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Nearly 4,000 Alabama long-term care residents have contracted the coronavirus

At least 1,526 residents have been diagnosed since July 1. That is a rate of 45 new cases in long-term care facilities per day. In just the last two weeks, 842 long-term care facility residents have tested positive for the coronavirus. That is a rate of 60 new cases per day.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama Department of Public Health’s most recent data shows that 1,116 more Alabamians have tested positive for the coronavirus, taking Alabama’s total number of cases up to 89,927. Particularly troubling are the rising cases in Alabama’s nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

The department reported Monday that 3,968 residents of Alabama long-term care facilities have tested positive for the coronavirus since March. The rate of infections in long-term care facilities appears to be increasing at an alarming rate. Between April 6, when the ADPH first began reporting cases in long-term care facilities, and June 30, 2,242 residents of long-term care facilities had tested positive for the novel strain of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.

That is a rate of 28 new cases in long term care facilities per day.

At least 1,526 residents have been diagnosed since July 1. That is a rate of 45 new cases in long-term care facilities per day. In just the last two weeks, 842 long-term care facility residents have tested positive for the coronavirus. That is a rate of 60 new cases per day.

Because COVID-19 is particularly deadly to seniors, protecting seniors and people with pre-existing conditions has been a national priority since President Donald Trump announced the national public health emergency on March 12.

No one is more vulnerable than nursing home and long-term care facility residents. They typically are older than the general population and most have underlying medical conditions. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey ordered that nursing homes be locked down on March 13.

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Since then, visitors have not been allowed at most Alabama nursing homes, staff are temperature checked whenever entering the facility and getting personal protection equipment to the staff and nurses at long-term care facilities has been a priority.

“We’re deploying every tool, resource, and power at our disposal to protect our seniors and Americans of every age and background,” Trump said.

The problem is that while nursing home residents may live in isolation, the workers at long-term care facilities don’t live there. They go home to their families at the end of the workday — and with surging cases across the state, they contract the virus and, often without knowing it, bring it back to the facility where it spreads from resident to resident.

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At least 2,210 workers at Alabama long-term care facilities have been diagnosed with the virus, and 1,582 were diagnosed by June 30 — at a rate of 18 new cases per day. Since July 1, 628 workers at long-term care facilities have tested positive for the coronavirus — at a rate of 18.5 cases per day. In the last two weeks, 250 long-term care workers have tested positive for the virus. That is a rate of 17.9 cases per day.

The long term care industry is requesting an additional $100 billion for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Provider Relief Fund, which is accessible for all health care providers impacted by COVID-19, and that a sizeable portion of the fund be dedicated to helping nursing homes and assisted living communities cover the enormous costs associated with protecting vulnerable residents and staff from the virus, including constant testing, personal protective equipment and staffing.

Currently, nursing homes have only received approximately 4.3 percent of the $175 billion funding allocated from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund for healthcare providers. Meanwhile, assisted living communities have yet to receive any direct federal aid.

“With the recent major spikes of COVID cases in many states across the country, we are very concerned this trend will lead to a dramatic increase in cases in nursing homes and assisted living communities,” stated Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living. “Without adequate funding and resources, the U.S. will end up repeating the same mistakes from several months ago. We need Congress to prioritize nursing homes and assisted living communities in this upcoming legislation.”

Last week, the AHCA/NCAL sent a letter to the National Governors Association warning states of imminent outbreaks at nursing homes and assisted living facilities given the major spikes in new cases in several states across the U.S., combined with serious PPE shortages and significant delays in getting testing results for long term care residents and caregivers.

“Given the fact we are several months into the response of this pandemic and the lack of PPE supplies is still an issue is very concerning,” Parkinson wrote. “We request governors and state public health agencies to help secure and direct more PPE supplies to nursing homes and assisted living communities.”

The state’s current death toll from COVID-19 is 1,580, and 89,927 Alabamians have tested positive for the coronavirus. Only 35,401 of those are presumed to have recovered. There are likely tens of thousands of Alabama residents who are infected, but who have not been tested. Many of these are asymptomatic, presymptomatic or have such mild symptoms that they may not notice they are ill.

A total of 711,317 tests have been reported to the Alabama Department of Public Health since March. Overall, 12.6 percent of those tests have been positive. But in the past two weeks, nearly 20 percent of the tests have been positive. Public health experts say that percentage — known as the positivity rate — should be below 5 percent; otherwise, cases are going undetected and not enough tests are available.

The state is under a public health emergency. Gov. Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris have issued a “safer-at-home” order that will be in effect through the end of August. If you must leave your home, you are required to wear a mask or cloth face-covering any time you are around other people.

Public health authorities are urging everyone to remember to socially distance. Don’t shake hands or hug people. Avoid sick people even within your home. Wash your hands frequently. Don’t touch your face. 158,757 Americans have already died from COVID-19.

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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Courts

Lilly Ledbetter speaks about her friendship with Ginsburg

Micah Danney

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Lilly Ledbetter spoke during a virtual campaign event with Sen. Doug Jones on Sept. 21.

When anti-pay-discrimination icon and activist Lilly Ledbetter started receiving mail from late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ledbetter’s attorney told her to save the envelopes. That’s how unusual it is to get personal mail from a member of the nation’s highest court.

Ledbetter, 82, of Jacksonville, Alabama, shared her memories of her contact with Ginsburg over the last decade during a Facebook live event hosted by Sen. Doug Jones on Monday.

Ginsburg famously read her dissent from the bench, a rare occurrence, in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. decision in 2007. The court ruled 5-4 to affirm a lower court’s decision that Ledbetter was not owed damages for pay discrimination because her suit was not filed within 180 days of the setting of the policy that led to her paychecks being less than those of her male colleagues. 

Ledbetter said that Ginsburg “gave me the dignity” of publicly affirming the righteousness of Ledbetter’s case, demonstrating an attention to the details of the suit.

Ginsburg challenged Congress to take action to prevent similar plaintiffs from being denied compensation due to a statute of limitations that can run out before an employee discovers they are being discriminated against. 

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was passed by Congress with broad bipartisan support and signed into law by President Barack Obama. It resets the statute of limitation’s clock with each paycheck that is reduced by a discriminatory policy.

Ledbetter said that her heart was heavy when she learned of Ginsburg’s death on Friday. The women kept in touch after they met in 2010. That was shortly after the death of Ginsburg’s husband, tax attorney Marty Ginsburg. She spoke about her pain to Ledbetter, whose husband Charles had died two years before.

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“So we both shared that, and we shared a tear,” said Ledbetter.

Ginsburg invited her to her Supreme Court chambers to see a framed copy of the act, next to which hung a pen that Obama used to sign it.

Ginsburg later sent Ledbetter a signed copy of a cookbook honoring her husband that was published by the Supreme Court Historical Society. Included with it was a personal note, as was the case with other pieces of correspondence from the justice that Ledbetter received at her home in Alabama. They were often brochures and other written materials that Ginsburg received that featured photos of both women.

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Ledbetter expressed her support for Jones in his race against GOP challenger Tommy Tuberville. The filling of Ginsburg’s seat is a major factor in that, she said.

“I do have to talk from my heart, because I am scared to death for the few years that I have yet to live because this country is not headed in the right direction,” she said.

She noted that Ginsburg was 60 when she was appointed to the court. Ledbetter said that she opposes any nominee who is younger than 55 because they would not have the experience and breadth of legal knowledge required to properly serve on the Supreme Court.

She said that issues like hers have long-term consequences that are made even more evident by the financial strains resulting from the pandemic, as she would have more retirement savings had she been paid what her male colleagues were.

Jones called Ledbetter a friend and hero of his.

“I’ve been saying to folks lately, if those folks at Goodyear had only done the right thing by Lilly Ledbetter and the women that worked there, maybe they’d still be operating in Gadsden these days,” he said.

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National

Census report: Number of uninsured in U.S. increased in 2019

Eddie Burkhalter

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(VIA CENSUS BUREAU)

The number of uninsured in America rose in pre-COVID-19 pandemic 2019, for the third straight year, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released last week.

The bureau’s “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2019” report notes that while the median household income in 2019, increased 6.8 percent from the prior year, and the poverty rate fell by 1.3 percentage points during that time, the uninsured rate in the U.S. increased by 0.3 percent from 2018 to 2019, and the number of children without insurance in the U.S. increased by about 320,000 during that time.

The only state to have increased the number of insured residents between 2018 and 2019, was Virginia, which effective Jan. 1 2019, had expanded Medicaid in the state under the Affordable Care Act.

The report notes that while the percent of uninsured in Alabama fell from 10 percent in 2018, to 9.7 percent in 2019, the rate of uninsured in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid, which includes Alabama, was twice as high as rates in states that had expanded the federal program.

“The devil is in the details, and the details reveal Alabama’s failure to expand Medicaid has caused more poverty, hardship and uninsurance,” said Jane Adams, campaign director of the Cover Alabama Coalition, in a statement. “It’s shameful that Alabama has such a high uninsurance rate. It does not have to be this way. Governor Ivey could expand Medicaid today and provide an estimated 340,000 Alabamians with access to health insurance.”

The Cover Alabama Coalition is a group of more than 60 advocacy organizations that formed in April to urge Gov. Kay Ivey to expand Medicaid. Alabama is one of 14 states that hasn’t expanded the program.

Children living in the South were more likely to be uninsured than children living in other regions, Cover Alabama Coalition noted in a press release on the bureau’s recent report. Nearly eight percent of children in the South are uninsured, while just three percent of children in the Northeast lack health insurance, according to the report.

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“Due to COVID-19, the United States has endured the deepest recession since the Great Depression, fundamentally changing the country’s economic landscape,” the coalition noted in the release. “The economic fallout from COVID-19 will result in more poverty, uninsurance and debt. Medicaid expansion would help by generating nearly $3 billion a year in new economic activity throughout the state and creating an additional 30,000 jobs.”

Approximately 64 percent of Alabamians polled said they support expanding Medicaid in Alabama, including 52 percent of Republicans asked, according to a recent Auburn University at Montgomery poll.

While the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau data showed some gains from the previous year, the COVID-19 pandemic that came afterward had a clear impact on poverty and the number of uninsured.

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A study in July by Families USA, a Washington D.C.-based nonpartisan health care consumer advocacy nonprofit, found that 5.4 million workers lost health insurance in the U.S. between February and May of this year. The increase in uninsured was 39 percent higher than in any other annual increase on record.

A separate study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in July estimates that in the last three quarters of this year, 10.1 million in the U.S. will lose their employer-sponsored health care.

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Congress

Rogers disappointed Democrats have not offered a Homeland Security reauthorization

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mike Rogers (VIA CSPAN)

Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, wrote an editorial in the Washington Examiner saying that he is disappointed but not surprised that Democrats have yet to offer a reauthorization package for the Department of Homeland Security.

“It’s been over 1,100 days since the last Department of Homeland Security authorization bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Rogers said. “And as we approach the end of the 116th Congress, the chances grow thin of the majority introducing legislation to provide the Department of Homeland Security with the resources and authorities it needs to stop the growing threats to our homeland.”

“I wish I could say I’m surprised Democrats have yet to offer a reauthorization package,” Rogers wrote. “However, this is the party that started out this Congress with calls to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

Rogers slammed House Democrats for what he claimed is a trend of becoming increasingly anti-law enforcement and ignoring “violent mobs” that have been rioting in many major cities.

“This is the party that last year called the unprecedented migrant surge at the Southwest border a ‘Fake Emergency,’ and took half a year to vote on critical humanitarian funding to address the crisis,” Rogers said. “This is the party that turned a blind eye as violent mobs took over cities across our country. It’s reached the point that now some on the left are calling for the abolition of DHS and the defunding of our police.”

Rogers said that while Democrats have done nothing, House Republicans have introduced a two-year reauthorization bill in The Keep America Secure Act.

Rogers said that The Keep America Secure Act will provide DHS with the resources and authorities that the department needs to stay ahead of evolving threats and position DHS to be successful on new battlegrounds.

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Rogers is the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee and a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee

Rogers represents Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District. He is seeking his tenth term in the U.S. House of Representatives in this Nov. 3’s general election. Adia Winfrey is the Democratic challenger.

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Health

Alabama has fourth highest rate of coronavirus cases

Alabama has the fourth-highest per capita rate of COVID-19 cases in the country, trailing only fellow Southern states Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama has the fourth-highest per capita rate of COVID-19 cases in the country, trailing only fellow Southern states Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi.

Alabama has so far recorded at least 29,896 cases per million people, which amounts to 2.9 percent, nearly 3 percent, of the people in Alabama.

The Alabama Department of Public Health on Monday reported that 818 more Alabamians have tested positive for the coronavirus. This takes our state up to 145,780 diagnosed cases. At least 61,232 Alabamians have recovered from the virus.

But 82,109 Alabamians have active coronavirus cases. This is the ninth-highest raw total in the nation, trailing only Florida, California, Georgia, Arizona, Virginia, Maryland, Missouri and Texas — all states with higher populations than Alabama.

Alabama’s high rate of infection is not due to the state doing more testing. ADPH announced 5,500 more tests on Monday, taking the state up to 1,059,517 total tests.

Alabama is 40th in the nation in coronavirus testing.

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Tests as a percentage of the state’s population is just 22.8 percent. Louisiana on the other hand has 47 percent — the fifth highest rate of testing in the nation. Even Mississippi, at 26.4 percent, is testing at a higher rate than Alabama and are 29th in testing. Florida is 37th.

On Monday, ADPH reported two more Alabamians have died from COVID-19, taking the state death toll to 2,439. Alabama is 21st in death rate from COVID-19 at almost .05 percent.

New Jersey has had the highest COVID-19 death rate at .18 percent of the population. At least 257 Alabamians have died in September, though, to this point, September deaths are trailing both August and July deaths. At least 602 Alabamians died from COVID-19 in August.

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Hospitalizations from COVID-19 are also down. 780 Alabamians were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Sunday, down to levels not seen since before the July 4 holiday. At least 1,613 Alabamians were in the hospital suffering from COVID-19 on Aug. 6.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s July 15 mask order is being credited with decreasing the number of coronavirus cases in the state, which had soared to a seven-day average of 1,921 cases per day on July 19. The current seven-day average is 780 cases per day but is little changed in the last ten days.

The mask order expires next month, but most observers expect the mask order to be continued into November.

High school football and the Labor Day holiday weekend did not lead to a surge in cases; however, public health authorities remain concerned that colder weather and the return of flu season could lead to another surge in cases.

President Donald Trump has expressed optimism that a coronavirus vaccine could be commercially available this fall. A number of public health officials, including the CDC director, have expressed skepticism of that optimistic appraisal.

At least 969,611 people have died from COVID-19 globally, including 204,506 Americans.

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