The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

7 hours ago

Battle officially qualifies for reelection as Huntsville mayor

(Battle Works 2020/Contributed)

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle officially filed for reelection on Tuesday, just five minutes after qualifying opened.

First elected in 2008, Battle is seeking his fourth term as mayor of Alabama’s fastest-growing big city.

The Huntsville mayoral election will be held on August 25.

Candidates do not run as a member of any political party; though Battle is known across the state as a Republican after seeking that party’s nomination during the 2018 gubernatorial election.

In an email to supporters, Battle said that in the last 12 years, “Huntsville has grown into the shining star of Alabama. Our teamwork with Huntsville’s city council and our partners across Madison County and North Alabama has resulted in nearly 30,000 jobs, more efficient infrastructure, excellent quality of life amenities, and fiscal responsibility.”

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Battle was joined for the signing of the official papers by his wife, Eula, a former teacher who runs a lauded charity called Free2Teach that gives classroom supplies to public school teachers so they do not have to pay out of their own pocket.

“We are living in unprecedented times. There is no playbook for the current crisis. But because of solid leadership, we will move forward together,” Battle said with regards to his case for reelection.

“I am running for reelection because proven leadership is important in times like these,” he added.

The mayor is expected by most observers to receive only token opposition; he won his two most recent municipal campaigns with 80% of the vote.

According to census estimates, Huntsville’s population grew from around 180,000 in 2010 to around 200,000 in 2020. The Rocket City became the state’s second-largest in that time period and is expected to pass Birmingham before the year 2025.

The mayor often says he is very proud of his city’s growth, but is quick to also point out the infrastructure improvements he has championed to keep the city’s average commute time under 20 minutes.

Battle counts among his successes the recruitment of tens of thousands of jobs to the area, including the massive Mazda-Toyota manufacturing plant currently under construction in the westernmost portion of the city.

“It has taken a lot of work to get to this point and there is still much to be done,” Battle continued in his remarks on Tuesday.

“Let’s continue to improve Huntsville. I’m ready to keep working for you,” he concluded.

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

8 hours ago

Ivey awards over $18M for COVID-19 testing at nursing home facilities

(Governor Kay Ivey/Flickr)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced Tuesday that she is going to spend $18.27 million of federal relief money on coronavirus testing for employees and residents of nursing home facilities in the state.

Ivey said in a statement that some of Alabama’s harshest COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred “within nursing homes and we must do everything possible to contain the spread within their walls.”

The money directed towards nursing homes on Tuesday comes from the $1.9 billion in money the state received as part of the CARES Act stimulus bill passed by Congress with the intention of mitigating the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The nursing home testing money will be given to and then disbursed to individual facilities by the Alabama Nursing Home Association Education Foundation, a non-profit offshoot of the Alabama Nursing Home Association (ANHA).

Ivey’s office promises the foundation “will administer the funds fairly and impartially on behalf of the people of Alabama, for all of Alabama’s nursing facilities.”

Estimates from the Center for Medicaid Services estimates that 336 Alabamians in nursing homes have died from COVID-19 as of June 21.

BamaTracker, a coronavirus information database tracking cases in Alabama, says the state has suffered 1,007 coronavirus deaths as of July 7, meaning nursing home residents could make up a third or more of Alabama’s fatalities.

“I am extremely grateful to Governor Kay Ivey and her administration for supporting the ongoing testing of residents and staff in our facilities,” said Brandon Farmer, president and CEO of the Alabama Nursing Home Association, in a statement.

“During the pandemic, it is critical we take care of our seniors and most vulnerable residents,” Ivey added.

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

9 hours ago

Jones hosts Fauci for COVID-19 update, says U.S. ‘has not done a good job’ on coronavirus

(Senator Doug Jones/Facebook/Screenshot)

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) hosted Dr. Anthony Fauci for a virtual event on Tuesday regarding the state of COVID-19 in Alabama and across the United States. The senator criticized the country’s response and President Donald Trump, while the health expert urged people to wear masks as he discussed the current state of the science around the disease.

Fauci is the head of the National Institutes for Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the lead epidemiologist on the White House Coronavirus Task Force that is led by Vice President Mike Pence.

Jones began by discussing the recent coronavirus numbers in Alabama, noting that hospitalizations and the number of positive cases are up while the death toll has surpassed 1,000.

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Near the beginning of the presentation, before Fauci joined, Jones brought up a slide to talk about the hospitalization numbers among Alabama’s coronavirus cases.

(Senator Doug Jones/Facebook)

Jones said he chose to highlight the numbers in the slide “because of more recent comments that we have heard that ‘99% of people it just is not a problem,'” a reference to a recent remark made by Trump where the president said the coronavirus was “totally harmless” for 99% of people who contract it.

“Well, that is not the case,” said Jones in response to the president’s recent comment.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the president’s comment from intense media criticism in a recent Fox News Channel appearance, saying Trump was referring to the fact that around 1% of Americans who have caught COVID-19 have perished from the illness.

Jones shared a slide about the nation at large.

(Senator Doug Jones’ Office)

Alabama’s junior senator believes that the numbers in the slide show that the United States “has not done a good job” with respect to containing the coronavirus.

“We were on a downhill slope and now we’re back up,” remarked Jones.

Fauci joined the digital event from the headquarters of the NIAID in Washington, D.C., after Jones had given his opening update.

The national health expert was asked multiple times about statewide mask orders, which so far has not been introduced in Alabama.

“I do believe a statewide mask order is important, because there is a variability in people taking seriously or even understanding the benefit of masks,” responded Fauci.

“Masks made a difference,” advised the longtime health expert.

Fauci stopped short of naming a specific state or government official which should implement a mask order, a commonplace tactic for an official seeking to stay out of partisan political combat.

The doctor also said he did not support or expect a nationwide mask order.

Fauci was also questioned about whether taking a vaccine will be mandated once such a substance is developed. He said that he does not expect a nationwide mandate, but believes that many employers and institutions will require the potential vaccine.

The longtime head of NIAID also offered that individuals who wear masks but do not cover their noses are not being careful enough.

Fauci warned you are “taking away 50% of your protection” by not covering your nasal pathways.

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

1 day ago

Sessions makes closing pitch, knocks Tuberville with eight days until election

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

PIKE ROAD — Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday attacked his opponent for connections to a failed hedge fund and made the case that he was the right choice for Alabama Republicans in next week’s primary runoff.

Sessions’ remarks came during a campaign appearance at SweetCreek Farm Market in Pike Road, a suburb to the east of Montgomery. He and his opponent, former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, compete at the ballot box on July 14 to be the nominee that will take on U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) in November.

The details of Tuberville’s involvement in a hedge fund that ended in disaster were first printed in the New York Times over the weekend.

“Either he was greedy, incompetent, naive and lacked knowledge; or he actually deliberately participated in an activity that was criminal,” Sessions said Monday about the former coach’s alleged involvement.

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Tuberville campaign chairman Stan McDonald told the Times that Tuberville’s involvement in the hedge fund “was a big mistake, and he’s paid for it.”

McDonald says the coach was “as surprised as anyone” to learn that his partner in the venture, John David Stroud, was engaging in fraudulent behavior with the money in the fund.

Neither the regulating body in Alabama or Washington, D.C. that oversees hedge funds chose to charge Tuberville with a crime, though a former attorney for Stroud alleged Tuberville had knowledge of the dealings. The Times reported that the coach “was not picking stocks, or even a frequent presence in the office.” Coach Tuberville settled out of court after being sued by investors in the hedge fund and reportedly lost all of the money he invested in the venture.

Sessions also brought up a piece authored by an opinion writer at the Washington Examiner that detailed how Tuberville suspended a player for one game after the individual pleaded guilty a misdemeanor: contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The incident in question involved Auburn wide receiver Clifton Robinson allegedly having sexual relations with a 15-year-old girl while he was a 20-year-old college student. The young woman involved in the encounter was visiting her sister on Auburn’s campus.

Robinson was initially charged with statutory rape but later pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor and was sentenced to one year of probation and 200 hours of community service.

Tuberville suspended Robinson indefinitely while the charges were being prosecuted as a rape but lessened it to a one-game suspension once prosecutors lowered the charge to a misdemeanor.

Sessions believes that the one-game suspension was insufficient.

“You simply cannot place winning football games ahead of responsibilities to young girls, you can’t put winning football games ahead of teaching important life lessons to young men,” Sessions commented.

“I think he made a mistake,” Sessions said of Tuberville.

At the event in Pike Road, the former senator from Alabama continued to express his frustration with Tuberville for choosing not to participate in a debate.

Sessions alleged that Tuberville “promised Bradley Byrne and I” that he would debate if he made the runoff.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) took third place in the initial Republican primary for the U.S. Senate on March 3.

Yellowhammer News asked Seth Morrow, who served as Byrne’s campaign manager, about the alleged promise Sessions talked about on Monday.

Morrow told Yellowhammer that no formal agreement or promise was ever made between the three men to debate in a runoff scenario. Morrow added that he had checked with Byrne himself on Monday to make sure.

Tuberville’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment about the debate assertion. The campaign has in the past maintained that their declining to debate is a matter of prudent strategy.

Sessions continues to say that Tuberville should “come out of hiding.”

With regards to why he was the right choice for voters, Sessions pointed to his conservative record and said he had “come out of the soil” of Alabama.

Sessions argued that he was a staunch supporter of the American First agenda since before Donald Trump began campaigning for president.

He mentioned that two conservative challengers have recently beaten Trump-endorsed candidates, because in his view, those challengers were more effective than their opponents at communicating their support of the president’s agenda. Sessions believes he will be the next member of that group.

Sessions was asked if it was disappointing to be trailing Tuberville in the polls to try and represent the seat he held for 20 years.

“The voters will decide,” he responded. “The polls have often been in error.”

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

1 day ago

Ivey awards $48M to Dept. of Education for digital learning, WiFi on school buses to help reopen schools

(Gov. Kay Ivey/Twitter)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced Monday that she is awarding $48 million to the Alabama State Department of Education that will fund various measures aimed at counteracting the effects the coronavirus pandemic will have on the upcoming school year.

The funds come from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEERF), a provision of the CARES Act that allowed each of the nation’s governor’s to request funds from the federal government that will allow their state’s schools to continue functioning amidst the pandemic.

Ivey also publicized that Alabama’s colleges and universities can apply for a portion of a new $50 million pool of additional CARES Act money.

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“I am pleased to invest in our state’s greatest asset – our students,” Governor Ivey said in a statement.

The allotment for the $48 million, per the Governor’s Office, as follows:

  • $10 million to equip all school buses with WiFi capabilities to increase internet connectivity and help bridge the digital divide
  • $4 million to improve remote learning opportunities by providing digital textbook and library resources for all students
  • $26 million to provide additional academic support to bridge learning and achievement gaps
  • $9 million to support intensive before and after school tutoring resources for learning and remediation in schools

Ivey continued, “As we respond and adapt to COVID-19, we must ensure that our local school districts and institutions of higher education receive necessary support and provide our students full access to their educational opportunities.”

“Closing school during the pandemic disproportionately impacts students who are already struggling, and it is our obligation to provide as much stability and access possible in these uncertain times,” the governor concluded.

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

5 days ago

Wetumpka to be subject of HGTV’s ‘Home Town Takeover’

(Wikicommons, YHN)

The central Alabama city of Wetumpka has been selected to receive a renovation courtesy of the HGTV program “Home Town Takeover.”

The program will be hosted by Ben and Erin Napier, who have previously hosted several seasons of the show “Home Town” in which they renovate a single house.

The Napier’s new project in Alabama is their biggest yet. HGTV says on its website the town’s renovation that will be done on the program is to be “extensive and far-reaching.”

“It is a tremendous blessing for a city like us to be chosen,” Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis told Yellowhammer News on Thursday afternoon.

“We’re anticipating great things to happen … we’re very excited,” he added.

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HGTV says it received over 500,000 submissions from people in over 2,600 qualifying small towns across America. Only cities with less than 40,000 residents were eligible for entry.

Wetumpka has a population of around 8,300 residents and sits about 20 minutes north of Montgomery.

Willis detailed the process Wetumpka went through to become the selected city.

“When we saw the application HGTV had … we have a team of people between our Main Street Wetumpka/Main Street Alabama program that we have, and our chamber of commerce and economic development office of the city,” Willis stated.

“We just all came together and filled out the application and submitted a video of what we have and who we are,” he continued.

Home Town Takeover’s Wetumpka season, its first ever, is set to air in six parts sometime in the year 2021.

Willis told Yellowhammer that the exact dates when the series will be produced and the extent of the budget that will be put forth by HGTV have not yet been provided.

The mayor said he’d watched the host’s previous show and “now to realize that’s coming to our hometown, and the program will be run on national TV every week, that’s exciting in itself.”

Watch the moment Wetumpka found out it would be featured on “Home Town Takeover”:

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

5 days ago

Byrne gets additional Austal ship added to FY21 NDAA, joins Brooks and Rogers in advancing key defense bill

(Bradley Byrne, Congressman Mike D. Rogers/Facebook, Congressman Mo Brooks/Flickr, YHN)

All three of Alabama’s U.S. House of Representatives members who sit on the House Armed Services Committee voted to advance the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) out of committee on Wednesday night.

Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-01) touted an amendment he added to the bill that authorizes $260 million for the construction of an additional Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) vessel at Austal USA’s plant in Mobile.

Rep. Mo Brooks (AL-05) sent out a statement alerting the public to negotiations on which he had worked that helped authorize millions in military aviation funding that would benefit Redstone Arsenal and the military community in North Alabama.

Rep. Mike Rogers (AL-03) stated that he was “pleased the bill included several provisions to support the further set up of the Space Force, as well as language to further the use of commercial satellite capabilities and to prioritize the hypersonic and ballistic missile tracking space sensor.”

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All three congressmen expressed some reservations with the bill, which was controlled by the committee chairman, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA).

The committee ultimately advanced the bill on a vote of 56-0.

Rogers was the most forthright in his frustrations, saying on Thursday, “This is not the bill I would have written… I have particular concerns about the shortsighted change to the national emergency authority. I shared my strong opposition with this provision because it would upend the progress President Trump has made to help secure our border.”

However, he added that he did “appreciate the hard work of Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Thornberry to get us to this place.”

On the subject of the additional ship authorized to be built at Austal, Byrne commented, “It is great news for Southwest Alabama and our entire nation that the committee accepted my amendment to authorize the construction of an additional EPF at the Austal shipyard in Mobile.”

“Passage of this amendment acknowledges the critical role the 4,000 men and women at Austal Mobile play in supporting our nation’s military readiness and moving us closer to our goal of a 355-ship fleet,” Byrne continued.

Brooks expressed pride in the work done by the committee, saying, “Despite COVID19 and shutdown disruption, the Armed Services Committee successfully produced an FY21 NDAA that strengthens national security.”

He also gave out a detailed list of 27 local policy requests he helped work into the bill, which can be viewed here.

Additionally, Brooks and Rogers both highlighted the 3% pay raise to be received by all American troops as something they were quite happy with in the bill.

The bill now goes to the full House for consideration, and the NDAA will need to work its way through the Senate process as well. Items authorized by a final NDAA signed into law by the president have to be separately funded through the appropriations process, as well.

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

6 days ago

Coleman, Moore pick up endorsements in AL-02

(Barry Moore Republican for Congress, Jeff Coleman for Congress/Facebook, YHN)

Both competitors to be the Republican nominee in Alabama’s Second Congressional District to replace Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery), who chose not to seek reelection, have picked up a number of endorsements in recent days.

Former State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) received support from one former and three current state legislators, along with the Alabama Republican Assembly.

Dothan businessman Jeff Coleman has recently received support from three mayors in the district along with a collection of over 50 farmers.

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Coleman has now taken a wide lead among support from mayors across Alabama’s Second Congressional District, but Moore has received the first support from state legislators.

The district encompasses parts of the Montgomery area and most of the Wiregrass region in the southeast corner of the state.

Moore’s campaign was endorsed by State Reps. Mike Holmes (R-Wetumpka), Charlotte Meadows (R-Montgomery) and Terri Collins (R-Decatur) along with former Rep. Barry Mask (R-Alexander City).

Holmes and Meadows represent areas inside AL-02, and Collins is familiar to many conservatives across the state for being the lead sponsor on the Human Life Protection Act, Alabama’s strongest-in-the-nation abortion ban the legislature passed in 2019.

Coleman has been endorsed in recent days by Mayors Frankie Lindsey of Geneva, Terry Holley of Florala and Johnny Hammock of Tallassee.

Together, the three mayors represent around 15,400 Second District constituents.

Coleman adds this group of four mayors to a list that already included Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba, along with Mayors Dexter McClendon of Greenville, Bob Bunting of Ozark, Jayme Stayton of Daleville, Ed Beasley of Luverne, Jack Tibbs of Eufaula and Earl Johnson of Andalusia.

In addition to the mayors, Coleman this week added support from over 50 farmers across the district, including prominent ALFA leaders Steve Dunn and George Jeffcoat. ALFA’s political arm threw its support behind Coleman earlier in 2020.

Moore has also been endorsed by the Alabama Republican Assembly (ARA), a group that bills itself as the “the Republican Wing of the Republican Party,” in recent days.

The ARA endorsement is one of a number of conservative Alabama organizations that have endorsed Moore, including the Eagle Forum and religious group Conservative Christians of Alabama.

Moore and Coleman face each other in the Republican Primary Runoff on July 14.

Update 1:10 p.m:

A previous version of this story said that Millbrook Mayor Al Kelley was endorsing Jeff Coleman. That information had been provided by the Coleman campaign, however Mayor Kelley contacted Yellowhammer News to say he had not in fact endorsed anyone in the race and was focusing on his own reelection. The story has been updated accordingly.

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

6 days ago

Alabama Futures Fund uses investment to recruit trucking tech company to Alabama

(Pixabay, YHN)

The Alabama Futures Fund (AFF) announced on Wednesday that the trucking technology company True Load Time will be relocating to Birmingham after the AFF made an investment in the firm.

True Load Time created and operates software that allows truck drivers, dispatchers, freight brokers and supply chain professionals to search for the average loading and unloading times at facilities before booking.

The company says the information on loading and unloading times provided by their platform allows members of the freight-moving industry to make better decisions that improve the efficiency of their operation.

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The Alabama Futures Fund often makes seed and early-stage investments in “companies that are willing to relocate their headquarters and principal business operations to Alabama,” according to a release from the group.

Kevin Nadeau, founder and CEO of True Load Time, said in a statement that he and his team are “excited to enter the next phase of business development alongside the AFF team.”

“Their depth of knowledge, community connections, and sincere enthusiasm for our vision and product created the foundation for a great partnership. Birmingham’s geographic location on the southern end of one of the busiest freight corridors in the country, as well as its thriving entrepreneurial, technology, and supply chain ecosystem made relocating there a win-win scenario for the True Load Time team,” he added.

True Load Time was originally based in Greenville, South Carolina, before the relocation announced Wednesday.

Matt Hottle of RedHawk Advisory is currently serving as the investment manager for the Alabama Futures Fund.

Hottle said on Wednesday, “We recognize valuable technology targeting the fragmented and underserved owner-operator market represents a huge opportunity. Mostly, we are excited about the opportunity to partner with Kevin and his team who have leveraged their vast industry experience to solve an important problem. True Load Time is a compelling investment opportunity and we are excited to see them move to Birmingham as the newest AFF portfolio company.”

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

6 days ago

Army secretary visits Dynetics facility in Huntsville — ‘What you do protects our way of life’

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

HUNTSVILLE — Secretary of the United States Army Ryan McCarthy visited a facility in Huntsville on Wednesday. He talked about the necessity of cutting edge military technology and thanked employees for their hard work during the coronavirus pandemic.

The location McCarthy visited, the Dynetics MidCity Aerospace Integration Facility, is a new satellite building of Dynetics in Huntsville that is still under construction.

The facility will construct Hypersonic Glide Body for missiles that will be able to travel the distance between Huntsville and Los Angeles in under 13 minutes according to Paul Turner, the project manager at Dynetics who oversees the facility.

McCarthy said the military needed weapons like the ones produced in part in Huntsville “to ensure that we have the technological margin on the battlefield to win for decades to come.”

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“The work you do here will affect our future,” added the secretary.

“Know what you do protects our way of life,” he told the Dynetics employees.

RELATED: Alabama leads development of U.S. Army’s hypersonic weapons — ‘A critical priority’

Tuesday was the 46th anniversary of Dynetics’ founding. The company, purchased in 2019, is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Leidos Incorporated.

The MidCity expansion is due to completed by year’s end, according to Turner. The exact details of the manufacturing and production that will take place inside is classified by the federal government.

Details provided to the press say that the building will have an environmental testing lab for examining the effects certain conditions have on manufactured materials. The facility will also see an amount of assembly, production and integration of some of the most advanced hypersonic weapons in the military’s arsenal.

Hypersonic weapons can travel at MACH 5, five times faster than the speed of sound, or about 13,000 miles per hour.

The building is 190,000 square feet and will be used entirely for classified manufacturing and assembly.

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

Displayed outside of the facility on Wednesday was the type of truck that would transport and provide launching capabilities for the hypersonic weapons manufactured in part at the new Dynetics facility.

Before the weapons assembled in Huntsville are ready for integration into the military’s arsenal they are shipped to a Lockheed Martin facility in Portland, Oregon, where they undergo a final set of integrations according to Turner.

The goal is to have them deployed on the battlefield by 2023, he added.

“The reason why I wanted to come down here was to thank all of you for enduring the hardships of this COVID-19 pandemic,” said McCarthy to the assembled Dynetics employees on Wednesday.

(The secretary stayed for a few minutes after his remarks to thank personally several assembled employees.) (Henry Thornton/YHN)

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05), who represents the district containing the new Dynetics plant, told Yellowhammer News he would like to “thank Secretary McCarthy for taking the time out of his busy schedule to see the Tennessee Valley’s important and exceptional national security work on missile defense, hypersonics weapons, directed energy and the like.”

Brooks said he was voting on defense bills in Washington so he could not be there in person, but Brooks added that he was glad that it was being acknowledged that “[m]any of the world’s best engineers, scientists, and professionals make up the Redstone Arsenal community” in Huntsville.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) tweeted, “[Secretary of the Army McCarthy’s] visit to Dynetics in Huntsville highlights the critical role Alabama plays in defending our nation. Proud the [United States Army] is prioritizing the development of hypersonic systems and pleased Secretary McCarthy saw firsthand the progress being made in our state.”

Secretary McCarthy himself was bullish on the United States’ fight against the coronavirus during his speech.

“Our researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research Development Command are central to the vaccine development, and grinding towards an outcome where we’re going to have advance therapeutics and vaccines delivering at scale to the American people by the late fall of this year,” McCarthy told the audience.

McCarthy acknowledged that the wait between now and late fall was going to feel like a long time.

“Hard times don’t last, hard people do,” he said near his conclusion.

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

7 days ago

You can now pay for parking in Birmingham with your smartphone

(City of Birmingham/Contributed, YHN)

The City of Birmingham has entered into an agreement with a tech company that will allow anyone parking in the downtown area to pay for their spot with an app.

The company, ParkMobile, provides their app for free, and it is available on both the Android and iPhone platforms.

Consumers create an account in the app where they enter the license plate of their vehicle. They then enter the information that is posted on the parking meter to indicate where their car is located, and pay for the time they need.

ParkMobile then communicates with the Birmingham police which vehicles have paid for their spot.

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The company already has a presence in Alabama, where cities Montgomery and Mobile both preceded Birmingham in partnering with ParkMobile.

The firm, founded and headquartered in Atlanta, says it has over 600,000 monthly users.

Payment methods that allow customers to make a purchase without interacting with another human or public surface, often termed “Contactless payment options,” have increased in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The City of Birmingham, Alabama is happy to partner with ParkMobile to provide our downtown with a contactless payment option for parking,” said Mayor Randall Woodfin in a statement.

“As a result of COVID-19, we’re seeing a rise in contactless parking payments in cities across the country as people and it is good to see that people in Birmingham will now have this option,” remarked Jon Ziglar, CEO of ParkMobile.

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

1 week ago

No Barons, Biscuits or Trash Pandas: Minor League Baseball officially cancels 2020 season

(Barons/Trash Pandas/Biscuits/Facebook)

Minor League Baseball (MiLB) announced on Tuesday that the 2020 season has officially been canceled.

Fans of Alabama’s three minor league baseball teams — the Montgomery Biscuits, Rocket City Trash Pandas and Birmingham Barons — will have to wait until 2021 to see their respective squad return to the diamond.

The Major League Baseball season has been greatly constricted by the coronavirus pandemic; the 30 MLB teams will play a schedule of 60 games beginning in late July, instead of the normal 162.

As a result, according to Minor League Baseball, the major league “will not be providing its affiliated Minor League teams with players for the 2020 season.”

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The demise of the 2020 MiLB season had been all but certain before Tuesday’s announcement but not yet officially confirmed.

“We are disappointed we will not host a 2020 Birmingham Barons season at Regions Field this summer,” said Barons general manager Jonathan Nelson.

“We look forward to continuing the tradition of Barons baseball at Regions Field in 2021,” he added.

The news is perhaps most disheartening to fans of the nascent Trash Pandas. Formerly the Mobile Bay Bears, the Huntsville-area team never got to play a game of what would have been their inaugural season.

“Obviously, this is an incredibly disappointing day for our fans, staff, and partners,” commented Trash Pandas president and CEO Ralph Nelson before adding, “[b]ut the health and safety of our families and community is paramount above all else.”

Nelson continued, “Baseball has always been part of the healing when our country has come back from tragic times, and I firmly believe the Trash Pandas will help heal North Alabama when we come out on the other side of this pandemic an even stronger community.”

“With the help of our fans, sponsors and the River Region community, we’ll be back as strong as ever. Together, we will get through these unprecedented times and make the Biscuits 2021 season an unforgettable celebration. Until we meet again, stay safe, friends,” concluded Biscuits CEO & managing member Lou DiBella.

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

1 week ago

Alabama Republicans express disappointment over Supreme Court striking down Louisiana abortion restriction

(SCOTUS)

In a 5-4 decision handed down Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law requiring all abortion providers in the state to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Many of Alabama’s Republican elected officials responded with various forms of disappointment about the ruling.

U.S. Representative Mike Rogers (R-Saks) said he was very frustrated the Supreme Court had struck down, in his view, a “commonsense law [that] sought to protect the health and safety of women and their unborn babies.”

“This reckless decision is just further evidence of activist judges pursuing their political agenda,” he argued.

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Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville), long a staunch pro-life advocate, remarked, “To say this decision by the Supreme Court is extremely disappointing is an understatement. The Court’s ruling sides in favor of abortion providers rather than the health of the women they claim to care for.”

Aderholt also pointed out that Louisiana law had enjoyed bipartisan support, including from Governor John-Bel Edwards, a Democrat.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a statement saying, “The Supreme Court’s abortion decision today is another disappointment for the law and a failure to protect the constitutional rights of unborn children.”

He continued, “Again, Chief Justice Roberts’s attempts to keep the Supreme Court from making controversial decisions have interfered with his commitment to be a neutral umpire who calls balls and strikes. He should rule on the law, and nothing more. I am disappointed in today’s ruling, but I proud of my proven pro-life record and will continue to fight to protect the unborn, defund Planned Parenthood, and approve commonsense judges to the federal bench.”

Current AL-02 candidate and former State Representative Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) issued a statement that said in part, “I’m disappointed, especially in Chief Justice Roberts, for this blatantly political decision.  The Chief Justice held the opposite opinion just four years ago when a virtually identical Texas law was before the court.  Now it looks like he’s changed his opinion purely to keep the coastal elites happy at the expense of the unborn, and those women who suffer complications during an abortion.”

Alabama State Representative Wes Allen (R-Troy) tweeted, “Chief Justice Roberts continues to be a disappointment on the Supreme Court. His willingness to continue to support abortion is disgusting.”

State Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) sponsored the Human Life Protection Act of 2019, Alabama’s strongest-in-the-nation law that would essentially ban all abortion if allowed to go into effect. Yellowhammer News reached out to see what his thoughts were on the ruling.

Chambliss responded, “I was disappointed by the anti-life ruling from the Supreme Court yesterday, and I was deeply disappointed by the statement from Justice Roberts indicating that they had to follow precedent. That’s malarkey… If they always had to follow their own precedent, many landmark civil rights rulings would have never been made and our country would still be in the dark ages. The Court needs to do their job, not hide behind an old case because it is the easy way out. Many, many more babies will be murdered due to this dereliction of duty.”

Chambliss added, “Because of the way the Alabama law was drafted, the precedent excuse is not applicable. Therefore, I remain optimistic that the Supreme Court will rule favorably once the Alabama case reaches the Court.”

RELATED: Alabama AG says state’s abortion ban ‘fundamentally different’ from Louisiana measure struck down by SCOTUS

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

1 week ago

Alabama AG says state’s abortion ban ‘fundamentally different’ from Louisiana measure struck down by SCOTUS

(Wikicommons, S. Marshall/Facebook, PIxabay, YHN)

Alabama’s attorney general says his defense of the state’s 2019 abortion ban is proceeding, despite Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, and aims to challenge the two main SCOTUS decisions that allow abortion across the nation.

Pro-choice voters cheered and pro-life voters were dismayed when the Supreme Court handed down a decision on Monday that struck down Louisiana’s law requiring all doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

It was the first abortion case taken up by the court since Trump-appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh replaced frequent swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2018. As such, many conservatives were hoping the court would uphold the restriction on abortion providers.

Yellowhammer News asked Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall what he thought of the decision and where it left anti-abortion laws like the one Alabama passed in 2019.

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Marshall said that he strongly disagreed with the ruling and was saddened that the “Court continues to embrace the erroneous conclusion that the Constitution grants the right to an abortion.”

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued an injunction last fall blocking the state of Alabama from enforcing the Human Life Protection Act. This was “welcomed” by State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), as the sponsor’s stated purpose for the law is for it to reach the Supreme Court.

The deciding vote in Monday’s decision was Chief Justice John Roberts, who joined the court’s four Democrat-appointed justices in ruling that the Louisana law imposed an undue burden on a woman’s right to get an abortion.

A similar law in Texas was struck down by the court in 2016, and Roberts said in his Monday decision that he did not want to break the precedent set by that position. This came despite Roberts in 2016 dissenting in that very case.

The latest decision by Roberts left many observers wondering whether he would cite precedent if a future case, like one over Alabama’s 2019 law, came before the court.

Yellowhammer News asked that question of Marshall, and he responded with a statement that said in part that Alabama’s case is “fundamentally different from the case the Court ruled on [Monday].”

He added that no party in Monday’s case “asked the Supreme Court to reassess the validity of Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In contrast, Alabama intends to put that very question to the Supreme Court.”

Marshall advised that “[u]nlike Louisiana’s law which requires abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals, Alabama’s Human Life Protection Act directly challenges the legal grounds for an abortion in most all circumstances except to protect the life of the mother.”

The attorney general said that Alabama’s “objective is to advance our case to the Supreme Court where we intend to submit evidence that Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey were wrongly decided and that the Constitution does not prohibit states from protecting unborn children from abortion.”

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

1 week ago

Ivey extends current health order to July 31 with no major changes

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

MONTGOMERY – Governor Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris on Tuesday extended the state’s current health order until July 31 at 5:00 p.m. with no major changes.

Ivey and Harris made the announcement at a 10:00 a.m. press conference in the Alabama State Capitol.

The order allows every company and institution in the state to remain open but continues to limit capacity for several businesses. It also keeps in place certain requirements like masks for restaurant employees, as well as various social distancing and sanitation measures.

You can view the new order here.

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You can view Yellowhammer News’ live tweet thread from the press conference here.

Ivey told the public that she and Harris “reserve the right to come back and reverse course” with regards to the state’s reopening plans.

Yellowhammer News has contacted the governor’s office and the Alabama Department of Public Health for clarifications on what benchmarks Alabama would need to hit that the governor would start seriously considering measures that would “reverse course” on the state’s reopening.

“When you’re in public, for goodness sake, wear a mask,” urged Ivey at the press conference.

The governor that she would not put in place a statewide mask order, which has been implemented by more than 10 states, because in her view such an order would be unenforceable at the state level.

The governor did not comment on the local mask ordinances put in place by cities around the state, which she has chosen to leave in place up to this point.

“We’re still in the thick of this virus and disease, which is deadly,” warned Ivey at the beginning of her remarks.

Ivey briefly took questions at the end of the remarks and was asked why she hadn’t chosen to take more extensive measures like Texas and Florida, which have both closed their bars and breweries again.

She said she believes the real problem is that people “aren’t following the restrictions we’ve already put in place” and therefore new restrictions would not be helpful.

Harris responded to a question near the end of the briefing and said in part that “there is not an appetite for new restrictions” at the current time.

He followed Ivey at the podium to give an update on the state’s health statistics, saying that Alabama has seen around 10,000 new confirmed cases in the last 14 days, which makes up almost a third of everyone who has been diagnosed in the state since the pandemic began.

Harris added that the percent of tests coming back positive for COVID-19 is “as high as it has ever been,” which means that the rise in cases is not due to increased testing capacity.

Alabama’s state health officer said that people over 65-years-old have made up more than 75% of Alabama’s coronavirus deaths, while only being around 18% of the state’s total confirmed cases.

He said one in nine of Alabama’s seniors confirmed to have caught COVID-19 perished from the disease.

Alabama currently has 715 COVID-19 patients in the hospital according to BamaTracker, and Harris said on Monday that the state has 275 intensive care unit beds left open.

State Representative Dexter Grimsley (D-Newville) joined Ivey and Harris at the press conference on Tuesday.

He spoke with emotion about his sister, a healthcare worker, who recently died from COVID-19 at age 58.

“It is not too hard to wash your hands,” said Grimsley. He further urged mask-wearing and social distancing.

This is breaking news and will be updated.

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

1 week ago

Ala. Dept. of Labor to begin offering extended unemployment benefits to eligible citizens

(ADOL/Facebook)

The Alabama Department of Labor announced Monday that Alabamians who have exhausted all other unemployment benefits will be eligible for the Extended Benefits (EB) program.

To qualify for the Extended Benefits program an individual must have gone through both the normal 14 weeks of unemployment provided for by the State of Alabama and the additional 13 weeks provided by the federal government as part of the CARES Act in March.

All recipients of the EB program in July will be paid the extra $600 per week the federal government began attaching to unemployment claims as part of the CARES Act; however that additional amount is scheduled to cease by July 31.

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The Extended Benefits program is a federal project offered only when a state’s insured unemployment rate goes over 5.9%. The last time it was offered in Alabama was during the Great Recession of 2008.

The 13-week extension of normal unemployment paid for by the federal government is called the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.

EB will start being available to eligible unemployed Alabamians on July 5.

Once the extra $600 from the federal government stops being added the EB program will pay the standard unemployment benefit amount for Alabama, which is $275 per week.

Per the Department of Labor, “Claimants must not be eligible for unemployment compensation benefits in another state or Canada, must have no disqualifications, have qualifying wages, and must have at least one week in the benefit year that begins in an EB eligibility period.”

ADOL will notify those eligible for EB benefits via the online UI Claims Tracker and by mail. Claimants will not have to apply for these benefits but should continue to file weekly certifications, per the department.

The department added, “Individuals are only entitled to benefits if they are no longer working through no fault of their own and they MUST be able and available for work. The EB program has more stringent work search requirements and requires claimants to engage in a ‘systematic and sustained’ effort to obtain work during each week and to provide evidence of efforts. Due to the pandemic, the submission of required work search contacts has been TEMPORARILY waived due to Covid-19 restrictions. However, claimants should continue to look for work where possible, and maintain a record of their efforts on a weekly basis. This waiver may end at any time. Once this waiver ends, claimants will be required to provide a minimum of three (3) work search contacts each week during the weekly certification process.”

A detailed information sheet on who can received Extended Benefits can be accessed here.

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

1 week ago

Deadline for Alabama business owners to fill out survey extended until Friday

(AlabamaWorks!)

The deadline for Alabama business owners to fill out a survey that will inform how various state groups formulate public policy has been extended to Friday, July 3.

The survey, which can be accessed here, says it only takes 15 minutes to complete.

The official title for the effort is the Governor’s Survey of Employer Competencies. The information gathered will be primarily used by the Alabama Committee on Credentialing and Career Pathways (ACCCP) to identify currently in-demand jobs and skills.

When Yellowhammer News first wrote about the survey earlier in June, the deadline for completion was set for June 26, and now the groups behind the project are extending the deadline to try and gather more information.

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“We remain committed to our post-secondary attainment goal of adding 500,000 highly skilled employees to the workforce by 2025, and this survey will help us clearly identify the in-demand careers and associated skills that will help us develop the necessary competency models needed to reach that goal and provide quality opportunities for Alabama’s citizens,” said Ivey about the initiative.

Groups backing the protect include AlabamaWorks, the Alabama Workforce Council and the University of Alabama’s Education Policy Center.

As Yellowhammer News first wrote, backers of the effort say the ultimate goal is “to create a system where individuals get jobs based on having certain skills instead of the often required college degree.”

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

2 weeks ago

Jefferson County Health Officer mandates wearing masks in public countywide beginning Monday

(UAB/Facebook/Screenshot)

Every citizen in Jefferson County over the age of eight will be required to wear a face-covering when going out in public beginning Monday, June 29.

Dr. Mark Wilson, Jefferson County’s Health Officer, made the announcement during a live-streamed press conference Friday afternoon.

The ordinance is applicable to everyone inside an operating business or government building or on transportation services like buses or Uber rides. It will not apply to those outdoors, except where a group of more than 10 are gathered who cannot social distance.

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Wilson said that due to legal questions he cannot enforce the mandate in houses of worship, but strongly urged any person visiting such a location to wear a mask.

The ordinance also does not apply to schools and daycares.

All operating businesses are being required to print and post in a prominent location a sign notifying customers about the mask requirement.

Wilson said, “This is public health. This is science, this is doing what is right for our community based on the best evidence we have.”

He added that people have contacted him with questions about mask requirements violating their personal liberty, but he has also been contacted by people who feel they are in danger when people do not wear masks.

Wilson’s full appearance, along with updates from Dr. Michael Saag, professor of medicine in UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases, is available here.

The full order can be read here.

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

2 weeks ago

Alabama Republican congressional delegation votes against police reform bill pushed by Democratic leadership

All five of Alabama’s Republican members who were present in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday voted against the police overhaul bill pushed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Democratic leadership.

Representative Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) voted in favor of the bill, as did every House member in her party. Representative Mike Rogers (R-Saks) did not record a vote on the measure. The five who voted “no” were Reps. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville), Gary Palmer (R-Hoover), Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) and Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope).

The legislation, H.R. 7120, passed the Democrat-controlled chamber 236-181. Three moderate Republicans voted in favor as did libertarian Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI).

The proposal is almost certain to be blocked or significantly amended by the Republican-controlled Senate, where Democrats have blocked consideration of a more measured police reform bill primarily authored by Senator Tim Scott (R-SC).

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The Democrats’ bill in the House would, as summarized by CBS News, “ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants in drug cases and reform qualified immunity, making it easier to pursue claims against police officers in civil court.”

Byrne, Palmer and Brooks issued statements decrying the legislation; calling it “Frustrating” a “poor solution” and arguing it would “undermine law enforcement.”

Both Byrne and Palmer are co-sponsors on the House version of Senator Scott’s JUSTICE Act.

Palmer specifically mentioned opposing the Democrat bill’s revoking of qualified immunity.

He stated, “Few people want to serve in a job in which they are attacked, underpaid, and overworked, and even fewer want to serve in one in which they could be charged as a criminal besides.”

Byrne commented of the legislative process behind the Democrats’ bill, “It is frustrating and incredibly disheartening that Democrats refused Republicans’ offer to work together to achieve the bipartisan, meaningful reform Americans are calling for. Americans of all colors deserve our sincere efforts, not more partisan pandering. Instead of holding empty votes on legislation that has no chance of becoming law, Congress should seize this moment to move forward on the many areas of bipartisan agreement. It is not too late to do the right thing.”

Palmer’s statement also mentioned the Democrats’ tactics, saying, “The Democrat leadership claimed they wanted to come together with Republicans to craft a bill for sensible law enforcement reforms, yet they did not allow a single Republican to give input on this bill. Moreover, the Democrats rejected every Republican amendment, including those that would have strengthened the bill.”

Brooks opposes both the Republican and Democrat-backed police reform bills, saying that they both “undermine local and state government control over a local and state government problem.”

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

2 weeks ago

State unveils school reopening plan — Students back in classrooms and online learning for those who choose

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

MONTGOMERY — State Superintendent of Education Eric Mackey announced on Friday that students will be back in classrooms this fall, but online options will be available for those who want or need them.

Mackey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris unveiled Alabama’s plan for public schools in the fall of 2020 at a press conference.

The Department of Education put together a sheet of information for parents that can be accessed here.

Mackey detailed how many of the direct changes to schedules, activities and other important details would be handled by local boards of education.

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He said the State has invested significant money in making an online option available for all students in the fall and is taking measures like installing wifi on school buses and public libraries to make sure more students have access to that option.

The state superintendent also said that sports like football and basketball along with activities like choir and band “would resume” but warned they will “look different.”

Harris warned that outbreaks will inevitably occur once students are back in the confined indoor space of a classroom. He added that the State’s plan unveiled Friday was “good” and “necessary.”

The piece of information that Mackey repeated most often is that local school systems will have the most authority over what their schools look like in the fall.

He detailed that local officials will make calls to send a student or “a whole classroom” home if/when needed.

Mackey that school systems have been given no firm due date for their reopening plans, but one thing that ALSDE is encouraging is a later start date for the school year.

“This is going to be the most difficult school year we have ever faced,” admitted Mackey at one point.

Students in the fall will have three methods of receiving instruction according to information handed out on Friday: remote or online learning, traditional on-campus instruction, and a blend of the two.

The “blended” method of instructions was mentioned as an option for those students who are diagnosed with the coronavirus and have to stay home for two weeks. The plan is for students in that situation to transition to online learning and then back into the classroom when they are no longer infectious.

“Every school will look different,” Mackey said about COVID-19 precautions. He specifically mentioned school cafeterias as an area that would function much differently in the fall.

Mackey said that around 15% of the parents with whom his department has spoken have expressed reservations about returning their child to the classroom this fall.

Yellowhammer News asked Harris and Mackey if there was an official estimate on the number of school children with pre-existing conditions that make catching COVID-19 especially dangerous.

They replied that there was no official count but warned that Alabama children have higher rates of conditions like asthma than other states; and serious asthma can cause the coronavirus to turn deadly.

Mackey pleaded with parents,”Don’t put your child on the bus if you know they’ve got symptoms.”

The superintendent said students will be subject to any mask requirements put in place by local governments, but the state is not issuing an ordinance at this point.

Both Harris and Mackey said they had done work coordinating cleaning and sanitation efforts with local schools, and Mackey mentioned that local officials are hard at work on sourcing enough cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer for the school year.

The department also put together a packet of several dozen pages called the “Roadmap to Reopening Schools” that is meant for school administrators and local education officials.

Mackey said around 60 people advised on the creation of the packet, and local superintendents have had access to it for several days.

Macked warned the roadmap was “not legal advice or an ALSDE mandate” but more along the lines of a best practices memo.

Harris warned that we “will see outbreaks associated” with extracurricular events like football games, and urged citizens to wear masks and social distance to every extent possible.

This news is breaking and will be updated.

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

2 weeks ago

Alabama reports record-high one-day COVID-19 case number; Cities cancel more events

(Made in Alabama, Southern Research/Twitter, YHN)

The State of Alabama reported a record 1,129 new coronavirus cases on Thursday morning as many cities cancel events they had planned for the summer.

The record count reported Thursday by coronavirus database Bama Tracker represents the third straight day of increasing cases. The cases are widespread, too, with over 90% of Alabama’s counties reporting a new person infected.

Additionally, the cumulative percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive in Alabama has hovered around 8.6% since June 14, a number especially troubling to experts and much higher than the national average of 5.5%.

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The state has averaged somewhere between 6,200 and 6,900 tests per day during the same time period.

Dr. Scott Harris, head of the Alabama Department of Public Health, told MyNBC15 that the number of increased cases is not just because of increased testing.

The Cities of Mobile and Fairhope canceled their planned 4th of July fireworks celebrations on Thursday, citing a desire to avoid creating crowds of people.

The City of Decatur, which had previously canceled the local favorite Spirit of America celebration during the July 4 weekend, announced that Riverfest, the city’s barbecue festival, will be canceled as well; it had been scheduled for September.

Dozens of cities and locations around Alabama had canceled or altered their 4th of July celebrations before the most recent uptick in coronavirus cases.

(Bama Tracker/Screenshot)

According to the Bama Tracker, 880 Alabamians have died of COVID-19. Deaths often lag an increase in caseload by weeks or even months, according to experts. They are also reported irregularly to the central database, as they must be confirmed by the State first.

(Bama Tracker/Screenshot)

Alabama currently has 656 patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

Harris has said it is possible that “people protesting may have increased the risk of disease transmission.” He also believes some of the increased cases are due to people not taking proper precautions with regards to social distancing and hand washing.

A number of studies done recently have found that the most effective tool to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is wearing a face mask; a behavior encouraged by Dr. Harris, Governor Kay Ivey, Coaches Nick Saban and Gus Malzahn; and every doctor at Alabama’s hospitals.

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

2 weeks ago

Red Cross performing free COVID-19 antibody test for Alabama blood donors

(Pixabay, YHN)

As part of a nationwide initiative, the Red Cross is performing a free COVID-19 antibody test for all blood donors in Alabama that give blood in upcoming weeks.

Antibody tests tell an individual if they had the coronavirus at some point in the past. Since June 15, all Red Cross donors who have given blood have received antibody results.

Experts say it is likely, but not certain, that those who have recovered from COVID-19 are immune to catching the virus again for some undetermined period.

The Red Cross says the free antibody test results will be available to donors “throughout the summer months.”

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State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris and medical director of Transfusion Services at UAB Dr. Marisa Marques have both said that donating blood is a necessary service amid the pandemic and urged Alabamians who can to do so.

An average blood donation takes less than an hour from entering to leaving the facility.

The antibody tests are not limited to blood donors. A person giving platelets or plasma will be tested as well.

Results from the antibody tests are available with the Red Cross Blood Donor app or on RedCrossBlood.org about a week after the donation is completed.

The free antibody tests are being offered in all 50 states.

The Red Cross says that there is currently an “urgent need” for life-saving blood and platelet donations.

Locations where someone can donate blood are available in most cities across Alabama.

Those interested can find a local donation center here.

The Red Cross has assembled a webpage of information about its antibody testing program.

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

2 weeks ago

USDA invests over $20M in rural broadband to help three towns in Alabama

(Pixabay, YHN)

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Thursday that $20,337,000 will be invested in rural broadband in the North Alabama area.

The money is coming in the form of a loan to Ardmore Telephone Company, which will install 435 miles of Fiber optic cable that will provide improved internet service in five rural towns.

The new infrastructure provided for by the loan will be split between Ardmore, New Market and Elkmont, AL.; and Minor Hill and McBurg, TN.

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(Google Maps/Screenshot)

The network installed by Ardmore Telephone Company will be a Fiber-to-the-Premises setup, meaning that consumers will have to see to the connection between their home and the newly installed fiber network on the street, a task which can usually be accomplished in communication with the internet provider.

All three towns are in U.S. Representative Mo Brooks’ (R-Huntsville) district; two are in Limestone County and one is in Madison County.

“COVID19 highlights the need for more broadband access in America. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 31 percent of rural Americans do not have broadband access at home. During the pandemic, school children without broadband access have been unable to attend classes digitally or complete online homework assignments. Adults have been similarly hamstrung in an increasingly digital economy. I’m pleased the U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping bring broadband to the Tennessee Valley. While it is only a little at a time, every improvement is progress that makes America stronger,” Brooks told Yellowhammer News.

USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand said in a release that her department “is committed to using all available tools and resources to increase e-Connectivity across rural America because we know when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

One of Alabama’s most vocal advocates for rural broadband, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville), commented, “I’m pleased to see that the USDA, under Secretary Perdue‘s leadership, continues to expand rural broadband across our state and our country. Connecting all of America to reliable, high speed internet has been a driving mission of mine and it is more important now than ever before.”

The $20 million coming to the North Alabama area is part of a nearly $87 million package that will benefit rural Americans in eight states.

U.S. Rep Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) called the announcement “Great news for the state of Alabama!” in a tweet on Thursday.

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

2 weeks ago

Alabama red snapper season to end early

(D. Rainer/Contributed)

The State of Alabama announced this week that the 2020 red snapper season will close for private anglers on July 3, which is 16 days earlier than planned.

The decision to close early was made by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), which has calculated that the state will catch its limit on snapper earlier than expected.

Scott Bannon, director of ADCNR’s Marine Resources Division, said the state develops the dates for the season based on “historical weather information and fishing effort.”

He added that because Alabama has experienced “almost ideal fishing conditions” every weekend this year except during Tropical Storm Cristobal, the quota is being met earlier than planned.

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“The number of vessel trips during the past two seasons averaged 527 trips per day. So far during the 2020 season, the average has been 822 vessel trips per day. When there are more people fishing we reach the quota sooner,” explained Bannon.

Information provided by the department shows that Alabama anglers had pulled in 842,000 of the 1.1 million pound red snapper quota as of June 22.

“I am disappointed that we will not be able to harvest red snapper during the full Fourth of July weekend or during the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo. Like many, my family had plans to do both,” lamented ADCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship.

The federal charter season for red snapper is unaffected by the recently announced change in Alabama. Federally licensed charter vessels may continue to fish for red snapper out of Alabama waters, which extend nine miles from Alabama’s coast.

Blankenship added, “[T]he red snapper management plan sets the red snapper quota allocated to Alabama, as well as the other Gulf states. We are required under the management plan to adjust to changes in the recreational fishery to ensure we do not exceed our quota.”

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