maintain social distancing of 6 feet at all times while in the team box.
  • Individuals should not share uniforms, towels and other apparel and equipment.
  • The ball should be cleaned and sanitized throughout the contest as recommended by the ball manufacturer. Ball handlers should maintain social distancing of 6 feet at all times during the contest.
  • Officials may use an electronic whistle and wear cloth face coverings.
  • All individuals, including each player and official when brought out on the field during time outs, should have their own beverage container.
  • The NFHS recommends that there be no handshakes during the coin toss, pregame or postgame.
  • Players, coaches, team personnel and game administration officials should wash and sanitize their hands as often as possible.
  • Gloves and cloth face coverings are permissible for all coaches, team staff and game administration officials.
  • Non-essential personnel should be restricted from the field during the contest.
  • If available, dressing facilities for game officials and teams should be large enough for them to use social distancing protocols and should be properly cleaned and sanitized prior

The NFHS has released similar guidelines for the other fall sports. They can be found on the AHAA website.

Savarese is the president-elect of the NFHS. His one year term as president will begin July 2021.

“It will not be easy, but I feel confident that a plan can be developed to assure the safety of our student-athletes,” said Hooper.

We still do not know if there will be fans in the stands.

Savarese said that he hopes that in the coming weeks the Alabama Department of Public Health will release guidelines on group events such as high school stadiums and gymnasiums.

4,315,709 Americans have contracted the novel strain of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and 149,398 of them have died, including 1,428 Alabamians.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Baldwin, Escambia and Mobile residents impacted by Sally urged to apply for federal aid

FEMA has approved $11.1 million in housing grants to individuals and families through Sept. 28, according to the governor’s office. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday announced more than $11 million in federal disaster aid has been approved for those impacted by Hurricane Sally in Baldwin, Escambia and Mobile counties.  

FEMA has approved $11.1 million in housing grants to individuals and families through Sept. 28, according to Ivey’s office. 

“Hurricane Sally took a punch to our coastal areas, but thanks in part to the millions of dollars in federal assistance, the people of Alabama are moving along the road to recovery,” Ivey said. “I remain grateful to President Trump, Administrator Gaynor and their teams for prioritizing the people of Alabama reeling from Hurricane Sally. We will get through this together; we have done it before, and we will do it again.”

Federal grants to repair homes or for renting temporary housing made up $8.9 million of the FEMA funding. Grants for childcare, moving and storage, medical and dental comprised the remaining $2.1 million. 

The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved an additional $570,900 in disaster home repair loans for those impacted by Sally.

Ivey’s office encourages homeowners and renters in Baldwin, Mobile and Escambia counties to apply to FEMA for federal disaster assistance as soon as possible. Residents of these three Alabama counties may also be eligible to receive assistance for uninsured and underinsured damage and losses resulting from the hurricane.

Residents in those three counties impacted by Hurricane Sally may register for FEMA disaster assistance online by visiting disasterassistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362. Persons who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY may call 800-462-7585. Multi-lingual operators are available. The toll-free lines are open daily from 6 a.m. to midnight CST.

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Those with a homeowner’s insurance policy are encouraged to file an insurance claim before applying for federal assistance. 

Information that may be useful to have when you register include:

  • Address of the damaged primary dwelling where the damage occurred
  • Current mailing address
  • Current telephone number
  • Insurance information and description of disaster-caused damage and loss
  • Total household annual income
  • Names and birth dates of family members who live in the household
  • Name and Social Security number of co-applicant (if applicable)
  • Routing and account number for checking or savings account so FEMA may directly transfer disaster assistance funds

 For more information on Hurricane Say visit FEMA’s website here.

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Education

New website for state resources for children, families launches

The website provides access to all the state’s resources for children and their families, including child care, education, family services and health services.

Eddie Burkhalter

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A screengrab of the Alabama Family Central website.

Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday announced the creation of a centralized website for the state’s social service programs and services for children and families. 

Alabama Family Central was created through a $500,000 allocation by the state Legislature from the state’s Education Trust Fund budget and provides access to all the state’s resources for children and their families, including child care, education, family services and health services, according to Ivey’s office. 

“Alabama Family Central will ensure that all parents and children in our state have access to crucial information and resources from numerous state agencies and non-profit organizations,” Ivey said in a statement. “Great parents need strong partners, and I am proud of the strong collaboration between the state and private sector to offer a one-stop shop of assistance for Alabama families. I appreciate the Alabama Partnership for Children spearheading this effort.”

In addition to pointing visitors to state programs and services, the website also points families who are undertaking remote school learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic to A+ Education Partnership, which advocates for quality education in Alabama.

The state website specifically directs visitors to a page that provides COVID-19 resources for parents, including sections on guidance and decision-making, supporting learning from home and coping and well-being. 

“When I learned that our students would be learning remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my heart immediately went out to the parents who would need assistance teaching their children at home,” said State Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, in a statement. “I requested funding to set up such assistance, so I humbly thank Governor Kay Ivey and Senator Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, for granting that request. It was a pleasure working with A+ Education Partnership and the Alabama Partnership for Children to incorporate this idea into their programs, and I look forward to its expansion. Every child deserves access to the highest quality education, no matter their circumstances.”

The Alabama Family Central website includes:

  • A+ Education Partnership
  • Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention
  • Alabama Department of Early Education
  • Alabama Department of Education
  • Alabama Department of Human Resources
  • Alabama Department of Mental Health
  • Alabama Department of Public Health
  • Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services
  • Alabama Medicaid

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Congress

Palmer supports legislation making unused PPP funds available to small businesses

There is an estimated $137 billion remaining in the Payroll Protection Program that could be immediately available to small businesses.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Congressman Gary Palmer, R-Alabama, added his signature to a discharge petition that would force a vote on a bill that would allow unused Paycheck Protection Program funds to be made available for small businesses.

There is an estimated $137 billion remaining in the Payroll Protection Program that could be immediately available to small businesses. The program has kept thousands of small businesses open since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many are still in need as the economy continues to recover.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has refused to hold a vote. The Democratic controlled House passed the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act, which Republicans opposed.

Palmer and House Republicans accuse Pelosi of holding American workers and businesses “hostage,” preferring the Democrats’ relief legislation.

“Speaker Pelosi has made her objectives abundantly clear,” Palmer said. “We could have negotiated and delivered immediate aid for small businesses and individuals weeks ago, but her leftist agenda always comes first. Many businesses are barely hanging, on anxiously awaiting the extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, but Pelosi is determined to hold them hostage to get her way. She would like to bail out states that were bankrupt before the pandemic and further a welfare agenda that is harmful to the economy. Today, I proudly signed a discharge petition to circumvent Pelosi’s control of the House floor and force a vote on a bill that would bring real relief to businesses struggling to survive the pandemic. It’s time for Members of Congress to stand up for small businesses and American workers since the Speaker clearly won’t. Small businesses across the country can’t wait.”

A discharge petition on H.R. 8265 was filed on Friday by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington, and 218 signatures are needed to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote. The bill was introduced on Sept. 16 by Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio.

“This public health crisis has left our small businesses near permanent closure, and that will happen on a massive scale if Congress doesn’t act,” Beutler said. “Yet Congress isn’t acting, so I’ve filed the discharge petition in the House today so we can bypass the political posturing and bring relief to our nation’s small businesses and their employees. Other relief remains vital, but we either save jobs and businesses now or provide triage soon for the damage caused by empty buildings, lost livelihoods and health care plans, and fewer employment opportunities overall. Reviving the PPP has to be our priority.”

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“The Paycheck Protection Program has served as a critical lifeline for America’s small businesses,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California. “Since its launch, the program is credited with saving 51 million jobs nationwide. But our work in helping small business owners stay open and keep employees on payroll is not done. A recent report indicates that as many as 36 percent small businesses say if no new funding comes from Congress soon, they will be forced to lay off workers or cut back hours. Democrats have consistently blocked or delayed relief, but Republicans are not giving up. That is why House Republicans, led by Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler have filed a discharge petition to force a vote on a stand-alone extension of the Paycheck Protection Program through the end of the year. It only needs 218 signatures to force a vote, so I hope that our Democrat colleagues will join us in delivering relief. My Republican colleagues and I will continue to act on our Commitment to America; we will be relentless in our fight to protect jobs, small businesses, and the American dream.”

“Since March, small businesses—corner stores, retail shops, and family restaurants—have been struggling to survive,” Chabot said. “Congress worked in a bipartisan manner to pass the CARES Act, which delivered rapid assistance to small firms through programs like the Paycheck Protection Program. Unfortunately, in recent months, additional relief for small businesses has been caught up in the partisan logjam and the livelihoods of real people hang in the balance. Congress must work together to get help to small businesses in Washington, Ohio, and across our great nation. Rep. Herrera Beutler’s discharge petition to force a vote on my legislation is the way to do just that. I thank her for her leadership on behalf of America’s small businesses.”

Multiple news outlets, including Roll Call and The Hill, are reporting that several House Democrats are “strongly considering” signing Beutler’s discharge petition.

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Palmer represents Alabama’s 6th Congressional District. Palmer does not have a Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 general election.

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Agriculture Secretary Perdue to tour storm damage today

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue will tour farms in South Alabama on Monday to see damages from Hurricane Sally.

Brandon Moseley

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate and Gov. Kay Ivey’s chief of staff Jo Bonner will visit South Alabama on Monday to tour damages following Hurricane Sally.

They will visit Flowerwood Nursery, a horticulture operation in Loxley, Alabama, severely impacted by Hurricane Sally.

Perdue, Pate and Byrne will also meet with Baldwin County farmers at a visit to Underwood Family Farm, a pecan farm in Summerdale.

Following the two stops in Alabama, Perdue will visit Jenkins Farm in Jay, Florida, a cotton farm impacted by Hurricane Sally. The secretary will hold a roundtable discussion with local Florida farmers and stakeholders impacted by Sally.

Hurricane Sally came ashore on Sept. 16 as a category two hurricane with 105 miles per hour winds and torrential rains. The wind, the downpour and then the flooding devastated crops in the area as well as blowing down trees and damaging homes and businesses.

Sally was the first hurricane to make landfall in Alabama in 16 years.

“Throughout Southwest Alabama, winds and flooding have left many without essentials like power, water and shelter,” Byrne said on Thursday. “Fortunately, help is on the way.”

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“Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who experienced significant damage during this powerful hurricane,” Pate said. “Alabama farmers have already faced economic hardships this year due to market instability, trade concerns and the coronavirus pandemic.”

Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia Counties have been declared a natural disaster area by the Trump administration.

“I went up to Escambia County today to check out some storm damage around Atmore and meet with local officials,” Byrne said. “Thanks to Sheriff Jackson for showing me some of the damage. It wasn’t just the coastal counties who took a beating from Hurricane Sally. Residents of Escambia County are all eligible to seek Individual Assistance from FEMA for any disaster related issues.”

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The Alabama Farmers Federation has started a relief fund so that people can help Alabama farmers who were impacted by Hurricane Sally.

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