Weekend Digest- March 15, 2020

Weekend Digest- March 15, 2020
Good afternoon!
A soothsayer bids you beware the Ides of March.
There has been a lot of development on the coronavirus in Alabama in the last 48 hours so buckle in.
Here’s your Weekend Digest for March 15.

1. State of Emergency announced, schools close

  • Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency Friday and closed public schools for two-and-a-half weeks as the state reported its first confirmed cases of coronavirus.
  • Ivey said all K-12 public schools will close after March 18 for a two-and-a-half-week break. Some schools were on spring break during part of this time.
  • “Folks, let’s take a common-sense approach and remember calm and steady win the race,” Ivey said in a news conference. “Alabamians should not be fearful but instead use common sense to watch out for ourselves and others.”
  • As of Sunday morning, the Alabama Department of Health have confirmed 12 cases of COVID-19 in the state.
  • Harris said no cases have been linked to schools, but temporary school closures are a “great proactive step to slow the speed of transmission in a community.”
  • Superintendent Eric Mackey said they tried to give parents notice of the school closings so parents could make childcare arrangements. The schools will not have to make up those days since a state of emergency has been declared, Mackey said.
  • Some schools, however, have decided not to reopen on Monday and some have switched to e-learning for the last three days.
  • Read more about the school closures and how schools are being affected by COVID-19 from Al.com’s Trisha Powell Crain.
  • Read more about the state of emergency declaration and its impacts on the state from Kim Chandler HERE.

2. It’s closing time

  • After the state of emergency was announced, it led to a chain of various other Alabama businesses and state agencies to stop operations as well.
  • The Alabama Supreme Court has suspended all in-person court hearings from March 16 till April 16. Some exceptions have been made for trials already underway and some emergency proceedings.
  • Wind Creek announced it will temporarily close its casinos in Montgomery, Atmore and Wetumpka for 24 hours with plans to deep clean its facilities and then reopen with new “social distancing protocols.”
  • The Alabama Shakespeare Festival has cancelled all performances as has the Montgomery Performing Arts Center.
  • The Alabama Legislature is on spring break for the next week and half, but there has been no word yet what might happened when the House is scheduled to reconvene on Thursday, March 26.
  • Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said the March 31 primary runoff will go on as planned. His office announced Friday that “voters who are concerned about contracting or spreading an illness or have an infirmity may vote by absentee.” The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is March 26.
  • As I’m sure most of you noticed this morning, most churches in the state didn’t hold in-person service this morning and instead moved to online.
  • The state health department advised organizations to cancel any gatherings of 500 people or more on Friday after the first cases were confirmed so expect more closures like these to be happening in the coming days.
  • Here’s a link to the Alabama Department of Public Health’s Coronavirus landing page where you can find more helpful information.

3. In-need students will still receive school meals 

  • The Alabama State Department of Education as well as area food banks throughout the state are working to feed children when schools close next week in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
  • State Superintendent Eric Mackey said students on free and reduced lunch will still be given meals during closures and food banks around the state said they are prepared to help with the need.
  • The state has now received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to continue serving lunches to students in schools where more than 50% of students were deemed economically disadvantaged.
  • According to the State Department of Education, 364,216 students in Alabama receive free or reduced meals. About 26% of Alabama children live in poverty, which raises concerns about coronavirus-related closures and work stoppages on the low income.
  • Before schools were announced to be closing on Friday, I spoke with two of the major food banks in Alabama on how they were going to help students and families who depend on school lunches get the food they need during the closures.
  • You can read my full story HERE.

4. NRA endorses Sessions

  • In non-coronavirus related news, the National Rifle Association is endorsing Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate race in Alabama.
  • The NRA-Political Victory Fund announced the endorsement, citing Sessions’ known track record in the Senate. Sessions faces former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville in the March 31 Republican primary runoff. The winner will face U.S. Sen. Doug Jones in November.
  • “Jeff Sessions has long been a stalwart defender of Second Amendment freedoms for law-abiding Alabamians,” said Lars Dalseide, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association.
  • Sessions has been forced into a tight primary race as he seeks to recapture the Senate seat he held for 20 years. Tuberville led in the primary, taking 33% of the vote to Sessions’ 31%.
  • Read the report HERE.

5. Trump declares pandemic; House passes aid package

  • President Donald Trump on Friday declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, freeing up money and resources to fight the outbreak, and then threw his support behind an aid package in Congress that is on track to provide direct relief to Americans.
  • From the Rose Garden, Trump said, “I am officially declaring a national emergency,” unleashing as much as $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the crisis.
  • Trump also announced a range of executive actions, including a new public-private partnership to expand coronavirus testing capabilities with drive-through locations, as Washington tries to subdue the new virus whose spread is roiling markets, shuttering institutions and disrupting the lives of everyday Americans.
  • But he denied any responsibility for delays in making testing available as his administration has come under criticism for being too slow to respond.
  • Trump said, “I don’t take responsibility at all” for the slow rollout of testing.
  • As the House prepared to vote late Friday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi trumpeted the hard-fought package that will provide free testing, sick pay for workers, enhanced unemployment benefits and bolstered food programs.
  • “We did what we said we were going to do: Put families first,” said Pelosi, flanked by Democratic lawmakers, including many freshmen. The House passed the bill after midnight on a bipartisan vote, 363-40. It now goes to the Senate.
  • Read more about the aid package HERE.

No seriously, keep your distance

  • I usually try to bring a bit of light and happiness in this section of the Sunday email, but on this particular Sunday I feel the need to address the quarantine situation everyone has been questioning lately.
  • There are reports of widespread indifference toward the suggested “social-distancing” that the CDC and basically any health official has been recommending. Some are convinced if they aren’t showing symptoms or aren’t in the “high-risk” category they don’t have anything to worry about.
  • According to health experts, that’s the WRONG mindset to have.
  • The whole point behind the social distancing is to lower the possibility of increased infection rates across the country in order to protect those who are at high risk and to mitigate the stress and strain on our medical providers.
  • Here is a good explanation of the concept with helpful graphics from the Washington Post and another from the New York Times.
  • I’m not an alarmist. However, having read more on the subject I am convinced that we must be more concerned about how our activities and behaviors could contribute to others, including the elderly person or immune-deficient, becoming infected.
  • Let’s think about how we can help others in this time of need.

Headlines

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Trump declares virus emergency; House passes aid package
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Schools, food banks prepare to feed children during coronavirus-forced closure
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – NRA endorses Sessions in Senate race
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama churches altering worship plans amid virus outbreak
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama declares emergency, closes schools as virus found
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Lottery, gambling compact bills introduced in State House
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – March 12, 2020
AL.COM – Some Alabama school systems will close three days earlier than planned.
AL.COM – Coronavirus update: Alabama Power plans; Walmart changes hours; drinking bleach won’t stop COVID-19.
AL.COM – Columnist Roy Johnson: Coronavirus, like 9/11, may change us forever; perhaps for the better.
AL.COM – Why is school cancelled? Because rapid coronavirus spread could break Alabama’s health care system.
AL.COM – School absences beginning Monday should be excused, Alabama superintendent says.
AL.COM – Alabama’s state and local courts suspending in-person proceedings.
AL.COM – Georgia 2nd state to postpone presidential primaries over coronavirus concerns.
AL.COM –    Byrne is Alabama’s only ‘No’ vote on coronavirus bill.
AL.COM – Why were so few people in Alabama tested for coronavirus?
AL.COM – Columnist John Archibald: What just happened? The week that changed life in Alabama.
AL.COM – Columnist Kyle Whitmire: Election Day Epidemic? Alabama Secretary of State to allow more absentees.
AL.COM – Columnist Frances Coleman: It’s not the coronavirus; it’s fear.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – State Rep. Robertson on effort to standardize concealed carry permitting: ‘By no means are we trying to do any type of registration of guns’.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Contributors Richard Allen, Clayton Hinchman, Phil Guin, and Tim Russell: As military veterans, we call on Tommy Tuberville to cease his false smears against our fellow veteran, Jeff Sessions.
TIMES DAILY – Shoals officials say they’re following CDC protocol on Covid-19 preparedness.
TIMES DAILY – Schools, food banks prepare to feed children during closure.
TIMES DAILY – State Health Officer: Together we can get through this.
TIMES DAILY – The Times Daily: Open government is good government.
GADSDEN TIMES – ECSO steps up effort to prevent virus in jail.
ANNISTON STAR – Columnist Phillip Tutor: Sessions’ daring defense of Alabama.
OPELIKA AUBURN NEWS – Company withdraws permit request for proposed quarry near Opelika.