The Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition
Here’s your Daily News for Thursday, May 21.
1. Trouble in Montgomery
- “Right now, if you’re from Montgomery and you need an ICU bed, you’re in trouble. If you’re from central Alabama and you need an ICU bed, you may not be able to get one. … We don’t want to lose anyone — any life — because we don’t have the resources to treat them in this community.”
- Those are the words of Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, who held a news conference Wednesday informing the public about the critical situation facing the capital city and urging residents to take it seriously.
- A recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Montgomery has most area hospitals out of ICU beds, leaving not just Montgomery, but Central Alabama without the resources to treat coronavirus cases.
- Baptist South, Baptist East and Prattville Baptist are reportedly all out of ICU beds. The Montgomery Advertiser’s Brad Harper reports that Jackson Hospital had one ICU bed as of Wednesday.
- Reed said he is considering imposing tighter restrictions on social gatherings.
- Read more from Brad Harper HERE.
2. Hospitals in a tight spot
- Speaking of Alabama hospitals, many of them are in a tight spot revenue wise thanks to the coronavirus outbreak.
- While essential health care workers have risen to the task of helping to save people’s lives, their employers now face a tough outlook financially.
- Alabama hospitals lost about $739 million in revenue from mid-March to the end of April because of COVID-19, according to data collected by the Alabama Hospital Association.
- The 93 acute care hospitals statewide had $101 million in COVID-related expenses, including personal protection equipment, in the seven-week period.
- “Obviously, that’s not sustainable,” Alabama Hospital Association President and CEO Dr. Don Williamson told Alabama Daily News. He previously served as Alabama’s state health officer.
- Williamson said the revenue losses were a “decline in business” attributable to cancelled procedures and people delaying hospital care if possible.
- And while federal CARES Act money offered some relief to Alabama hospitals, it barely covered half of the revenue losses they are now experiencing.
- “We have got to get (COVID-19) under control so the system can begin to function normally. Otherwise, I have no doubt we will lose rural hospitals,” Williamson said. “We may lose some large hospital systems as well.”
- Full story from ADN’s Mary Sell HERE.
A message from
The Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition
- The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the significant need and demand for the expansion of rural broadband all across Alabama.
- Fast and reliable internet is something that all Alabamians should enjoy, not just those who are fortunate enough to live within the current coverage areas.
- For Alabama to thrive in a 21st century economy, every Alabamian should have access to a reliable internet connection. High-speed broadband is a basic personal necessity in today’s society and will bring an array of benefits related to education, telemedicine, economic development and agriculture.
- Our children, our economy and our livelihood depend on it.
3. Pomp and masks: Graduations draw thousands despite pandemic
- High schools nationwide have canceled or postponed traditional graduation ceremonies to avoid worsening the spread of the new coronavirus, but some plunged ahead with full-fledged springtime commencement exercises as usual, with tweaks to account for health concerns.
- Thousands of graduates, parents, siblings and grandparents were invited to a nearly 11,000-seat stadium on Wednesday and Thursday nights in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover, where two high schools — among the largest in Alabama — were organizing traditional commencement exercises despite COVID-19.
- Two schools in nearby cities held their ceremonies Tuesday, with chairs for more than 540 graduates spread apart across a football field at Thompson High and a keynote address by the state school superintendent. Few wore protective face masks, and seniors hugged and gathered in tight groups for pictures.
- School officials in Hoover announced the ceremonies in the city’s open-air baseball stadium, after Gov. Kay Ivey had ended state restrictions on the size of group gatherings, as long as people from different households stay 6 feet apart.
- Hundreds of chairs for graduates were spread across the dirt infield with spectators assigned seats on metal bleachers and in blue stadium seats. Red tape blocked seats to be avoided.
- Kathy Murphy, the city school superintendent, said the ceremonies complied with the rules.
- “All of our students will be celebrated, even those who choose not to come, and we understand that. But we will call their names,” Murphy said in a video posted online.
- Full story from Jay Reeves HERE.
4. Manasco confirmed to federal bench, LaCour named
- The U.S. Senate on Wednesday confirmed Anna Manasco of Birmingham as a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Alabama. Manasco was nominated for the federal judgeship by President Donald Trump in February. Following her nomination, she appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration and was reported out of the committee with bipartisan support.
- “Anna Manasco is immensely qualified to be a U.S. District Judge, and her confirmation by the Senate (Wednesday) is a victory for Alabama and the entire nation,” Sen. Richard Shelby said in a written statement. “Her extensive litigation experience, academic accomplishments, and strong commitment to upholding the rule of law as it is written make her the ideal candidate for this role. I am confident she will serve honorably, exhibiting fairness and impartiality.”
- Manasco was a partner at the law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, LLP in Birmingham, where her practice focused on trial strategy and appeals in complex commercial litigation. She earned her Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude, from Emory University, her Master of Science and Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Oxford, and her Juris Doctor from Yale Law School, where she served as executive editor of the Yale Law & Policy Review.
- Separately, Alabama’s solicitor general has been nominated to serve as a judge on the federal bench.
- Trump has officially named Edmund G. LaCour Jr. to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District.
- LaCour is a summa cum laude graduate of Birmingham Southern College and earned his juris doctor degree from Yale Law School. The U.S. Senate must confirm his nomination.
- Full story HERE.
5. Watchdog cites persistent infection lapses in nursing homes
- Before COVID-19 killed thousands of nursing home residents, about 4 in 10 homes inspected were cited for infection control problems, according to a government watchdog report Wednesday that finds a “persistent” pattern of lapses.
- In light of the pandemic, seemingly minor cutting of corners such as an employee caring for residents while battling a cold has taken on new significance.
- The report from the Government Accountability Office found that state inspectors who help enforce federal nursing home standards classified the overwhelming majority of violations as not severe, generally meaning there was no actual harm to residents. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services carried out enforcement actions for 1% of violations classified as not severe from 2013-2017, the report said.
- Nursing homes ended up bearing the brunt of the coronavirus outbreak. About 1.4 million people live in some 15,500 facilities in the United States. Most of those people were already at higher risk due to age and medical history, and they also shared dining rooms, recreation areas, bathrooms and sleeping quarters.
- An ongoing tally by The Associated Press has found over 34,000 coronavirus-related deaths at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, more than one-third of all COVID-19 deaths in the country.
- The GAO report found that about 40% of the nursing homes inspected in each of the past two years were cited for problems with infection control and prevention.
- Full story HERE.
Parole Board resumes hearings after 2-month pause
- MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles denied release to 90% of the inmates up for consideration during its first hearing following a monthslong suspension amid the coronavirus pandemic.
- The board voted to deny parole to 20 out of 22 inmates it reviewed on Tuesday, according to a statement from the agency.
- The two inmates granted parole were incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, while 13 of the inmates denied parole were convicted of violent crimes, the statement said.
- The board announced on May 8 that it planned to hold 161 parole hearings this month, though they would be closed to the public. It initially suspended hearings at its offices in Montgomery in March, and some had complained that the moratorium could lead to an increase in the state’s already overcrowded prison system, where inmates could also be at risk of contracting the new coronavirus.
- The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama cited the virus’ spread in a news release Tuesday, calling the number of denials “grossly irresponsible.”
- The ACLU has raised concerns about a decline in the number of paroles granted as the number of inmates eligible for parole increases along with the state’s prison population.
- Bureau of Pardons and Paroles Director Charlie Graddick told legislators in January that prison overcrowding should not be a factor in parole decisions, Al.com reported.
Alabama stadium project resumes after positive virus tests
- TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Work on Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium has resumed after an undisclosed number of workers tested positive for the coronavirus, temporarily halting work on the construction project.
- Montgomery-based Caddell Construction Company, the project’s chief contractor, told The Tuscaloosa News that work resumed Monday after the weekend stoppage.
- The company didn’t disclose the number of positive tests but said it “restricted operations over the past weekend after receiving notice of positive tests among some employees and trade partners.”
- “This allowed us to engage in additional deep-cleaning and provide testing by an independent laboratory so all of our team members could be cleared before returning to the job site,” Caddell said in a statement.
- The university said in a statement to the newspaper that it had “provided sanitation supplies … and personal protection equipment” to all contractors.
- The $107 million project began shortly after the 2019 season ended. The upgrades include new premium seats and larger video boards, along with expanded concourses.
- Alabama’s season opener is scheduled for Sept. 12 against Georgia State.
Fairfield files bankruptcy citing millions in debt
- FAIRFIELD, Ala. (AP) — The Birmingham suburb of Fairfield has become the latest local government in Alabama to file for bankruptcy, citing liabilities of as much as $10 million.
- News outlets reported that the city of about 11,000 people filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday.
- Mayor Eddie Penny said the city needs a fresh start after struggling with finances for years. “It gives an opportunity to reorganize, reassess our finances,” he said.
- The pandemic only worsened the city’s condition because several businesses have closed, he said, but officials have no plans to curtail municipal services or lay off employees. The city is home to U.S. Steel’s Fairfield Works, which has shrunk in size.
- Al.com reported that at least a dozen Alabama cities or counties have sought bankruptcy protection over the last three decades. Fairfield is in Jefferson County, which in 2011 filed what was at the time the nation’s largest government bankruptcy ever, totaling more than $4 billion.
- Fairfield’s largest creditor was listed as US Bank, with an $18 million unsecured claim. The city owes more than $1.7 million to Jefferson County, which has since emerged from bankruptcy court.
- The president of the Jefferson County Commission, Jimmie Stephens, said government officials have been discussing ways to deal with Fairfield’s problems.
- “There’s talks of dissolving and going back into Jefferson County. There’s talks of merging with other municipalities. There’s talks of restructuring their debt,” said Stephens.
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama hospitals lost $739M in revenue in March, April
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Manasco confirmed to federal bench, LaCour named
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Pomp and masks: Graduations draw thousands despite pandemic
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Watchdog cites persistent infection lapses in nursing homes
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Harris: Virus numbers ‘not as good as we could hope for’
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – 55 new classroom added to state’s award-winning pre-K program
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Cygnal poll: Tuberville has large lead over Sessions
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Poarch Creeks donate $500K for testing supplies and equipment
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – VA home retesting residents for COVID-19; Mental health hospital sees cases increase
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – May 19, 2020
AL.COM – Montgomery running out of ICU beds as coronavirus cases double in May
AL.COM – More than 700,000 visitors to Gulf Shores beaches since re-opening; patrols busy
AL.COM – Whipping out the plastic less; trend shows hard road back from lockdown for Alabama businesses
AL.COM – Alabama PACT program boosts tuition payments by 7%
AL.COM – Alabama engineer helping NYC homeless fight COVID-19
AL.COM – $11 million in aid aimed at state’s seafood, fishing industries
AL.COM – Mayoral candidate in rural Alabama campaigns on public hangings for drug dealers
AL.COM – Columnist Kyle Whitmire: What is Alabama’s AG still hiding? Lawsuit seeks answers
AL.COM – Tuberville misses deadline for filing financial disclosure
AL.COM – Parole board resumes hearings, turns down 18 of 20
AL.COM – Contributor Kay Ivey: Census? Senseless? No, it’s not just about you.
Montgomery Advertiser – Montgomery hospitals are down to 1 ICU bed and sending patients to Birmingham
Montgomery Advertiser – Donors offer money to help Montgomery-area small businesses reopen
Montgomery Advertiser – NewSouth Books publisher inches his way back after 15-foot fall from roof, massive injuries
YellowHammer News – Doug Jones on Joe and Hunter Biden investigation: ‘We cannot go around trying to investigate every perceived enemy of the president, especially this president’
YellowHammer News – Trump to nominate Alabama solicitor general to federal judgeship
YellowHammer News – Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame announces 12 inductees for 2020
Tuscaloosa News – Investigation into 13-year-old’s pregnancy leads to rape and abuse charges
Tuscaloosa News – Alabama lawyer named to federal bench
Decatur Daily – Victims of domestic abuse seeing fewer avenues of relief amid coronavirus pandemic
Decatur Daily – Morgan school board non-renews nine teachers
Decatur Daily – DU plans $3.8 million water booster station to benefit industry
Times Daily – 55 new classroom added to state’s award-winning pre-K program
Times Daily – Thompson seeks Place 3 council seat in Muscle Shoals
Times Daily – Parole denied for man convicted in local drug case
Anniston Star – Alabama’s health order expires Friday; officials still advise caution
Anniston Star – Free summer food programs start in June for local schools
Anniston Star – Organ transplant last month gives Cleburne County man new hope
Gadsden Times – Max Packaging closes temporarily to cope with COVID cases
Gadsden Times – Landen Skillman gets drive-by parade before heading to Memphis for cancer treatments
Gadsden Times – Gadsden first responders honor healthcare workers
Dothan Eagle – Former Auburn football coach Pat Dye hospitalized with kidney issues, positive for COVID-19
Dothan Eagle – Dothan Utilities resuming cutoffs due to nonpayment
Dothan Eagle – Slocomb man arrested for attempting to cash forged checks
Troy Messenger – Pike County Farm City receives statewide awards
Troy Messenger – Portion of Montgomery Street to close for maintenance
Troy Messenger – ‘More people are definitely sick’
Andalusia Star News – County receives EFSP funding to supplement food and shelter programs
Andalusia Star News – ALDOT road update for Memorial Day Holiday travel
Andalusia Star News – 3 arrested for murder, robbery in Crestview
Opelika-Auburn News – Florida governor approves short-term rental property reopening for Okaloosa, Walton counties, Bay to reopen soon
Opelika-Auburn News – Pat Dye hospitalized with kidney issues, positive for COVID-19
Opelika-Auburn News – Opelika school board outlines graduation ceremony plans
Daily Mountain Eagle – Absentee voting again can be in person
Daily Mountain Eagle – Sumiton to hold Sunday alcohol vote after election
Daily Mountain Eagle – Walker has first COVID death; probate gets long lines
Trussville Tribune – ADOL has paid out more than $1 billion in unemployment benefits; 88% of COVID-19 related claims have been paid
Trussville Tribune – Morning Update: Alabama adds 15 COVID-19 deaths since Tuesday morning
Trussville Tribune – Graduation ceremonies in Alabama draw thousands despite pandemic fears
Athens News Courier – FAME Academy sends students Field Day in a bag
Athens News Courier – SARRELL DENTAL: Commission agrees to lease amendment
Athens News Courier – USDA announces programs for farmers affected by COVID-19
Sand Mountain Reporter – UP IN SMOKE | Fire breaks out, damaging Albertville shopping center
Sand Mountain Reporter – Wigley gives update on at-home learning, plans for next school year
WSFA Montgomery – Family thanks nurses who used notes on hospital window to tell them father died of COVID-19
WSFA Montgomery – Relief fund launched to help Montgomery small businesses impacted by COVID-19
WSFA Montgomery – Man charged with attempted murder of Montgomery police officers
Fox 6 Birmingham – As prison project moves forward, lawmakers still have questions
Fox 6 Birmingham – BJCTA receives over $21M grant to help during pandemic
Fox 6 Birmingham – New numbers show it could cost $7.5M to test all AL nursing home residents, staff once
WAFF Huntsville – Teledyne Brown, UAH, MSFC to work on NASA mission study for ISS
WAFF Huntsville – Pandemic has cost Huntsville $15M-$20M in revenue
WAFF Huntsville – ALEA to enforce safety at Lake Guntersville during Memorial Day weekend
WKRG Mobile – ‘Deputies are equipped and trained to handle properly,’ Sheriff Sam Cochran gives an update on the deputy-involved shooting
WKRG Mobile – Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office looking for ‘violent’ fugitive
WKRG Mobile – Doctors afraid COVID-19 may lead to more skin cancer cases
WTVY Dothan – Dothan Leisure Services announces phased opening plans
WTVY Dothan – Two hotspot areas of coronavirus in Jackson County
WTVY Dothan – Controversy in Dothan: Some seek to block apartment construction
WASHINGTON POST – Trump escalates campaign to discredit mail balloting, threatening federal funds to two battleground states
WASHINGTON POST – Coronavirus hot spots erupt across the country; experts warn of second wave in South
WASHINGTON POST – As the backlogged IRS struggles to open mail and answer the phone, taxpayers face long delays
NEW YORK TIMES – A Wave of Small Business Closures Is on the Way. Can Washington Stop It?
NEW YORK TIMES – Columnist Gail Collins: We’ve Got Way Too Many Trumps: The next generation’s terrible trio, and two we’ll leave alone.
NEW YORK TIMES – Trump’s Vaccine Chief Has Vast Ties to Drug Industry, Posing Possible Conflicts