Daily News Digest – July 30, 2020

Daily News Digest – July 30, 2020
Good morning!
Todd is taking an overdue vacation so you will be seeing my name in the coming days.
Here’s your Daily News for Thursday, July 30.

1. COVID-19 update/ Face mask order extended to most Alabama students

  • Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday extended the statewide face mask order until Aug. 31 and will require most Alabama students and employees at schools and colleges to wear face coverings.
  • Ivey said that though the number of COVID-19 cases has not decreased significantly in recent weeks, the state cannot afford to halt all in-person teaching for students across the state.
  • “We don’t have the luxury of not getting our young people back in school,” Ivey said a press conference in the state capitol building Wednesday. “While I respect those districts that have elected to go to virtual classrooms, I feel with all my heart that a slide will come by keeping our kids at home, especially if there are other options, and that slide is likely to have a dramatic negative impact on Alabama’s future, our young people.”
  • Ivey said that she hopes those schools that have elected to start this school year teaching only virtually will reconsider and slowly phase into in-person teaching if the outlook of the virus is good in their areas.
  • State Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said he agrees with the new order extension and implored every Alabamian to keep wearing masks.
  • “Today, there is no argument on whether [masks] are effective,” Harris said. “This is the best tool we have right now to prevent transmission of the disease.”
  • State Superintendent of Education Eric Mackey late last week estimated that up to half of the state’s public school students will be attending classes remotely in the fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • More than 81,000 Alabamians have tested positive for COVID-19 and 21,947 cases were confirmed within the last two weeks, according to BamaTracker.com.
  • Daily COVID-19-caused hospitalizations remain at a high, but in the last three days have leveled off at just under 1,600, according to ADHP.
  • Read more about Ivey’s new order from me HERE.

 

2. AEA: 68% of teachers ‘very uncomfortable’ returning to school

  • Seventy percent of recently surveyed Alabama educators said remote learning should be the only option when the school year begins.
  • An Alabama Education Association survey conducted July 13-15 received 40,997 responses from teachers, administrators and support professionals. The largest group of respondents work in elementary schools, but middle and high schools and higher education were also represented.
  • The survey results, which are not scientific, were released Tuesday. They showed:
  • 68% of teachers are “very uncomfortable” returning to school in the fall if conditions then are like they are now.
  • Asked if COVID-19 has made them think about retiring earlier than expected or leaving the education profession, 43% of administrators, 35% of teachers and 31% of support professionals said yes.
  • “The purpose of the survey was to hear from our members about how they feel returning to school,” AEA President Sherry Tucker said in a written statement. “With 65% of survey participants being uncomfortable returning to their school building for the 2020-2021 school year and 36% considering leaving the profession or retiring early due to the virus, it is clear there are real issues and legitimate concerns regarding health and safety of students and educators. Our educators know their students and communities best and we need to listen to their concerns.”
  • Gov. Kay Ivey responded to these concerns at yesterday’s press conference saying that decisions have to be made on an individual basis, but also asks school districts to encourage in-person teaching whenever possible.
  • “Everything has to be done at a local level in decisions with that regard,” Ivey said. “Certainly, we want our teachers to be safe, as we want our workers at the schools and our students, so it’s a work in progress and we’ve just got to use good common sense.”
  • Read more about the survey from ADN’s Mary Sell HERE.

 

3. State job incentives expiring, but no guarantee on special session to renew

  • They’re described as the backbone and centerpiece of Alabama’s economic development efforts, incentives tied to some of the state’s biggest gets in recent years, including Mazda Toyota in Limestone County, Google in Jackson County and Shipt in Birmingham.
  • But the Alabama Jobs Credit, along with its sister Investment Credit, expire at the end of this year unless state leaders act.
  • The lesser-known but also used Growing Alabama Credit ends Sept. 31, unless renewed.
  • “Both of them are critical to economic development efforts, especially the Jobs Act,” said Jim Searcy, executive director of the Economic Development Association of Alabama.
  • The 2015 Alabama Jobs Act includes both the Jobs and Investment credits. When Alabama offered Mazda Toyota, expected to hire 4,000 workers, about $380 million in incentives in 2018, about $300 million of that was from the two Jobs Act incentives.
  • “That’s really the centerpiece of our economic development efforts in terms of incentives,” Searcy said.
  • The EDAA, the Alabama Department of Commerce and some lawmakers are hoping Gov. Kay Ivey will call lawmakers back to Montgomery for a special session to reauthorize the incentives.
  • “Gov. Ivey will continue working with bipartisan legislative leadership to evaluate the most immediate needs facing our state and determine if there is a need to convene on items that cannot wait until the Regular Session,” Gina Maiola, the governor’s press secretary, said.
  • If the incentives are not extended this year, the state’s already-approved commitments to businesses won’t be impacted. But waiting until lawmakers meet in the 2021 regular session to renew the credits puts the state’s recruiters on shaky ground as they now work on landing new projects, industry leaders said.
  • Read more from ADN’s Mary Sell HERE.

 

4. Dismukes resigns from church post/ School board member criticizes Ivey’s appearance

  • State Rep. Will Dismukes, who over the weekend participated in a birthday celebration of a late Ku Klux Klan leader, has resigned from his position as a pastor at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Prattville.
  • The resignation was reported Wednesday by The Alabama Baptist.
  • Since Sunday, Dismukes, R-Prattville, has faced heavy criticism and calls for his resignation after he posted on Facebook a picture of himself giving an invocation at a celebration Saturday of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate General and first Grand Wizard of the Klan.
  • “We are saddened and grieved to learn of the recent Facebook post by state Rep. Will Dismukes. … In the wake of tremendous controversy we reaffirm our opposition to any kind of racism,”  said Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
  • Read more about Dismukes resigning from ADN’s Mary Sell HERE.
  • Another Alabama political figure was in hot water on Wednesday.
  • While Gov. Kay Ivey was announcing the extension of her statewide face mask mandate and its impact on schools, a state board of education member was commenting on her appearance.
  • “She is gaining weight,” Wayne Reynolds wrote in the comment section of an al.com livestream of Ivey’s press conference. He later expanded on the statement, saying she looked heavy in the suit she was wearing, the outlet reported.
  • Ivey responded with this retort: “A lady never discusses her age or her figure — a true gentleman doesn’t either.”
  • Later Wednesday, Reynolds posted an apology on Facebook.
  • “My original intention was to comment that she looks healthy after recovering from her cancer treatment and am glad to see her doing well,” he said. “As a cancer survivor myself, I am acutely aware of the toll cancer treatment can take on your body, so thriving after cancer treatment is a good thing. Unfortunately my post did not convey this message. I therefore sincerely apologize.”
  • Read more from ADN’s Mary Sell HERE.

 

5. News Briefs

NASA launches Mars rover on Alabama-built rocket to look for signs of ancient life
  • CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The biggest, most sophisticated Mars rover ever built — a car-size vehicle bristling with cameras, microphones, drills and lasers — blasted off today as part of an ambitious, long-range project to bring the first Martian rock samples back to Earth to be analyzed for evidence of ancient life.
  • NASA’s Perseverance rode a mighty Atlas V rocket into the morning sky in the world’s third and final Mars launch of the summer. China and the United Arab Emirates got a head start last week, but all three missions should reach the red planet in February after a journey of seven months and 300 million miles.
  • The plutonium-powered, six-wheeled rover will drill down and collect tiny geological specimens that will be brought home in about 2031 in a sort of interplanetary relay race involving multiple spacecraft and countries. The overall cost: more than $8 billion.
  • In addition to addressing the life-on-Mars question, the mission will yield lessons that could pave the way for the arrival of astronauts as early as the 2030s.
  • “There’s a reason we call the robot Perseverance. Because going to Mars is hard,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said just before liftoff. “It is always hard. It’s never been easy. In this case, it’s harder than ever before because we’re doing it in the midst of a pandemic.”
  • Read more about the mission HERE.
US economy shrank at record-breaking 33% rate last quarter
  • WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy shrank at a dizzying 33% annual rate in the April-June quarter — by far the worst quarterly plunge ever — when the viral outbreak shut down businesses, throwing tens of millions out of work and sending unemployment surging to 14.7%, the government said Thursday.
  • The Commerce Department’s estimate of the second-quarter decline in the gross domestic product, the total output of goods and services, marked the sharpest such drop on records dating to 1947. The previous worst quarterly contraction, a 10% drop, occurred in 1958 during the Eisenhower administration.
  • Last quarter’s drop followed a 5% fall in the January-March quarter, during which the economy officially entered a recession triggered by the virus, ending an 11-year economic expansion, the longest on record in the United States.
  • The contraction last quarter was driven by a deep pullback in consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of economic activity. Spending by consumers collapsed at a 34% annual rate as travel all but froze and shutdown orders forced many restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and other retail establishments to close.
  • Business investment and residential housing also suffered sharp declines last quarter. Government spending, diminished by a loss of tax revenue that forced layoffs, also fell.
  • The job market, the most important pillar of the economy, has been severely damaged. Tens of millions of jobs vanished in the recession. More than 1 million laid-off people have applied for unemployment benefits for 18 straight weeks. So far, about one-third of the lost jobs have been recovered, but the resurgent virus will likely slow further gains in the job market.
  • Read more about the reports HERE.
Police examine red substance spattered at Alabama Capitol
  • MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama State Troopers are investigating a red substance that was discovered splattered across the steps of the Capitol on Wednesday.
  • Troopers responded to the steps outside the government building at around 5 p.m. to examine the substance, which left a trail all the way down the stairs, The Montgomery Advertiser reported.
  • Investigators determined the substance was “a non-permanent tomato-like paste,” the newspaper quoted Trooper Michael Carswell as saying.
  • Metal barricades were placed around the area, Carswell said. No arrests were made.
  • It was the second time police were called to the Capitol in two days. In a separate incident on Tuesday, a group of protestors were handcuffed and jailed after they began spray painting the asphalt in front of the building during a demonstration against the arrest of other protestors this month, the newspaper said.
  • Montgomery police Capt. Saba Coleman said protesters were detained and released Tuesday with charges pending. He did not say how many people were detained, but the ACLU of Alabama said nine people were arrested.

 

Headlines

INSIDE ALABAMA POLITICS – July 29, 2020
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Ivey extends face mask order, adds most Alabama students
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – AEA survey: 68% of teachers ‘very uncomfortable’ returning to school
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – State job incentives expiring, but no guarantee on special session to renew
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS– US economy shrank at record-breaking 33% rate last quarter
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS– NASA launches Mars rover to look for signs of ancient life
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Dismukes resigns as pastor of Prattville church
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – State school board member weighs in on Ivey’s appearance, apologizes
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – July 29, 2020
Montgomery Advertiser – Gov. Kay Ivey extends Alabama mask order through August as coronavirus pandemic continues
Montgomery Advertiser – Alabama schools look for path through pandemic as some students, districts return to campus
Montgomery Advertiser – Two indicted on federal charges in Kamille ‘Cupcake’ McKinney abduction, slaying
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – ADOC responds to federal review alleging excessive force against inmates
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – American Red Cross of Alabama not seeing convalescent plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – State health, education leaders to soon roll out tool kit for how schools can safely reopen
Tuscaloosa News – Suspect faces murder charge after baby dies
Tuscaloosa News – Space Camp in danger of closing permanently due to pandemic
Tuscaloosa News – Alabama corrections officers face excessive force charges
Decatur Daily – 30% of Decatur City Schools students register for virtual, blended instruction
Decatur Daily – City halts downtown restaurant’s attempted outdoor expansion
Decatur Daily – Mayor proposes upgrades to amphitheater
Times Daily – Bar manager: ABC order ‘will cut us in half’
Times Daily – Cherokee Officer Hearing Rescheduled for Tuesday
Times Daily – Tim Rhodes of Florence killed in plane crash
Anniston Star – COVID labs face high numbers of tests, calls, with few technicians
Anniston Star – Anniston’s stray animal costs down, budget officials say
Anniston Star – Package containing unknown seeds reported in Cleburne County
YellowHammer News – Ivey dismisses state school board member who insulted her appearance — ‘True gentleman’ doesn’t discuss woman’s age or figure
YellowHammer News – Publication gives Alabama high marks for business climate, workforce training
YellowHammer News – NASA head: Alabama-powered mission is history’s first aimed specifically at finding life on another planet
Gadsden Times – Local business grant program rejected by state
Gadsden Times – Ivey extends mask order, students now included
Gadsden Times – Two indicted for McKinney kidnapping
Dothan Eagle – Dothan Houston County Library System hires new director
Dothan Eagle – Staffing biggest challenge at SE Health as COVID hospitalizations reach record-high
Dothan Eagle – Pay study findings: Some Dothan City employees may get raises after compensation model restructured
Opelika-Auburn News – Cyber attack hit Auburn University Foundation vendor
Opelika-Auburn News – Watch now: Masks required in Alabama schools, colleges; Ivey extends Safer-at-Home order, mask mandate
Opelika-Auburn News – Lee Co. Schools pushes back start date; online until September at earliest
WSFA Montgomery – Opelika Police Department launches new community relations division
WSFA Montgomery – ALEA identifies red substance splattered on Alabama Capitol steps
WSFA Montgomery – Ramer church parishioners counter-balance negativity with Jesus 2020 campaign signs
WAFF Huntsville – Huntsville mayor said city has $10M-$15M deficit, but has a plan
WAFF Huntsville – Huntsville Police Department talks to city leaders about training and transparency
WAFF Huntsville – Huntsville mayor said city has $10M-$15M deficit, but has a plan
WKRG Mobile – Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey extends statewide mask mandate to August 31
WKRG Mobile – Pilot identified in deadly plane crash in Baldwin County
WKRG Mobile – Protester says he’s getting mixed messages over release of Mobile Police’s policies and procedures
WTVY Dothan – NASA’s latest Mars rover set to launch Thursday morning
WTVY Dothan – Early County Schools prepare for reopening on August 6th
WTVY Dothan – Suspects in murder of Kamille ‘Cupcake’ McKinney indicted on federal kidnapping charges
In Detroit summer school, temperature checks and health questions before math and reading
WASHINGTON POST – Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google grilled on Capitol Hill over their market power
WASHINGTON POST – Coronavirus relief talks hit impasse on Capitol Hill
NEW YORK TIMES – Teachers Are Wary of Returning to Class, and Online Instruction Too
NEW YORK TIMES – As Trump Undercuts Aid Talks, White House Says Extra Jobless Benefits Will Lapse
NEW YORK TIMES – Federal Reserve Leaves Rates Near Zero as Economic Recovery Sputters
WALL STREET JOURNAL – Trump Administration, Oregon Agree to Reduce Federal Agents in Portland
WALL STREET JOURNAL – Fed Maintains Stimulus Commitment as Economic Outlook Dims
WALL STREET JOURNAL – Democrats Reject Trump’s Push for Short-Term Coronavirus Aid Deal

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