Weekend Digest – May 23, 2021

1. New COVID-19 cases plummet to lowest levels since last June

  • New coronavirus cases across the United States have tumbled to rates not seen in more than 11 months, sparking optimism that vaccination campaigns are stemming both severe COVID-19 cases and the spread of the virus.
  • As cases, hospitalizations and deaths steadily dropped this week, pre-pandemic life in America has largely resumed.
  • Hugs and unmasked crowds returned to the White House, a Mardi Gras-style parade marched through Alabama’s port city of Mobile, and even states that have stuck to pandemic-related restrictions readied to drop them.
  • However, health experts also cautioned that not enough Americans have been vaccinated to completely extinguish the virus, leaving the potential for new variants that could extend the pandemic.
  • As the seven-day average for new cases dropped below 30,000 per day this week, Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pointed out cases have not been this low since June 18, 2020. The average number of deaths over the last seven days also dropped to 552 — a rate not seen since July last year. It’s a dramatic drop since the pandemic hit a devastating crescendo in January.
  • Read more HERE.

2. As pandemic ebbs, Mobile throws ‘Tardy Gras’ parade

  • Thousands of joyful revelers, many without masks, competed for plastic beads and trinkets tossed from floats as Alabama’s port city threw a Mardi Gras-style parade Friday night, its first since Carnival celebrations were scrapped earlier this year by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Many lined up shoulder-to-shoulder and several deep along sidewalks, shouting and cheering as nearly 30 floats and several high school marching bands crossed a stretch of downtown Mobile. With both COVID-19 hospitalizations and vaccinations ebbing, many partied with abandon.
  • It was definitely not a Mardi Gras parade: Those can only be held during Mardi Gras, the period before Lent. But it felt a lot like one, which was a big part of the goal after months of lockdowns, illness, deaths and face masks.
  • Call it Tardy Gras, perhaps.
  • Read more from Gerald Herbet HERE.

3. Second mass vaccination closes in Birmingham in a week

  • A second mass vaccination clinic in Alabama’s largest metro area is closing within days of an earlier shutdown because of low demand, but health officials said COVID-19 immunizations remain available for most anyone who wants one.
  • A vaccine site set up outside Birmingham’s airport was shutting down Friday because too few people are showing up for shots, Dr. David Hicks of the Jefferson County Health Department told WBRC-TV.
  • The site was too expensive to keep open when so few people have been seeking the vaccine to protect them from the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, he said. “First doses went from 1,000 a day, then it dropped down into the hundreds, low hundreds,” said Hicks.
  • Pharmacies, grocery stores, and doctors’ offices are still an option for vaccine, Hicks said.
  • “It’s just that your options are changing from large to smaller venues,” Hicks said. “We know there is a demand from the ages 12 to 15, but the demand is not in the several thousand all at once.”
  • Read more HERE.

4. Alabama officer convicted of murder set for sentencing

  • A judge scheduled a sentencing hearing for August for an officer who remains employed by the Huntsville Police Department despite being convicted of murder in the on-duty killing of a mentally disturbed man.
  • Officer William Darby, 28, could receive a prison term ranging from 20 years to life for the slaying of Jeffrey Parker during a hearing set for Aug. 20 before Circuit Judge Donna Pate, news outlets reported. Demonstrators have protested the fact that he remains on the police force.
  • The hearing couldn’t be held earlier because attorneys involved in the case have scheduling conflicts, the judge said.
  • The city, which cleared Darby of wrongdoing before he was indicted and allowed him to remain an officer on desk duty while awaiting trial, said Darby remains an officer but is not working while on accrued leave. Immediately after the conviction, he was placed on paid leave while also free on $100,000 bond.
  • Read more HERE.

5. The mob made me do it: Rioters claim Jan. 6 crowd at fault

  • Christopher Grider said he came to Washington on Jan. 6 with no intention of rioting. But he got caught up in the mob of angry supporters of then-President Donald Trump as they surged into the U.S. Capitol, breaking through police barriers and smashing through doors.
  • It wasn’t his fault, he said, that he ended up inside the building with a yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag around his neck as lawmakers ran for their lives.
  • Grider, 39, a winery owner and former school teacher in Texas is among at least a dozen Capitol riot defendants identified by The Associated Press who have claimed their presence in the building was a result of being “caught up” in the hysteria of the crowd or that they were pushed inside by sheer force.
  • For some, blaming the mob is part of an attempt to restore reputations tarnished by their presence at an event of such infamy. Others may try to broach the issue at trial or at least during sentencing in bids for leniency.
  • Read more HERE.

Headlines

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – New COVID-19 cases plummet to lowest levels since last June
 
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – As pandemic ebbs, Alabama city throws ‘Tardy Gras’ parade
 
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Second mass vaccination closes in Birmingham in a week
 
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama officer convicted of murder set for sentencing
 
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – The mob made me do it: Rioters claim Jan. 6 crowd at fault
 
AL.COM – More than 1 in 5 Alabamians lack online access.
 
AL.COM – Appeals court upholds manslaughter conviction of Montgomery police officer.
 
AL.COM – Hugs and parades return as new COVID-19 cases plummet to lowest levels in 11 months.
 
AL.COM – USS Mobile commissioned: “A symbol of the city’s spirit.”
 
AL.COM – Trapped on the tracks: Hundreds die every year at railroad crossings. Drivers often get blamed, even when they’re not at fault.
 
AL.COM – $2.5 million project will bring 1,200 acres of wetland to Mobile.
 
AL.COM – ‘Nothing will ever be like Judson’: Closing of fifth-oldest women’s college stuns students, parents, faculty.
 
AL.COM – Columnist Amanda Walker: The good times of an Alabama summer.
 
AL.COM – Columnist Frances Coleman: Yoga is another one of those dumb-in-Alabama stories.
 
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Alabama Freedom Riders recall their fight for equal treatment in Birmingham.
 
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Andalusia airport gives lift to Southeast Alabama aerospace hub.
 
THE HILL – What you need to know about options to pay for infrastructure.
 
THE HILL – GOP efforts to downplay danger of Capitol riot increase.
 
THE HILL – Commission chair: ‘Hundreds’ of military assets could have Confederate names removed.
 
POLITICO – A Biden-friendly economist is creating a big headache for president’s spending plans.
 
POLITICO – Nursing homes invoke Trump-era protections to fight lawsuits over Covid deaths.
 
DECATUR DAILY – ‘Every community needs a George Mills’: local veteran, community leader turns 100.
 
DECATUR DAILY – The Decatur Daily: Bodycams work only if footage made public.
 
DECATUR DAILY – Economists: Rebounding economy, not unemployment benefits, causing staff shortages.
 
FLORENCE TIMES DAILY – 2020 was record-setting year of service for Help Center Food Pantry.
 
FLORENCE TIMES DAILY – The Times Daily: Lawmakers must act on prison issue.
 
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Settlement reached in lawsuit over Covington County jail death.
 
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Fourth Alabama prisoner dies in May; family plans to sue.
 
OPELIKA AUBURN NEWS – Medical marijuana is now legal in Alabama, but with a lot of exceptions.
 
DOTHAN EAGLE – The Class of 2021: Graduates use pandemic challenges to prepare for life’s next chapter.
 
WASHSINGTON POST – Coronavirus infections drop below 30,000 daily in continuing sign of recovery.
 
WASHSINGTON POST – The Washington Post: The developing world desperately needs vaccines — and the U.S. can supply them.
 
WASHSINGTON POST – A changed Democratic Party continues to influence the Biden presidency.
 
NEW YORK TIMES – Long Slide Looms for World Population, With Sweeping Ramifications
 
NEW YORK TIMES – Contributors Kayla Reed and Blake Strode: George Floyd and the Seeds of a New Kind of Activism
 
NEW YORK TIMES – The New York Times: End the Court Doctrine That Enables Police Brutality
 
NEW YORK TIMES – Answers to Your Questions Ab