Good afternoon and Happy Easter Sunday!
Here’s your Daily News for April 4.
1. Health officials urging masks, caution over Easter holiday
- With the potential for crowded churches and big family gatherings over Easter, health officials are urging people to follow Alabama’s mandate for face masks and social distancing to avoid a new surge of COVID-19.
- Only 663,000 or so of the state’s 4.9 million residents are fully vaccinated against the new coronavirus, and Alabama is last in the nation in its rate of immunization. But many congregations are planning indoor services Sunday to celebrate the Christian holiday a year after Easter services were canceled or held outdoors.
- Since relatively few people are fully protected against the illness, Dr. Ellen Eaton of the University of Alabama at Birmingham said it’s “probably not the time” to participate in large indoor gatherings like church or family meals where people aren’t distanced and wearing masks, which are proven to slow the spread of the virus.
- “The concern is that with Easter a lot of these spaces are going to be crowded, packed, more children and potentially travelers,” Eaton, an infectious diseases expert, told a news briefing Friday.
- Relatives coming in from out of town could bring in new strains of virus variants into communities, she said, yet infection likely would be spreading quickly from person to person before health experts even realized an area had become a “hot spot” of illness.
- Read more HERE.
2. Alabama expanding vaccine eligibility to 16 and up on Monday
- Everyone 16 and older will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations in Alabama beginning next week, Gov. Kay Ivey said Friday, as health officials attempt to expand an immunization program that is trailing the rest of the nation.
- Ivey, who made the announcement after touring a vaccine clinic in her home county of Wilcox, called the vaccine against the new coronavirus “our ticket back to normal.”
- “Our goal is simple: to get shots off the shelf and in the arms of Alabamians,” said Ivey. She gave a thumbs-up as she watched shots being distributed by National Guard members in uniform and wearing face masks.
- The Republican governor said vaccinations are the key to getting COVID-19 in the “rearview mirror.”
- “Until then, we need to keep wearing our masks,” Ivey said, adding, “Just use the common sense the good Lord gave you.”
- The expansion of the vaccines starting Monday means nearly 4 million of the state’s 4.9 million residents will be eligible for shots. The state is currently receiving about 115,000 first doses weekly, according to the governor’s office.
- Also while at the event, Ivey declined to say if she will seek another term in office in 2022.
- Ivey, 76, said it was not the time to discuss the matter when asked by an al.com reporter if she will run for re-election.
- “We’re busy getting (COVID-19) shots in arms, and we are busy working on the prison system and other major issues that have been long neglected in our state. My plate is pretty full right now, and it’s just not time to make that decision known,” Ivey said.
- The question came after Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth told CBS-42 that he will not run for governor if Ivey chooses to run for re-election.
- “If Governor Ivey wants to run for re-election for governor, I will not run against her for governor,” Ainsworth said.
- Read more from Kim Chandler HERE.
3. Deadly breach could delay decisions about Capitol fencing
- The latest deadly breach of the Capitol’s perimeter could delay the gradual reopening of the building’s grounds to the public just as lawmakers were eyeing a return to more normal security measures following the Jan. 6 insurrection.
- Capitol Police officer William “Billy” Evans, an 18-year veteran of the force, was killed Friday when a man rammed his car into a barrier outside the Senate side of the building. The driver, identified as 25-year-old Noah Green, was shot and killed after he ran his car into Evans and another officer, got out and lunged at police with a knife.
- The deaths came less than two weeks after the Capitol Police removed an outer fence that had temporarily cut off a wide swath of the area to cars and pedestrians, blocking major traffic arteries that cross the city. The fencing had been erected to secure the Capitol after the violent mob of of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters attacked the building Jan. 6., interrupting the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory. The violence lead to the deaths of five people, including a Capitol Police officer.
- Police, who took the brunt of the assaults that day, have left intact a second ring of fencing around the inner perimeter of the Capitol as they struggle to figure out how to best protect the building and those who work inside it. That tall, dark fencing — parts of it covered in razor wire until just recently — is still a stark symbol of the fear many in the Capitol felt after the mob laid siege two months ago.
- Read more HERE.
4. Many still hesitate to get vaccine, but reluctance is easing
- So few people came for COVID-19 vaccinations in one county in North Carolina that hospitals there now allow anyone 16 or older to get a shot, regardless of where they live. Get a shot, get a free doughnut, the governor said.
- Alabama, which has the nation’s lowest vaccination rate and a county where only 7% of residents are fully vaccinated, launched a campaign to convince people the shots are safe. Doctors and pastors joined the effort.
- On the national level, the Biden administration this week launched a “We Can Do This” campaign to encourage holdouts to get vaccinated against the virus that has claimed over 550,000 lives in the U.S.
- The race is on to vaccinate as many people as possible, but a significant number of Americans are so far reluctant to get the shots, even in places where they are plentiful. Twenty-five percent of Americans say they probably or definitely will not get vaccinated, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
- Read more HERE.
5. News Briefs
Strike begins at Alabama coal mines as talks fail
- BROOKWOOD, Ala. (AP) — The United Mine Workers of America went on strike at two Alabama coal mines with more than 1,100 workers after contract negotiations with Warrior Met Coal Inc. failed to produce a deal.
- The walkout, which includes two other facilities, began at 10 p.m. Thursday over what the union called unfair labor practices.
- The company, based in Brookwood, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
- Union officials said a strike would include the company’s No. 4 and No. 7 mines, a preparation plant and a central shop, all located in Tuscaloosa County.
- Workers sacrificed to bring the company out of the Walter Energy bankruptcy five years ago, President Cecil Roberts said in a statement.
- The strike, which gained backing from other labor groups on social media, began as officials were counting ballots in Birmingham amid a push to unionize workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, located about 30 miles from the mines.
- Warrior Met, which produces coal used in steel production in Asia, Europe and South America, recently reported a loss of about $35 million for last year compared to net income of $302 million for 2019. Citing uncertainty created by the global pandemic, the company did not release financial guidance for this year.
Senate approves option for lifetime concealed carry permits
- MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabamians would be able to purchase a lifetime permit to carry a concealed firearm, under a bill approved Thursday by the Alabama Senate.
- Senators voted 25-6 for the bill by Sen. Randy Price, R-Opelika, that would allow the lifetime permits as well as create a statewide database of people prohibited from carrying firearms. The bill now moves to the Alabama House.
- The legislation comes after previous efforts to abolish the permit requirement failed under opposition from law enforcement officials.
- “Any Alabamian who can legally purchase a handgun should be able to obtain a lifetime concealed carry permit, but bad actors and individuals deemed prohibited from obtaining this permit should be registered and flagged as such,” Price said in a statement.
- Under the bill, people would be able to purchase permits that last for a year, five years or a lifetime. The lifetime permits would cost $300 or $150 if the applicant is over age 60.
- The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency would be required to create a database of people ineligible to possess a firearm by state and federal law. Courts would be required to forward any conviction or court order that would make a person ineligible to carry a firearm.
Freedom Riders National Monument opening in Anniston
- ANNISTON, Ala. (AP) — The old Greyhound bus depot in Anniston is opening for the first time as the Freedom Riders National Monument four years after it was established.
- The National Park Service said a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution will be on display as the attraction holds its inaugural opening for visitors on Saturday. The display is about the Poor People’s Campaign that drew thousands of people to Washington, D.C., in 1968.
- Located about 65 miles east of Birmingham, the monument recognizes the story of activists who set out as “Freedom Riders” six decades ago to test continuing racial segregation and public accommodations on interstate bus lines.
- A bus was stopped by a white mob in Anniston while traveling from Atlanta to Birmingham on May 14, 1961. Attackers beat the Freedom Riders and set fire to the bus on a roadside a few miles outside Anniston, drawing national attention to racial violence and hatred in the segregated South.
- Then-President Barack Obama created the national monument in one of his final acts in office in January 2017. Similarly, Birmingham’s downtown civil rights district was recognized as a national monument, and work continues there to renovate a motel that served as an operations base for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during demonstrations.
- The Anniston monument will be open during the day on weekends, the park service said.
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama expanding vaccine eligibility to 16 and up on Monday
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Health officials urging masks, caution over Easter holiday
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Deadly breach could delay decisions about Capitol fencing
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Many still hesitate to get vaccine, but reluctance is easing
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – April 2, 2021
AL.COM – Alabama health officials urging masks, caution over Easter holiday.
AL.COM – Amazon apologizes to congressman for ‘peeing in bottles’ tweet.
AL.COM – Kaitlan Collins, White House correspondent and Alabama native, featured in series celebrating women.
AL.COM – Confederate symbols prove difficult to remove in many states.
AL.COM – Mo Brooks suggests MLB boycott: Republicans are ‘most likely able to afford’ baseball tickets.
AL.COM – Mo Brooks calls I-10 project ‘sticky wicket’; generally opposes tolls on anything.
AL.COM – COVID vaccine: 18 percent of adults in Alabama now fully vaccinated, Black Belt out front.
AL.COM – Columnist Roy Johnson: Silence on South Alabama racism, voter suppression bills makes me wonder: What have we learned?
AL.COM – Columnist Amanda Walker: Beware the charms of the chicken.
AL.COM – Columnist Roy Johnson: Ten months after George Floyd’s murder, Black men still don’t have to watch.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Alabama Power lake level conditions improving after heavy rainfall.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Tuberville: The ‘MLB has cowered to the will of the radical left’.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Former U.S. Rep. Martha Roby named senior advisor at Alabama-based firm.
THE HILL – Kemp: Voting law ‘worth the boycotts as well as the lawsuits’.
THE HILL – GOP senators push to end MLB antitrust status.
POLITICO – Biden’s green energy plans clash with pledge to create union jobs.
POLITICO – Schumer: Senate will act on marijuana legalization with or without Biden.
POLITICO – Biden bets that he can change how America thinks about migration.
DECATUR DAILY – Bill increases tax credit limit for Accountability Act donors.
FLORENCE TIMES DAILY – Local entities split after the state mask mandate expires.
TUSCALOOSA NEWS – Automotive supplier to open third Tuscaloosa County facility.
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Contributor Al Allenback: Don’t believe hype: HR-1 is truly ‘For The People’ who want to vote.
DOTHAN EAGLE – Alabama masks may not be mandated after Friday, but don’t throw them away yet.
WASHINGTON POST – Inside a stealth ‘persuasion machine’ promising Republican victories in 2022.
WASHINGTON POST – The next phase of Biden’s presidency will be harder — and riskier.
WASHINGTON POST – Pete Buttigieg: ‘A lot of the mistrust in our country right now is the result of policy failure.’
NEW YORK TIMES – The New York Times: How Lower-Income Americans Get Cheated on Property Taxes
NEW YORK TIMES – Minority Entrepreneurs Struggled to Get Small-Business Relief Loans: A year after the Paycheck Protection Program started, studies show how its design hurt Black- and other minority-owned businesses.