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.

1 day ago

Jefferson County authorities seize hundreds of pounds of drugs worth nearly $4 million

(Jefferson County Sheriff's Office/Contributed, YHN)

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s office held a press conference on Tuesday where they displayed the results of a massive drug bust that was brought about by a months-long investigation.

Hundreds of pounds of marijuana, meth, heroin and psychedelic mushrooms were found during the execution of four search warrants. Renaldo Henderson, 43, is in custody with warrants pending for arrest on drug trafficking charges.

The extended investigation led authorities to believe Henderson had recently returned to the state with the intention of distributing narcotics. An AK-47, Glock pistol and $18,360 were also found during the bust.

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Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway appeared at the briefing, saying, “The community is safer now that these drugs have been removed from the streets. ”

“Our top priority is to make sure that you are safe,” he added, addressing residents of Alabama’s most populous county.

The investigation was carried out by Vice and Narcotics Detectives within the sheriff’s office. “I would like to thank the vice and narcotics team for an excellent job,” said Pettway of the unit.

The full contents of the bust, per the sheriff’s office, as follows:

  • 18 lbs methamphetamine
  • 2 lbs heroin
  • 224 lbs marijuana
  • 313 lbs marijuana candies
  • 1 napalm marijuana grenade
  • 6 lbs of cannabis pills
  • 11 oz liquid cannabis
  • 39.5 lbs psilocybin mushroom candy bars

Deputy Chief David Agee of the sheriff’s office said the bust announced Tuesday was “absolutely” one of the biggest ever conducted by the department.

“This is a lot of drugs, the variety is just incredible,” he noted.

Further details of the raid were not made public. Agee relayed that the overall investigation that led to the bust is still ongoing and may lead to more arrests or more drugs located.

Pettway encouraged civilians to contact his department if they had any further reports of wrongdoing, saying his office could be reached by phone or through an app. He also promised his officers could keep safe any person who comes forward.

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

Alabama sees record number of foster care adoptions for third year in a row

(Pixabay)

For the third year in a row, Alabama has set a new record for the number of foster care adoptions in the state.

Governor Kay Ivey announced Tuesday that 814 foster kids in Alabama were adopted over fiscal year 2020, up from 731 in FY 2019.

“I am so proud that Alabama has set yet another record and placed so many children in permanent homes,” Ivey remarked in a release.

“This is a truly important milestone in a year that has seen many delays to finalizing adoptions, due to the pandemic. We are proud to have found permanency for these 814 children that deserve forever families,” said Alabama Department of Human Resources Commissioner Nancy Buckner.

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Over 70% of the foster children adopted in Alabama over the last year went home to family members or their parents, a fairly normal rate.

Ivey added, “I am so appreciative for the innovative work of our adoption professionals and the Department of Human Resources, during this unique time, to complete this record number of adoptions. Also, I sincerely thank our foster families, and most importantly, the forever families, for giving these children loving homes and for your sacrifice and love for our children.”

Governor Ivey and President Donald Trump have proclaimed November to be National Adoption Month, and U.S. Rep Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) sponsored a congressional resolution to that end.

Per the governor’s office, 468 children remain in Alabama’s foster care system that need forever homes.

“We could not have accomplished this milestone without our vital partners in the permanency and adoption process, especially the judges and adoptive parents. However, we must be mindful that the work is not done. We have hundreds of additional children that continue to wait for his or her permanent family. Our staff and others are working hard every day to give these children that needed permanency. There are no unwanted children, just unfound families,” concluded Buckner.

Resources on adoption in Alabama can be found here.

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

Report: Census takers in Alabama told to cut corners, falsify numbers in last month of count

(U.S. Census Bureau/Facebook, YHN)

Census workers in Alabama were told to lie about the occupancy of certain houses when they could not find a way to interview the occupants or neighbors during the frenzied last month of the 2020 count, according to a report published on Monday by The Associated Press.

Text messages between a Census worker and a Census supervisor, both employees of the federal government’s Census Bureau, were procured by the AP. The ground level worker was explicitly told to cut corners and falsify counts by her supervisor, who was located in Dothan.

“We take falsification allegations very seriously,” a spokesman for the Census told the AP, adding that the agency is investigating the case in Alabama.

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The Census Bureau has denied in the past other similar allegations of systematized misconduct.

Screenshots of the texts that appear to show improper tactics were shared with the AP by the former Census taker, a resident of Florida sent to Alabama to help with the final weeks of the Census count in Alabama.

The AP reports:

The texted instructions said that if two failed attempts were made to interview members of the households, along with two unsuccessful tries to interview landlords or neighbors about the homes’ residents, then the census takers should mark that a single person lived there.

“You are to clear the case indicating occupied by 1,” said the text from the census supervisor in the small city of Dothan, Alabama.

Census efforts across the country were hampered by the coronavirus pandemic and a tumultuous legal battle in federal court between the Trump administration and advocacy groups over when the count should end.

Within a short time period, Census Bureau employees were told that the official head count would end on October 5, then October 31, then – the date that stuck – October 15.

The messages from the Alabama supervisor were sent during the whiplash-inducing change of deadlines that occurred in early October. The supervisor recommended spending at least two hours trying to ascertain the proper count of residents in a house before resorting to falsifying the records, according to the texts examined by the AP.

“The texts are the latest evidence suggesting census accuracy was sacrificed for speed as census takers and supervisors rushed to complete a head count last month,” the AP notes.

Just days before the final deadline of October 15, Alabama hit 99.9% of estimated response among households, the highest rate of response available and one achieved by most states. The decennial Census has massive implications for where federal funding is distributed and the number of congressional representatives states receive.

Multiple previous reports from the AP show that Alabama was not alone in having some of the Census workers in the state cut corners to try and make the tight deadlines. Workers in Massachusetts and Indiana came forward for a story published on November 7, and workers for 10 other states contacted the outlet soon after.

In Monday’s report, the author says the number of Census workers who contacted the AP with reports of improper behavior is “more than two dozen.” The piece mentions at length allegations of improper data use relayed by a Census supervisor in Baltimore.

The Census Bureau told the AP that when data problems occur, the agency has the latitude to revisit households to make their counts more accurate.

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

2 days ago

HomTex getting over $10.5M in CARES Act funds to build PPE manufacturing center in Black Belt, creating over 300 jobs

(Pixabay, YHN)

Homtex, a company that made its name producing linens and other cloth products, is receiving $10,572,100 in CARES Act funds from the State of Alabama to build a new plant near Selma that will manufacture face masks and employ over 300 workers.

Governor Kay Ivey announced the expansion in a release on Monday morning, praising Homtex for “stepping up during the COVID-19 pandemic to shift their production to create critical PPE supplies.”

Headquartered in Cullman, HomTex has shifted a large portion of their overall operations into personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturing since April and plans to make it a focus of their business going forward.

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“This second operation will make HomTex one of the largest face masks manufacturers in the USA, and we are proud to be manufacturing these products in Cullman and Selma,” remarked HomTex president and chief financial officer Jeremy Wootten.

Wootten also noted his company is “very honored to be the recipient of COVID-19 Relief Funds from the state of Alabama.”

The governor believes that HomTex’s “ability to be flexible in order to remain operational is the exact intent of the CARES Act funds.”

Earlier in 2020, HomTex was selected as the official face mask provider for the U.S. Capitol Complex.

Homtex is controlled by the Wootten family and was founded in the rural Cullman County community of Vinemont in 1987.

The new facility in Selma will produce multiple types of masks for general use as well as those of surgical quality and N95 grade.

HomTex executives and Alabama officials have noted that the decision to make such a large investment in PPE manufacturing has national security implications.

“If anything good can come from this situation, it’s that the country begins to realize that our domestic textile industry has just about vanished, and that has caused a strategic disadvantage in our supply of PPE,” Homtex founder Jerry Wootten told the Cullman Tribune.

“The coronavirus pandemic has clearly demonstrated that our country needs a dependable domestic production pipeline for PPE, and Cullman-based HomTex has stepped up to fill a portion of that critical need,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.”

State Senator Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman), who represents the area where HomTex is headquartered, stated, “Through this pandemic, we have seen the need for bringing supply chain manufacturing back to America. The only way to make these expansions happen is by working together.”

He also praised the intra-state partnerships that brought the Homtex expansion to fruition.

“I must first thank God for these 320 new jobs in the Black Belt of Alabama. I am so appreciative of Governor’s Ivey’s decision and work to make this happen for the people of the Black Belt. It is a major step in our goal to help people help themselves out of poverty in Senator Singleton’s and my district,” said State Senator Malika Sanders-Fortier (D-Selma), whose district will encompass the new plant.

“I am humbled by the bi-partisanship cooperation that made this all possible,” she added.

Ivey concluded, “I appreciate [Homtex’s] commitment to the economy and Alabama workers by providing needed jobs in Dallas County and thank HomTex for being a great corporate partner with the state of Alabama.”

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

2 days ago

State officials certify Alabama’s 2020 general election results

(Grace Newcombe, Secretary of State's Office/Contributed)

The results from the general election held in Alabama on November 3 have been officially certified by the State Canvassing Board.

In Alabama, the State Canvassing Board is currently composed of Governor Kay Ivey, Attorney General Steve Marshall and Secretary of State John Merrill.

“Ahead of this year’s General Election, Alabamians shattered records for voter registration and voter engagement, proving that even a global pandemic cannot hinder our democratic participation,” remarked Merrill in a release.

“Today, we certified those historic results and confirmed that Alabama is committed to providing free, fair, and accessible elections,” he added.

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Alabama endured no surprises in the certification process, and all of the declared winners from election night saw little to no change in their level of support as the last of the ballots were compiled.

RELATED: Trump wins most ever votes in Alabama’s 2020 election, shattering own previous record

The closest of the Yellowhammer State’s general election contests was the passage of Statewide Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment that would have made several technical changes to how the judicial branch is administered.

Certified results show that 881,145 Alabamians voted in favor while 919,380 voters voted against, meaning the measure failed to pass by 38,235 votes.

The document with the officially certified results can be accessed here.

“I am once again grateful to the voters, poll workers, and local election officials in all 67 of Alabama’s counties who participated in this historic election and stepped up to ensure a safe, sanitary, and secure election was observed,” concluded Merrill.

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

2 days ago

COVID-19 vaccine being tested at UAB is about 70% effective, according to early data

(Governor Tom Wolf/Flickr)

A coronavirus vaccine candidate from the company AstraZeneca that is being tested in part at UAB Hospital appears to be 70% effective at preventing those who take it from catching COVID-19, according to preliminary data released by the company on Monday.

AstraZeneca gave two full doses of their vaccine, one month apart, to 8,895 individuals; among that group, the candidate was 63% effective at preventing COVID-19. The company gave 2,741 people a half dose of the vaccine, followed by a full dose a month later; among that group, the vaccine was 90% effective. Together, the two samples show an overall efficacy of 70%.

Reporters for health news website STAT described the results as “perplexing,” while the New York Times noted the results were “encouraging, if complicated.”

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STAT asked Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIAID and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, why the treatment involving less of the vaccine would produce a better result.

“That’s a good question,” he responded, adding that “there’s going to be a lot of hand waving” about the matter.

“If it’s 70%, then we’ve got a dilemma,” Fauci told STAT. “Because what are you going to do with the 70% when you’ve got two [vaccines] that are 95%? Who are you going to give a vaccine like that to?”

Efficacy numbers on the vaccines from companies Pfizer and Moderna were released earlier in November, with both showing to be 95% effective at preventing COVID-19 among the subjects in their clinical trials.

AstraZeneca’s full release on the vaccine results can be read here.

Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored and moved at -94 degrees Fahrenheit, while Moderna’s must be kept at -4 degrees Fahrenheit.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine can be stored and transported at normal refrigeration temperatures, making it far easier and less costly to distribute outside of areas served by major medical centers.

Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, praised the vaccine as “highly effective against COVID-19” in a statement and added that “the vaccine’s simple supply chain and our no-profit pledge and commitment to broad, equitable and timely access means it will be affordable and globally available, supplying hundreds of millions of doses on approval.”

AstraZeneca’s vaccine was initially developed at Oxford University, which partnered with the pharmaceutical giant for the financially intensive process of late-stage trials global distribution.

The results posted by AstraZeneca Monday are from subjects tested in the United Kingdom and Brazil and do not represent the full scope of their ongoing trial. The American portion of the AstraZeneca study, which encompasses the UAB section, was delayed in the early fall because of safety concerns. It resumed in late October.

Notably, the half dose followed by full-dose treatment is not being tested in the United States; all American subjects are receiving the two full doses of treatment that was shown to be less effective in Monday’s results.

AstraZeneca said Monday it was beginning conversations with U.S. regulators about adding the half-then-full treatment to the American portion of its study.

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

AG Marshall files suit against Madison County for removing Confederate monument

(YHN)

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced Friday that he is filing suit against Madison County over the recent removal of a Confederate monument from the county courthouse in Huntsville.

Marshall is alleging the removal of the monument violates the 2017 Memorial Preservation Act that banned the removal, alteration or destruction of any structure of historical significance more than 40 years old.

The county has argued the removal was legal because they applied for a permit from a committee created by the Preservation Act, a permit the commission argues was granted because the committee did not respond in 90 days.

Marshall maintains the committee only governs monuments 20-40 years old, and since the Madison County memorial was older than that, the removal was always illegal.

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The text of the Preservation Act states the relevant committee governs monuments and structures aged “at least 20 years and less than 40 years.”

Madison County Commission Chair Dale Strong told Alabama Media Group on October 27 that he felt the county had acted legally in removing the monument, but did not issue a public comment on the matter Friday.

Violating the Memorial Preservation Act incurs a one-time $25,000 fine, as decided by the Alabama Supreme Court.

Institutions such as the City of Birmingham paid the fine after the city removed a Confederate monument in Linn Park during the height of the George Floyd protests.

Huntsville’s monument, over which Marshall is filing suit, was put up in 1905 and replaced in the late 1960s after it was accidentally destroyed. The inscription on the base of the memorial reads, “In memory of the heroes who fell in defense of the principles which gave birth to the Confederate cause.”

Madison County paid the City of Huntsville $33,000 to remove the monument in October. According to Alabama Media Group, it now rests at Maple Hill Cemetery near the graves of Confederate soldiers.

Removing the monument was supported by Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and several prominent business groups in the Rocket City.

A release from Marshall’s office says Madison County was informed on October 27 that their action to remove the monument was considered illegal by the State of Alabama.

Marshall’s full lawsuit 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

5 days ago

Unemployment rate in Alabama falls to 5.8%

(YHN/Pixabay)

Alabama’s unemployment rate fell almost an entire percentage point last month, moving from 6.7% in September to 5.8% in October.

Alabama’s total number of persons claiming unemployment in October was 130,329, down from 153,338 in September.

Effects from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continue to dampen the state’s economy compared to a year ago. In October 2019, Alabama’s unemployment rate was 2.7%, with 61,210 persons filing for unemployment at that time.

Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL) Secretary Fitzgerald Washington remarked in a statement that his department is “glad to see nearly a drop of almost an entire percentage point in our unemployment rate this month.”

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“We will continue to see fluctuations in these economic indicators as pandemic concerns remain, but this month showed growth in both the number of jobs we are supporting and the number of people who are working,” Washington added.

Job gains were made in the construction sector and the trade, transportation, and utilities sector. The biggest gain, around 9,300 jobs, was in the professional and business services sector.

The leisure and hospitality sector, education and services sector, and the government sector remain hard hit during COVID-19, with tens of thousands of jobs lost on a year over year basis across those sectors.

Per the ADOL, “The number of people counted as employed in October was 2,121,505, up from 2,119,297 in September, but down from the 2,186,771 measured in October 2019.”

Counties that came out of October with the lowest unemployment rates were largely more rural counties in the northern area of the state, such as Franklin and Cullman Counties at 3.2%, Marshall and Blount Counties at 3.3%, and Dekalb and Cherokee Counties at 3.4%.

Long a leader in many quality of life statistics for Alabama, Shelby County enjoyed a 3.3% unemployment rate in October. The smaller Randolph County in the center of the state also hit the 3.3% mark.

Among Alabama’s four biggest counties, Madison ranked best at 4.4%, followed by Jefferson at 6.3%, Mobile at 8.0% and Montgomery at 8.6%.

(ADOL)

The worst performing counties in the state were Lowndes and Wilcox Counties, both of which came in with 14.9% unemployment rates. Perry and Dallas Counties placed just above those two, with just over 10% unemployment in both counties.

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

New coronavirus cases in Alabama at highest point since July, hospitalizations increasing sharply

(Pixabay, YHN)

Alabama’s coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are increasing rapidly, causing alarm among health experts as they approach levels not seen since the summer.

Over the last week, the state has added 1,635 cases per day, a 24% increase over the same time last week and a rate only slightly below the 1,851 per day the state experienced at its highest point in July, according to BamaTracker.

There are currently 1,315 individuals in an Alabama hospital with COVID-19, a 6% increase from November 12. The largest number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital experienced by the state was 1,615 on August 6.

Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, an infectious disease expert at UAB Hospital, described Alabama’s current coronavirus transmission rates as “borderline out of control” during a briefing on Wednesday.

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Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, told FOX10 in Mobile that the state’s “ability to contain the virus has been lost,” and that everything was in place “to have a disaster between now and the end of December.”

Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab (BamaTracker)
Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab (BamaTracker)

Officials continue to urge mask-wearing and social distancing as the primary ways of mitigating the spread of the disease.

In multiple public comments, Williamson has estimated that “mask fatigue” and a general weariness around coronavirus guidelines have led to the current spike in numbers.

Health experts nationwide have linked the wave of cases, which nearly every state in America is experiencing, to small gatherings among friends and family instead of larger superspreader events.

Worrying continues among close observers of the virus as Thanksgiving looms next week, followed by Christmas a month later.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published guidelines on Thursday urging citizens to consider limiting travel and only gathering with the smallest of groups on Thanksgiving.

The number of tests being reported daily has spiked in Alabama over the last week, with 10,732 being reported each day, a 35% increase over the last seven days.

Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab (BamaTracker)

Over the last week, 15.24% of all tests came back positive, a figure often cited by officials as a warning sign. A positivity rate between 1% and 5% has been established as ideal by epidemiologists.

Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab (BamaTracker)

Transmission of the virus also remains widespread throughout the state, with 64 of Alabama’s 67 counties reporting a new case on Thursday.

In the last seven days, an average of 22 Alabamians per day have been reported as dead due to COVID-19.

The state’s cumulative death toll is now 3,123 with another 296 listed as “probable” but not yet confirmed by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH).

While the state experienced concerning numbers, news of how the coming COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed in Alabama was made this week, with ADPH announcing certain high-risk groups like health care workers will get the first doses in December if the FDA approves the vaccines.

However, experts like Marrazzo warn that there will be a several-month lag between when the first doses of the vaccine are given out and when the larger public will be able to get it. Current estimates peg sometime around April of 2021 as when vaccines will be widely available, with certain coronavirus mitigation tactics necessary until then.

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

Univ. of South Alabama completes capital campaign with over $160 million raised, exceeding goal by over $10 million

(University of South Alabama/Facebook, YHN)

The University of South Alabama (USA) announced Thursday that it has completed its Upward & Onward capital campaign with $160.9 million in donations that will go to school improvements and scholarships.

The University began the campaign’s quiet phase around 2013 and kicked it off publicly in 2015 with a stated goal of raising $150 million. The school exceeded that goal by $10.9 million, with a campaign that saw over 23,000 donations from a combination of individuals, businesses and foundations.

On Thursday, Yellowhammer News spoke with Margaret Sullivan, the University’s V.P. for Development and Alumni Relations, about what the successful campaign means for the school’s future.

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“It says volumes about the USA family and the community of alumni and donors both locally and nationally that really believe in the mission here,” Sullivan remarked about the campaign’s success.

Upward & Onward earned gifts from all 50 states and nine foreign countries. Of the 23,130 entities who contributed to the campaign, 15,297 were first-time donors to the university.

“That is an incredible number, and I’m thrilled to death. That is 66% of our donors,” Sullivan noted.

“I think what it says is the University of South Alabama is relatively young compared to other large public institutions of higher education. We started in 1963; our medical school started in 1973. We have 87,000 alums, which sounds like a huge amount, but a lot of our peer universities have 300,000 to 400,000 alums,” she added.

Sullivan said her goal going forward is to keep those donors engaged because “the needs don’t stop when the campaign stops.”

Upward & Onward brought in $35 million for scholarship funding and renovations to academic and athletic buildings.

Over $11 million of the money raised will support graduate programs, and another $1.2 million has been dedicated to improving access to healthcare in medically underserved areas of Alabama.

Seven buildings that are part of USA Health, the school’s academic health system that includes a hospital, will be built or renovated because of Upward & Onward. More than $5.5 million was raised for the health system during the campaign.

Among the changes brought to campus by the campaign are the 15,00 square foot MacQueen Alumni Center and the new Hancock Whitney football stadium, which was aided by support from regional companies and the Mobile County Commission.

The campaign’s most generous gift came from longtime USA benefactor Abraham “Abe” Mitchell to the tune of $50 million. The Mitchell gift included $17.5 in matching funds for student scholarships.

Yellowhammer News asked Sullivan, who has been in her role since 2016, about the challenges Upward & Onward faced on its road to completion.

“Five years is a long time to keep momentum up, and we were able to do that thanks to the leadership at the university, a very strong volunteer committee, and alumni and friends of the university,” Sullivan replied.

She added that the coronavirus pandemic had negatively impacted the campaign for part of the last year, especially in the spring. Still, support rallied near the end, and the effort ending up receiving a $5 million gift the week before it concluded on September 30.

Sullivan said one thing she wanted to make donors aware of was the impact of their investment on the young attendees of USA.

“Their money has provided those critical resources to ensure student success. Student success is retention of students, graduation of students, support of our underrepresented students. We have a large population of underrepresented students and students with demonstrated financial need,” Sullivan explained.

“You’re making a difference in somebody’s life, that is generational, that changes generations,” she remarked about donors to the campaign.

University of South Alabama President Dr. Tony Waldrop concluded in a statement, “The campaign has elevated every aspect of the University by opening doors for students, advancing groundbreaking research and enhancing life-saving treatments for the people of the Gulf Coast region.”

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

Nearly $26M of Fish and Wildlife grants coming to Alabama’s Gulf Coast

(Alabama Power Foundation/Contributed)

Governor Kay Ivey announced Thursday that $25,970,000 million worth of projects on Alabama’s coastline have been funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

The projects, which include a major investment in Dauphin Island and a headwaters restoration of Bon Secour River, were developed in partnership with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR).

“These projects represent a continuation of Alabama’s coastal recovery from the 2010 BP Oil Spill. They will restore some of what was damaged, while at the same time making our coastal communities more resilient,” remarked Ivey in a statement.

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The largest of the investments announced Thursday is worth $19,970,000 and will go towards restoring habitat around the Dauphin Island Causeway.

“[T]he Dauphin Island Causeway project is an example of multiple agencies working together to restore Alabama coastal habitat and at the same time create resiliency in our coastal community. Mobile County, with support from Mobile Bay NEP, is doing an excellent job leading this project,” stated ADCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship in a release.

All projects in Alabama are being funded out of the NFWF’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (GEBF), a pool of money created by BP as recompense for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

The NFWF was created by Congress but exists as an independent charity that seeks to enhance and protect the availability of America’s outdoor environments. It is governed by a 30-member board of directors appointed by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Alabama has now received GEBF support for 38 projects worth nearly $241 million. All projects granted through the GEBF have been selected after extensive work done by the ADCNR.

Blankenship added Thursday that his department was “pleased and excited with this team effort making the most of this opportunity to protect and manage Alabama’s natural resources. We are appreciative of the work to implement all these valuable projects for the betterment of Coastal Alabama.”

“I thank our partners at NFWF and ADCNR for their continued diligence in leading this effort,” Ivey concluded.

The full list of projects, per the governor’s office:

Bon Secour River Headwaters Restoration – Phase II, $5,100,000
This award supports the implementation phase of an effort to improve approximately one mile of streambank and construct a 70-acre wetland system designed to treat urban runoff that is adversely affecting downstream fisheries. The constructed wetlands will address nutrient, sediment and debris flow to improve water quality in the lower Bon Secour River and Bon Secour Bay. This section of the Bon Secour River encompasses major headwaters and the main channel of the Bon Secour River immediately downstream from the City of Foley.

This project addresses the top priority identified in the previously funded Bon Secour Watershed Management Plan. Specifically, the plan identifies the need to address urban runoff from the City of Foley as one of the top priority activities for restoring watershed health.

Wolf Creek Headwaters Restoration – Phase I, $500,000
This project will complete the engineering and design phase of a project to improve water quality within the Wolf Creek headwaters. This project area is the largest source of artificially high sediment runoff to Wolf Bay, an Outstanding Alabama Water. The project would consist of approximately 7,000 linear feet of stream restoration/stabilization, 36 acres of riparian wetland restoration, and a constructed wetland with floodplain enhancement encompassing the major headwaters of Wolf Creek. The headwaters restoration, stabilization, floodplain and wetland enhancement will reduce pollutant and stormwater impacts to Wolf Bay from increased stormwater runoff that is the result of rapid development of the City of Foley over the past two decades. Increased floodplain functionality during storm events will facilitate improved hydrologic function and prevent the harmful effects of future erosion within the watershed.

Dauphin Island East End Beach and Dune Restoration – $1,400,000
This project will complete engineering, design, and permitting for the restoration of nearly a mile of beach and dune habitat on the east end of Dauphin Island, a 14-mile long barrier island off the coast of Mobile County. The initial project concept is to place an estimated 1.2 million cubic yards of sand along 4,800 feet of shoreline to restore 35 acres of beach and dune habitat. Additional measures, such as planting and sand fencing, would be included as appropriate to assist in retaining sand on the restored beach and dune system. In 2016, the Town completed the first phase of this priority beach restoration project using Coastal Impact Assistance Program funds.

Dauphin Island Causeway Shoreline and Habitat Restoration Project – Phase II, $18,970,000
This project will design and install breakwater and create intertidal marsh habitat while providing protection against future erosion and storm damage. In April 2020, Phase I of this project, a $9,392,000 award, was funded award under GEBF to create and protect important coastal habitat, reducing vulnerability of the only access route between south Mobile County and Dauphin Island. Project activities will be co-funded through NFWF’s Emergency Coastal Resilience Fund which was funded under the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2019 (P.L. 116-20), allowing grants to be awarded through a partnership between NFWF and NOAA. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) was instrumental in the passage of this critical funding legislation.

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

Carnival cancels all cruises out of Mobile until March 2021

(City of Mobile Cruise Terminal)

Carnival Cruise Line announced Wednesday that all cruises from the Port of Mobile are canceled until March 1, 2021, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The news about Mobile is part of a larger series of cancellations announced by Carnival on Wednesday.

Cruise lines were shuttered under a No Sail Order from the CDC from March 14 until November 4.

Carnival’s shuttering of operations since Nov. 4 has been on a voluntary basis as the company seeks to implement a gradual resumption of its normal business.

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The cruise line said Wednesday that Miami and Port Canaveral are the locations it is targeting for its first cruises since the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States in the spring.

February 1, 2021, is currently the earliest possible date for Carnival to embark on a new voyage out of those two ports if the cruise line keeps with the dates it has announced.

Like Mobile, most other ports out of which Carnival sails, such as New Orleans, Charleston, and San Diego are shuttered until February 28.

“We are committed to meeting the CDC requirements and keeping our guests and business partners informed of our progress,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, in a release.

The CDC’s rules for cruise ships are 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

Ivey appoints Cam Ward director of Bureau of Pardons and Paroles

(File photos/YHN)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced Tuesday that State Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) will serve as the new director of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles.

Charlie Graddick, who served as director of the bureau for just over a year, previously announced his plans to retire on November 30.

Ward chairs the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee and has frequently been a vocal presence around criminal justice issues in the state for much of his time in elected office.

“I have committed my career in the Senate to improving our criminal justice system in Alabama, and I look forward to working with Governor Ivey going forward in this effort,” remarked Ward in a release on Tuesday, adding that he was “honored” by the appointment.

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“Cam Ward has spent his career as an attorney and public servant dedicated to Alabama’s criminal justice system,” noted Ivey on Tuesday.

Currently serving his third term in the Alabama Senate after first being elected in 2010, Ward is also a practicing attorney. His district encompasses parts of Shelby, Bibb and Chilton Counties. Before serving in the Senate, he served two terms in the Alabama House of Representatives.

Ward unsuccessfully attempted to primary incumbent Justice Greg Shaw during the 2020 election cycle.

Ivey announced the appointment will be effective December 7, 2020, a date by which Ward will have to resign his Senate seat.

Before entering public office, Ward worked in the offices of the Alabama secretary of state and served as a deputy attorney general for Alabama. He has an undergraduate degree from Troy University and a law degree from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law.

“I’m confident that his background and experience will position him to closely follow the letter of the law while providing individuals every opportunity possible to rebuild their lives post incarceration,” Ivey said of her nominee.

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

Public encouraged to take part in ‘Thank Alabama Teachers Week’

(WeTeachAlabama/Contributed, YHN)

The Alabama State Department Department of Education, with help from Governor Kay Ivey, has launched a campaign to make sure teachers in Alabama know how much they are appreciated.

Members of the public are asked to post “#ThankALTeachers” on social media, write a handwritten letter, or make a donation of school supplies to a local classroom. Businesses are encouraged to offer discounts on their goods and services to local teachers.

Ivey, a former teacher herself, proclaimed earlier in the month that the week from Nov. 16-22 this year will serve as “Thank Alabama Teachers Week.”

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“The challenges presented to Alabama teachers this year are unprecedented, and we want them to know how much they are appreciated and how much we see them and all they are doing,” said Dr. Eric Mackey, Alabama state superintendent of education, in a release.

Separate from the Teachers Appreciation Week that is normally celebrated in the spring, Thank Alabama Teachers Week sprung out of thanks for the job being done by teachers amid the challenging circumstances brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Alabama teachers have been thrust into a reality that none of us could have predicted, however they’ve done so with determination, strength and perseverance,” remarked Ivey in a release.

“The mounted stresses of today’s classroom along with the new world in which we find ourselves are a heavy brunt to bear, yet we see the resilience and tenacity of our educators across the state daily. Their sacrifices are unlimited and their selflessness immeasurable, and for that, we proudly honor them,” she added.

More details on how to participate in Thank Alabama Teachers Week can be found 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

Aderholt sponsors resolution designating November as National Adoption Month

(R. Aderholt/Contributed)

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday affirming November as National Adoption Month in the United States.

Aderholt, long one of Alabama’s most outspoken pro-life leaders, said in a Facebook post, “Protecting the most vulnerable among us has always been, and always will be, a top priority of mine. That’s why I was proud to sponsor a resolution in Congress reaffirming November as National Adoption Month.‬”

The resolution has 38 cosponsors as of Tuesday morning. U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) is among the 16 Democrats signing on to the measure.

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Aderholt’s resolution provides estimates that say 424,000 American children are currently in foster care; 122,200 of whom are waiting for adoption.

“This action promotes national awareness of adoption, celebrates children and families involved in adoption, and encourages the people of the United States to secure safety, permanency, and well-being for all children,” Aderholt added with regards to the purpose of his resolution.

To that end, his legislation notes that a survey conducted in 2019 showed that only 21% of respondents had considered or were considering adoption, and only about half viewed adoption through the foster care system favorably.

The federal government’s resources for families looking to adopt can be found here.

President Donald Trump, as presidents have traditionally done in the past, proclaimed November as National Adoption Month on October 30.

Aderholt’s resolution additionally designates Saturday, November 21 as National Adoption Day for the year, a day always observed on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

Aderholt’s resolution can be read in full 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

Community college scholarships available for students in Alabama seeking career in automotive manufacturing

(Cars.com/YouTube)

The Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association and the Alabama Community College System have partnered to offer scholarship money to students in Alabama who want to pursue a career in vehicle manufacturing.

Current high school seniors and college freshmen are eligible for the program, which offers an award of $3,600 towards the cost of certain technical education certificates or associate degrees at 23 Alabama community colleges.

Those interested must apply by November 30 and, if accepted, would enter the institution they choose in 2021.

Around 40,000 individuals are currently employed in Alabama’s automotive manufacturing sector, a number that is increasing every year.

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To apply, students must have at least a 2.5 GPA. The submission requires an application form, a resume, an essay of no more than 500 words, one signed reference letter, a transcript and a headshot photo.

The scholarship is available for students pursuing a degree in one of the following programs:

  • Automotive Manufacturing Technology
  • Automotive Manufacturing
  • Automotive Service Technician
  • Computer Numerical Control
  • Engineering Technology
  • Industrial Electronics Technology
  • Industrial Maintenance Technology
  • Injection Molding
  • Logistics
  • Machine Shop/Tool Technology
  • Manufacturing Technology
  • Mechanical Design Technology
  • Mechatronics
  • Welding Technology
  • Other automotive technology-related programs may be considered

A total of $189,000 has been provided for the program, enough for 52 students to receive scholarships.

More information on the scholarship, including where to apply, can be found 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

ADPH: Healthcare providers, ‘chronically ill’ in Alabama could get COVID-19 vaccine in ‘mid-December’

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

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) announced Monday that healthcare workers and the chronically ill in Alabama could begin receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in the middle of December.

A release from the agency said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris and U.S. Army Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, spoke recently about the initial supply of vaccine products.

Operation Warp Speed is the catchall title for the federal government’s efforts to develop and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine.

News of the distribution plans for Alabama comes on the same day the biotechnology company Moderna released early data showing their vaccine candidate to be 94.5% effective, a rate thrilling to the scientific community.

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“Large amounts of vaccine from different companies have already been produced and stored while clinical trials are ongoing,” the department explained, adding, “The federal government will allocate initial vaccine supplies to states and jurisdictions.”

The department, in its announcement, said that  “the chronically ill and seniors,” would be the first to receive the vaccine, and later identified “healthcare workers and first responders” as candidates for the first doses, as well.

Those with pre-existing conditions, another term for the chronically ill, and those over 60 have proven to be at the highest risk of death due to COVID-19.

Moderna’s vaccine, which is similar in makeup to the one being produced by Pfizer, is taken in two doses about three weeks apart.

Pfizer and Moderna are both expected to submit results from the final phase of their clinical trials to the FDA later this month. At that point, the FDA is expected to take around two weeks to review the results.

If the agency determines from the data that the vaccines are safe, it will issue an Emergency Use Authorization and the already-manufactured stockpiles of each vaccine will begin rolling out to states.

As noted by the New York Times on Monday, a concern for many is that “both vaccines must be stored and transported at low temperatures — minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit for Moderna, and minus 94 Fahrenheit for Pfizer.”

The ADPH said Monday it had already identified “several locations statewide” that are “pre-positioned to provide immunizations in Alabama.” When and if the vaccine ships, it will go to these locations, per the department’s announcement.

Though mostly technical document, the full plan for distributing a coronavirus vaccine in Alabama can be read online here.

ADPH also reiterated on Monday what Harris has said in previous briefings: a coronavirus vaccine will eventually be available for free to all Alabamians, regardless of their health insurance status.

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 state reps. pushing to make COVID-19 stimulus payments tax exempt

(Representative Andy Whitt, Arnold Mooney for Alabama/Facebook, YHN)

Alabama State Reps. Andy Whitt (R-Harvest) and Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) have pre-filed bills to exempt from Alabama state taxes the $1,200 stimulus payments sent by the federal government in the spring.

The two bills, filed separately on October 29, would also exclude from Alabama state taxes any forgiven loan a small business received under the Paycheck Protection Program.

“Collecting state taxes on those payments seems almost immoral when you consider the reasons they were awarded in the first place,” said Whitt in a statement sent to Yellowhammer.

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In an interview on Monday, Mooney told Yellowhammer News that he considered making the COVID relief tax-exempt the kind of thing he was elected to do.

“We just need to take care of our citizens; that is what we’re down there for. We’re down there to serve them,” he explained with regards to what drew him to the cause.

Mooney said he had spoken with House leadership and Governor Kay Ivey’s staff in drafting the bill, and received positive feedback from both.

Whitt believes that, due to better than expected tax revenue in 2020, Alabama can “easily provide this tax exemption without affecting state services, agencies, programs, or public education.”

A similar measure to that being pushed by Whitt and Mooney was pre-filed by State Senator Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) in September. Whitt’s bill can be read here; Mooney’s can be read here.

Both the stimulus payments, officially titled Economic Impact Payments, and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), were created by the federal government’s massive CARES Act passed in March to help the American economy weather the coronavirus pandemic.

Estimates at the time of the CARES Act’s passage noted that approximately 90% of American adults would receive the Economic Impact Payments, which were $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples plus $500 per dependent child. Those with higher incomes received smaller checks, and some in the highest of income brackets were deemed ineligible for the payments.

Whitt shared data that estimated the 65,872 PPP loans given to Alabama businesses saved 672,000 jobs.

PPP loans were eligible to be forgiven if the funds were spent on certain categories like payroll or rent. Unless the legislature passes a new law, the amount of money forgiven would be taxable under Alabama state law.

“Many Alabamians are still struggling to find jobs, reopen their businesses, and recover the losses they suffered while our state and nation tried to limit the spread of the virus. Allowing them to know that state taxes will not be collected on these payments will provide them with an additional measure of relief, and, I believe, an additional boost to Alabama’s economy,” remarked Whitt.

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

March Madness 2021 to be relocated, all games will be played in single city

(Pixabay, YHN)

The NCAA announced Monday that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 Men’s Basketball Championship is going to be held in a single city instead of in sites across the country.

Previously, 13 cities from Providence, Rhode Island, to San Jose, California, were slotted to host the opening round in late March.

A release from the NCAA explained that holding the tournament in several locations was expected to be “very difficult to execute in the current pandemic environment,” and the decision to hold the tournament in a single city was made “to enhance the safety and well-being of the event.”

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In Alabama, the Crimson Tide were recently ranked No. 25 in the USA Today Coach’s poll and are widely expected to earn a berth in the season-ending tournament.

While the Auburn Tigers begin the season unranked, coach Bruce Pearl’s teams have gone 105-81 over the last three seasons, good for a 0.771 winning percentage, and observers say they are likely to compete for a berth in the 68-team competition.

The NCAA is currently in talks with the state and local officials who govern Indianapolis, Indiana, about hosting all of March Madness 2021. Indianapolis was previously announced as the location for the 2021 championship round.

RELATED: Birmingham to host first two rounds of March Madness in 2023

CBS Sports and Turner Sports are still on track to broadcast each of the tournament’s 67 games on CBS, TNT, TBS, truTV and via streaming options.

The 2020 edition March Madness was one of the highest-profile events canceled when the coronavirus first became widespread across the United States in March.

Alabama kicks off their season on November 25 against Jacksonville State. Auburn begins play on November 26 versus St. Joseph’s.

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

Birmingham’s Glenwood selling southern pecans to benefit those affected by autism

(Glenwood/Contributed)

Glenwood’s Pecans for Autism are available for purchase this holiday season, and every package bought goes to help care for patients with autism.

A nonprofit based in Birmingham, Glenwood provides “person-centered treatment of children and adults impacted by autism and other behavioral health needs,” according to the organization’s mission statement.

They add that 100% of the proceeds from the sale of their pecans and other goodies go to benefit their programs and services.

The pecans can be bought online or by calling 866-729-2189.

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Glenwood’s pecans can also be found in person at several locations in the Birmingham area, including some Piggly Wiggly and Nail’s convenience store locations.

According to a release, the pecans sold by Glenwood are “‘first shake’ pecans from southern farms” and they “come in many varieties and products, from the mammoth pecan halves to chocolate covered pecans, the popular roasted and salted, pecan brittle, pecan coffees and many more.”

This year marks Glenwood’s 43rd year of conducting the Pecans for Autism fundraiser. The nonprofit says it “touched the lives of over 10,000 families across Alabama in the past year.”

Besides pecans, Glenwood also sells pecan brittle, pecan coffees and many more treats that can make the holiday season a little sweeter.

Those interested in the fundraiser can find more details and/or place an order 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

SEC allows more scheduling flexibility, adds Dec. 19 as date for make-up games among teams not in conference championship

(SEC/Facebook, YHN)

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) announced Friday that football teams will have more flexibility to change their schedule for the rest of the season, and December 19 will serve as an additional day for teams to make up games postponed due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

The SEC’s conference championship had previously been scheduled for December 19, and will still play on that day, meaning the two winners of the East and West divisions will not be able to make up any games on that day.

Additionally, the conference has eased rules around rescheduling games, now requiring only five days between when a game is announced and played, allowing it to be more nimble as it handles a season in flux due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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“The added flexibility of a December 19 playing date for teams that do not qualify for the SEC Football Championship and the ability to adjust opponents on five-day notification provide a greater opportunity for our schools to play a full schedule of games in 2020,” remarked SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey.

Previously, the SEC had set aside Saturday, December 12, as the day to make up games due to COVID-19. Recent events indicated that there might need to be a second weekend eligible for teams that have to postpone two games.

The scheduling flexibility announced Friday does create newfound flexibility outside of just the end of the season; two teams with an open weekend, who were already scheduled to play each other at some point in the season but have not played yet, can announce they will play each other with only five days notice.

Sports Illustrated broke the news of the new flexibility and has a more detailed breakdown of what it allows.

Both Alabama and Auburn had their games scheduled for Saturday, November 14, postponed.

Auburn’s game against Mississippi State was delayed to December 12 due to COVID-19 cases among the Bulldogs. If Auburn were to have a second game postponed because of the coronavirus, they could now make it up on December 19 if they do not win their division.

Even with the changes announced Friday, Alabama’s game against LSU is in jeopardy of not being played.

Currently, LSU has postponed two games, one against Florida and the second against Alabama.

If both Alabama and Florida win their division, as many observers expect they will, they would both be playing in the SEC Championship on December 19, and LSU would only be able to make up its game against one of them on December 12.

That game would appear to be LSU vs. Florida, as that matchup has already been announced for December 12.

Importantly, were either the Tide or Gators not to finish in first place in their division, the SEC now has the scheduling flexibility to make sure both games against LSU get played.

“It has been a goal of the SEC to play a complete football schedule provided we maintain a healthy environment for student-athletes and everyone around our football programs,” Sankey noted Friday.

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

Byrne gives congressional records to University of South Alabama

(Rep. Bradley Byrne/Twitter)

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) on Thursday donated his congressional records to the University of South Alabama (USA), a public university in Mobile with around 15,000 students.

Byrne made the announcement during a ceremony held at the Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

The last four congressmen from Alabama’s First Congressional District have all donated their records to the university, beginning with Rep. Jack Edwards and continuing with Reps. Callahan, Bonner and now Byrne. Collectively, their tenures covered have covered 56 years.

“It was an honor to keep the tradition going!” tweeted Byrne on Thursday.

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Dr. Tony Waldrop, USA president, said Thursday, “We are fortunate and thankful that more than five decades of leadership from the 1st Congressional District have chosen South to hold the documents of their time in office.”

Byrne was first elected to his seat in 2013 and mounted an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate instead of seeking reelection in 2020. The district he represented is in the Southwest corner of Alabama, and its population is dominated by residents of Mobile and Baldwin Counties.

“Our region has experienced numerous momentous events during my tenure in Congress,” remarked Byrne in a release, adding, “I hope adding my records to this historic collection will expand an already valuable resource to allow for research and study for many years to come.”

Thanks to modern technology, Byrne’s donation will be different from his predecessors.

“The Byrne Papers are McCall Library’s first born-digital congressional collection, presenting new challenges and opportunities for preservation, access, study, and research,” noted E. Lorene Flanders, executive director of libraries at USA.

According to the U.S. House of Representatives, a congressman’s papers may include “campaign files; newspaper and magazine clippings; correspondence; invitations; bill files; briefing books; staff files; memorabilia; newsletters; personal files of the Member; photographs; political files; press files; publications; reference files; scrapbooks; speech files; district files; and voting records.

“We extend our sincere thanks to Congressman Byrne and his staff for making this donation possible,” Flanders concluded.

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’s coronavirus hospitalizations and new cases continue to rise

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

Alabama’s coronavirus numbers have risen for the fourth straight week. The state is currently experiencing a number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals it has not seen since late August.

On average, 1,249 Alabamians have come down with a confirmed case of the coronavirus each day over the last week, a 12% increase over the rate of new infections a week ago.

Alabama currently has 1,171 individuals in the hospital due to COVID-19, a figure not seen since August 23. The state’s hospitals had 990 COVID-19 patients last Thursday.

Dr. Don Williamson, head of the Alabama Hosptial Association, told WBRC the increasing hospitalization count had him “really worried,” especially ahead of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

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The worrying coronavirus numbers come during a week where perhaps the best COVID-19 news of the entire pandemic appeared: Pfizer released initial data on its vaccine candidate that showed it to be 90% effective.

UAB Hospital vaccine expert Dr. Paul Goepfert called the development “tremendous news,” but others think it may have a negative secondary effect.

“People have mask fatigue. They think because we have a vaccine lurking over the horizon that this is over,” Williamson surmised with regards to Alabama’s increasing numbers.

Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab (New Cases, BamaTracker)

Yellowhammer News refers to new cases as ones who have been confirmed by a molecular test performed in a laboratory. When including results from rapid tests like those made by Abbott Labs, Alabama’s seven-day average jumps to 1,640 per day.

Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab (Confirmed Hospitalizations, BamaTracker)

Alabama averaged 122 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per day in the last week, down from 125 per day one week ago.

However, that average is occasionally vulnerable to misleading numbers due to irregular reporting by hospitals on the date when COVID-19 patients enter. It hit both 75 and 141 at different points over this past week.

Especially worrying to health officials is the continued high rate of coronavirus tests in Alabama coming back positive.

Clicking image opens coronavirus data hub in new tab. (14-day positivity percentage, BamaTracker)

Over the last two weeks, 21.54% of all tests in the Yellowhammer State have returned a positive result, much higher than the 1% to 5% range necessary for the virus to be considered under control.

The positivity rate remains high, even as the number of tests per day has remained roughly flat for a month.

Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab (Tests conducted, BamaTracker)

Coronavirus continues to be widely spread across the state; 61 of Alabama’s 67 counties reported a new case on Thursday.

The Alabama Department of Health began a review of coronavirus death data this week that may alter the totals, so Yellowhammer News is not breaking down that metric as usual.

Currently, the state’s death toll is 2,970 with another 243 listed as “probable” but not yet confirmed as COVID-19 related by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Experts continue to warn that wearing a mask and staying six feet apart from others at all times is the best way to combat the virus.

UAB expert Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo remarked Wednesday about the COVID-19 risks over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

“Any place where you are sharing food, sharing utensils, breathing close to each other,” are potential avenues for transmission, she warned.

Marrazzo added that if people congregate, “you’ve got to be incredibly thoughtful” and take the proper precautions.

Watch:

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

Republican organizer leading team of volunteers to aid Senate races in Georgia

(Alabama Republican Party/Facebook, YHN)

Joan Reynolds, a longtime Republican activist and chair of the Shelby County GOP, is putting together a team of dedicated conservative volunteers to aid Republican efforts in the two U.S. Senate races in Georgia.

Control over both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats will be decided in runoff elections on January 5. The Republican party currently holds 50 U.S. Senate seats, and the Democrats 48, meaning control of the chamber and the ability to pass any major national legislation likely hinges on which party wins the seats in Georgia.

“The Democrats have already said they’re sending a lot of people into Georgia. Well, I want to send a lot of people to Georgia, too,” Reynolds said in a phone interview with Yellowhammer News on Thursday morning.

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“With or without the presidency we just can’t afford to lose these two,” she said of the two Senate seats in Georgia.

Democrat Jon Ossoff faces incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue in one of the Georgia races. In the other, Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed to the position following the retirement of her predecessor, faces Democrat nominee Reverend Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Reynolds, whose teams of volunteers are called the Mighty Alabama Strike Force, has been leading door-knocking groups for over 10 years.

Door knocking, Reynolds believes, is the most effective form of political organizing available today.

“It is the only way you can get a hold of people anymore. They don’t answer cell phones … and a lot of things you put in the mail they don’t get,” she pointed out.

Due to Alabama’s position as a reliably Republican state, she and her teams are often asked to travel where races are more competitive.

This year, the Strike Force traveled to Florida, where they helped President Donald Trump secure a victory in the Sunshine State.

Reynolds says many of the volunteers who traveled with her to Florida have already contacted her about working in Georgia. She said around 50 people have already indicated an interest in traveling with her to Georgia.

“They’re in that mode,” she said, noting that many of the volunteers were frustrated with the current state of the nation’s politics.

Volunteers for the trips should be prepared to walk at least three miles per day and be able to use an iPhone, according to Reynolds.

She told Yellowhammer she warns volunteers that the trips should not be viewed as leisurely vacations, adding that a lot of effort is expected of those who get involved.

Mighty Alabama Strike Force missions generally last one week. The hotel reservations are paid for by money Reynolds raises, but those traveling are asked to take care of their own supper or some other incidental costs.

Reynolds says she usually “works under the auspices of the RNC,” to coordinate the exact location for her efforts within the targeted state, and told Yellowhammer she is currently coordinating with that group about more details for the Georgia trip.

Joan Reynolds’ husband, Paul, is Alabama’s national committeeman for the RNC.

Those interested in joining Reynolds for the Republican door-knocking efforts in Georgia can email their interest to joanr.alstrikeforce@gmail.com.

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