3 weeks ago

7 Things: Stimulus passes, Ivey and Bentley get the vaccine, Brooks meets with Trump on election challenge and more …

7. Coronavirus vaccine should cover other variants

  • Assistant Secretary for Health Administration Brett Giroir recently spoke about the new strain of coronavirus found in the United Kingdom, and said that they “have every reason to believe that the vaccine will be effective against any variant that we’ve seen, including the new variant in the U.K.”
  • So far, scientists don’t believe the coronavirus mutates as drastically as the flu does, so there shouldn’t be a need for a new vaccine to be developed every year. Giroir also said that he doesn’t “think there should be any reason for alarm right now.”

6. More details on Huntsville City School ransomware attack

  • The Huntsville City School system has announced that some personal information, including Social Security numbers could have been exposed during the ransomware attack on the system, but Superintendent Christie Finley said they haven’t “uncovered any information that the district’s information was stolen or leaked.”
  • The school system also announced that no payment has been requested during the attack, nor have they paid anything. They are “treating all information that was locked down as having been taken by the attacker,” and they’re working with an abundance of caution.

5. Cullman ICU is at 150%

  • The Cullman Regional Medical Center has said that their Intensive Care Unit is at 150% of their usual capacity, and there are 18 people on ventilators. Extra patients have been put in a medical surgery unit that’s been changed into an ICU.
  • At the hospital, there are 145 beds, and currently, 139 of them are occupied. Of those occupied, 79 are coronavirus patients. Medical director Dr. William Smith said, “[W]e’re getting close to overflowing.”

4. No need for a special counsel?

  • Attorney General William Barr has said that there’s currently no plan or intention to appoint a special counsel to investigate President-elect Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden and his financial dealings. Hunter Biden is currently being investigated by the FBI and IRS.
  • Barr also clarified that there are currently no plans to bring in a special counsel to investigate the 2020 general election. Barr said, “If I thought a special counsel at this stage was a right tool and was appropriate, I would name one, but I haven’t and I’m not going to.”

3. Mo Brooks meets with Trump about election challenge

  • On Monday, U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and other conservative congressmen met with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at the White House to discuss an election challenge that could see six battleground states challenged. There is almost no chance of success that would lead to a Trump reelection.
  • Brooks is now saying, “I believe we have multiple senators and the question is not if but how many,” which is a definite change in public tone that has gone from hopeful that a U.S. Senator would join him to seemingly confident.

2. Ivey receives the vaccine

  • Governor Kay Ivey, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris and State Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mary McIntyre have all received the first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. Ivey said she “wanted to send a clear message to all Alabamians that you can have confidence in this vaccine.”
  • Harris has said that so far, there’s enough vaccine for about 10% of the health care workers in the state. In the first round of vaccinations, about 330,000 Alabamians will be eligible to receive the vaccine as health care providers and nursing home residents. Former Governor Robert Bentley, a practicing dermatologist, got the vaccine as well.

1. Stimulus bill passes, and it is loaded with pork

  • After a long delay, both chambers of Congress have finally passed legislation that includes $900 billion in coronavirus relief and $1.4 trillion to fund the government through Sept. 30.
  • The bill passed includes $600 for most Americans, jobless benefits, money for small business loans and funds to streamline the critical distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, but Congress also provided $135 million to Burma, $85.5 million to Cambodia, $1.4 billion for “Asia Reassurance Initiative Act,” $130 million to Nepal and $453 million for Ukraine.
1 hour ago

Point Broadband to offer high-speed fiber internet on Alabama’s Lake Martin

Point Broadband announced plans to offer fiber-to-the-premises high-speed internet for select areas on Lake Martin in Alabama.

“In today’s digitally-driven world, fast and reliable fiber internet is crucial to keep everyone and everything connected,” said Point Broadband CEO Todd Holt. “Point Broadband is thrilled to offer residents and businesses in the Lake Martin area access to some of the best broadband technology available today.”

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The fiber broadband company based in West Point, Georgia, which operates in nine states, will provide up to 1 gigabit symmetrical broadband service with whole-home W-Fi, allowing numerous devices to run around the clock.

“With more people working, students learning and families entertaining all from their homes, we recognize the importance of ensuring your home has the right resources to meet your needs,” Holt said.

Lake Martin residents can sign up or express interest at point-broadband.com/lake-martin/.

Point Broadband is partnering with Alabama Power on the new initiative. The company will contract for a portion of Alabama Power’s fiber infrastructure to help support Point Broadband’s offering of high-speed internet on Lake Martin.

“The need for greater broadband accessibility for Alabamians to continue to learn, grow business and lead healthy lives is greater than ever before,” said Leslie Sanders, vice president of Alabama Power’s Southern Division. “We’re excited to partner with Point Broadband to be part of the solution. The advanced technology of our electric grid makes it smarter, more reliable and resilient, and can also help facilitate the expansion of broadband services.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

15 hours ago

Ivey fulfills request to send Alabama National Guardsmen to D.C. for security of Biden inauguration

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has authorized the sending of approximately 250 members of the Alabama National Guard to help secure the Washington, D.C. area ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

First reported Gray Television and confirmed to Yellowhammer News, the move was made in response to a request by the head of the National Guard, Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson.

According to National Public Radio, which is based in Washington, D.C., around 20,000 members of the National Guard will be in the Capitol area to help keep the peace through the inauguration. They will come from nearly all states, per NPR’s reporting.

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The dramatically-heightened security comes in the wake of a group of President Donald Trump supporters storming the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday, January 6. The violence led to the death of five people including a member of the Capitol Police.

Ivey’s press secretary, Gina Maiola, told Yellowhammer News in a statement about the National Guard’s deployment, “At the request of the Chief of The National Guard Bureau, General Daniel R. Hokanson, the Alabama National Guard has activated approximately 250 Soldiers in support of the 59th Presidential Inauguration in Washington D.C.”

The activation of the soldiers comes as the FBI has warned states that protesters in the vein of those who stormed the U.S. Capitol may demonstrate in their areas over the coming days.

Ivey said at a public appearance on Tuesday that she was aware of law enforcement monitoring the situation.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

15 hours ago

SAIL awards nearly $1 million to summer learning programs in Alabama

Summer Adventure in Learning (SAIL), a joint project of six charitable organizations, announced Thursday that dozens of organizations in Alabama that provide summer learning opportunities to children will be receiving financial support.

Forty independent programs in the state will receive a total of $898,500.

SAIL cites research showing that students from low-income families frequently lose months of reading and math skills during the summer break. The organization sets out to prevent this learning loss among low-income students by funding summer learning programs that target those kids.

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Most SAIL-affiliated programs are in the Birmingham area, though it also has six programs to whom it gives funds in the Black belt and three large programs in the Huntsville area.

“We have always known the importance of intentionally academic summer programming, but it proved more critical than ever after schools closed in the spring of 2020,” said Elizabeth Dotts Fleming, the executive director of The Schools Foundation, in a release.

The Schools Foundation is SAIL’s chief partner in the Huntsville area.

SAIL does not require the summer learning programs it funds to follow a specific curriculum, allowing a large degree of flexibility among the programs it funds.

However, all programs taking SAIL funding consent to a test of its students at the beginning and end of its run so the program’s effectiveness can be assessed.

In a release, SAIL shared that “In the summer of 2020, SAIL supported 34 programs. 14 provided in-person programs, 17 virtual, and 3 offered an at-home curriculum. Due to COVID restrictions, enrollment was down from SAIL’s normal 2,500+ students to 1,250.”

“State law requires school systems to offer summer reading camps, but leaves the implementation to each district,” remarked Mitchie Neel, the executive director of the Blount County Education Foundation.

“We know from research that how you structure a summer learning program influences how much students will learn. Partnering with SAIL allows us to meet students where they are while nurturing the whole child and bringing them up to grade level,” Neel added.

A list of the programs receiving funding from SAIL in 2021 can be found here for the Birmingham area, here for the Black Belt and here for Huntsville.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

16 hours ago

Four Bama underclassmen — Jones, Waddle, Surtain and Barmore — declare for NFL Draft

Four underclassman members of the Alabama Crimson Tide’s national championship-winning team will not return to Tuscaloosa next fall.

Quarterback Mac Jones, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, defensive tackle Christian Barmore and cornerback Patrick Surtain II announced on Thursday they will forego their remaining college eligibility and enter the 2021 NFL Draft.

The quartet made the announcement via a press conference broadcast by the university. All four are expected by national college football analysts to be taken in the first round of the draft.

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Jones, a Heisman finalist, is declaring for the NFL after his lone season under center for the Tide — a year in which he posted dominant numbers, including leading the NCAA in completion percentage. His 2020 performance pushed him from fringe consideration to a consensus first round pick.

Waddle was already expected to be a top first round pick entering the year, and even an injury that derailed much of his season has not changed the consensus thinking. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., in December, ranked Waddle as the eighth-most talented player in the 2021 draft.

Surtain and Barmore have been similarly been graded as likely pros for much of their time at Bama. Surtain’s father played several seasons in the NFL. Kiper ranks Surtain as the best CB and Barmore as the second-best defensive tackle in the 2021 draft class.

Senior wide receiver Devonta Smith and senior running Najee Harris have not yet made their draft status official — and pandemic rule changes grant them an additional season of eligibility — but their official entrance in the draft is considered a formality. Both are expected to go in the first round along with their four underclassmen teammates who declared on Thursday.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

18 hours ago

PowerSouth’s Gary Smith elected as chairman of Business Council of Alabama

The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) on Thursday announced the organization’s 2021 board of directors, including a new chairman of the board.

PowerSouth Energy Cooperative president and CEO Gary Smith has been elected to serve as chairman of BCA, succeeding John Mazyck. Smith most recently served as chairman of ProgressPAC, BCA’s political arm, and he previously has held several other leadership roles within BCA.

“I am honored to serve as BCA’s next chairman. It’s a privilege to be a part of this organization and the board serving the businesses of Alabama,” Smith said in a statement. “I am grateful to John for the countless contributions he made throughout his time as chairman. BCA has continued to succeed in part because of his leadership. I anticipate great things for the future of this organization.”

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Mazyck is a principal at Montgomery-based The Frazier Lanier Company.

“It has been an honor to serve as Chairman and to work with an exceptional Executive Committee, Board, and Staff. We have advanced the ball for business in Alabama in 2020, and we have led with strength,” Mazyck stated. “I anticipate continued success and progress under Gary’s leadership as BCA continues to work on behalf of the business community, ensuring a stronger, more prosperous Alabama.”

Katie Boyd Britt, BCA’s president and CEO, praised Mazyck’s tenure in a statement.

“BCA is immensely grateful for John Mazyck’s leadership and his many contributions to BCA throughout his time as chairman,” she said. “John has been instrumental in moving our organization forward, building a stronger business community, and furthering the mission of BCA to create an environment where all businesses can grow and flourish.”

Smith is a graduate of the University of North Alabama and of Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law. He currently serves on the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama board, University of North Alabama board, Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives board, Southern Independent Bank board and the South Alabama Regional Airport board, among others.

“Gary Smith has been a valuable partner of BCA for years and has contributed so much already through his involvement,” Britt commented. “His strong leadership has positively impacted BCA and ProgressPAC in innumerable ways, and I look forward to working alongside him as he continues to work on behalf of the Alabama business community.”

Overall, the BCA board of directors includes distinguished pro-jobs leaders from across the Yellowhammer State who are willing to donate their time and resources for the betterment of all Alabamians. View a list of the 2021 directors here.

“We again have gathered an incredible group of professionals to serve as our 2021 board of directors. Every member serves an important role and brings together diverse professional experience on issues important to Alabama business,” Britt concluded. “The board plays an instrumental part in BCA’s ability to achieve the goals of growing the state’s economy, creating jobs, and encouraging investment in Alabama. I am excited to work with and learn from them as we all navigate through the new year.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn