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.

10 hours ago

Census Day 2020: Alabamians urged to get counted

(Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

April 1 is officially Census Day across the United States of America, and leaders of every type are urging citizens to take the 10 minutes necessary to fill out their census documents.

April 1 is designated as Census Day because when an individual fills out their census form, they are supposed to list where they were living on April 1.

The United States Census is an official count of every person living in the country. It is required by the Constitution to be conducted every 10 years.

The results decide how many representatives in Congress, tax dollars and Electoral College votes each state gets.

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Because the estimated growth of Alabama’s population has lagged behind several other states for the last 10 years, many observers believe the Yellowhammer State is one of the most at risk of losing a seat in Congress and billions of federal funding along with it.

“The COVID-19 pandemic shows the importance of state representation on a national level. If we lose a representative due to a low Census count, that would mean one less voice advocating for Alabama’s needs during critical times in the future,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey commented in a statement on Wednesday.

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) tweeted Wednesday, “I know we’re all stuck at home so I encourage you to fill out the 2020 Census — it only takes a few minutes.”

 

(Census Bureau/Screenshot)

So far, Shelby County has the highest response rate with 47.7% of residents responding. Madison County is close behind in second place with 47.2% responding. North Alabama as a region has been better about filling out their census forms.

All people living in the United States are required to be counted by the census, so efforts are being made to contact people who immigrated to the country illegally in addition to recognized American citizens.

Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon has previously indicated the State is taking special measures to count the undocumented population within its borders.

Though the Census Bureau has been forced to temporarily suspend their in-person response organization, the employees will begin conducting the surveys with households that have not responded later this year.

According to the Associated Press, the final counts are due to be reported to the federal government by December 31.

Alabamians can fill out their census forms here.

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

14 hours ago

Jefferson County: Recovering elderly COVID-19 patients must be returned to their nursing homes

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

The Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH) is asking nursing homes in the area to take back patients still testing positive for the coronavirus, according to a letter brought to light by the Alabama Nursing Home Association (ANHA).

The leading studies available have shown that COVID-19 is much more deadly for people over 65 than any other age group.

ANHA communications director John Matson told Alabama Media Group that the new county guidelines go “against sound medical advice.”

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The JCDH cites “the possibility that our hospitals will not have the capacity to care for a large number of patients infected with COVID-19” as the reason for nursing homes to take in the coronavirus-positive patients.

According to the department, individuals testing positive for the virus will only be returned to a nursing home if two conditions are both met:

  • At least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery, defined as resolution of fever without use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath)
  • At least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

The department added that some patients may be returned before those conditions are met if their facility is able to adopt certain extra precautions.

Because the new guidelines are being issued by the Jefferson County Department of Health, they only apply to nursing homes in Jefferson County.

Additionally, patients hospitalized without COVID-19 symptoms do not have to test negative before being readmitted to their nursing home.

“For weeks we haven’t allowed family members and volunteers to visit our nursing homes, and our families understand why,” Matson told Alabama Media Group.

“Now they can’t visit, but we’re supposed to admit someone that’s COVID-19 positive?” Matson added.

The Jefferson County Health Department is assuring the public that it is following guidelines laid out by the CDC.

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

15 hours ago

Ivey says small business owners should apply for financial relief right now

(Governor's Office)

Governor Kay Ivey is urging Alabama’s small businesses to gird themselves against the coronavirus-caused economic conditions by applying for financial relief from the federal government.

According to the governor’s office, the final guidelines for how the relief is to be distributed will be released soon.

However, Ivey is urging business owners to contact “their local banker, accountant, financial advisor or credit union” immediately so they can be ready for the resources when they become available.

“I urge business owners to act today and be prepared to apply for assistance designed specifically to get them in front of the line when relief checks are written,” said Ivey in a statement.

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The main source of federal relief available for small businesses is a $349 billion fund called the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that was created as part of the $2.2 trillion federal stimulus bill.

All the loans administered by the PPP will be fully forgivable as long as two conditions are met.

Those conditions are:

  •  The loan proceeds are used to cover payroll costs, and most mortgage interest, rent, and utility costs over the 8 week period after the loan is made; and
  • Employee and compensation levels are maintained.

A detailed breakdown of the Paycheck Protection Program is available here.

The loans are available “through any existing SBA lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating,” according to the governor’s office.

Governor Ivey’s full letter to the state’s small business community can be read here.

A breakdown of the U.S. Treasury Department’s COVID-19 relief efforts can be accessed on the Treasury’s website.

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

16 hours ago

Sessions calls for China to be investigated over handling of coronavirus outbreak

(Sessions Campaign/Twitter)

Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is calling for the creation of a select congressional committee that will lead an international investigation into China’s role in the coronavirus pandemic.

Sessions, who is in the midst of a campaign for the U.S. Senate seat he once held, has made his vociferous opposition to the communist government of China a central focus of his remarks in recent days.

The longtime Alabama elected official said in a statement that he wants a “United States-led, international investigation into what China has done and what it continues to do, starting with the Chinese Communist Party’s handling of the Wuhan Virus.”

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“I am calling today for Congress to immediately establish a Select Committee on China to lead the investigation,” Sessions added.

U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) and U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) have previously introduced legislation calling for an investigation into China’s handling of the initial outbreak.

Sessions’ proposed investigation seeks to go further than any that has been previously proposed.

In commenting about the Chinese regime’s relationship to COVID-19, the former U.S. Senator from Alabama said, “They caused it by silencing those who tried to warn the world, by blocking American and international scientists from coming in to stop the outbreak early, and by faking infection and death rates to downplay the seriousness of the spread. And they are continuing to use their propaganda machine to obscure the record today.”

“They cannot be allowed to succeed this time,” he remarked.

Sessions wants each of those aspects to be within the scope of his proposed investigation, and he wants “responsible members of the international community” to join with the United States to make it happen.

“We have used these types of committees before at critical moments in our nation’s history, including after the attack on Pearl Harbor, after the Watergate scandal, after the Iran-Contra Affair, and others,” said Sessions about his proposed select committee that would lead the international investigation.

Sessions also mentioned that his anger was directed at the government of China — not the citizens.

He advised the public, “We know that the Chinese people themselves are not the enemy— they are the biggest victims of the Chinese government, and exposing the truth will benefit them most of all.”

Sessions promised more aspects of his “Betting on America” plan to address the threat he feels China poses to the United States will be coming soon.

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

Website seeks to connect still-operating local restaurants with Alabama customers

(Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association/Contributed, YHN)

The Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association (ARHA) has created a website to try and connect local restaurants with Alabama consumers.

The precautions being taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus have devastated the restaurant industry. A website that tracks the industry estimates that 3% of America’s restaurants have permanently gone out of business since the virus began spreading in the United States.

The website created by ARHA — carryoutal.com — is seeking to prevent that fate for restaurants in Alabama. Visitors are asked to select Carryout, Curbside or Delivery and the site then provides them with the options in their area.

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The site currently has around 300 restaurants in its database.

There is an option for any locally-owned business to list their establishment for free.

“Most restaurants in Alabama remain open and they need your support more than ever,” says the website’s description.

The site assures any skeptical customers, “While recent governmental orders and recommendations to limit social gatherings have forced restaurants to change the way they operate, the commitment to food safety and sanitation has not changed.”

The ARHA has also created a fund to provide relief for hospitality workers across the state. As of 2:45 p.m on Tuesday, it has raised $1,810 of its $100,000 goal.

Contributions to the fund are tax-deductible.

The description of the fund reads, “On March 19, 2020, restaurants and bars across the state were ordered to close dining area service to the public in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. The shutdowns have catastrophically impacted the restaurant and hotel industry.”

Those interested in donating can click here.

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

Federal judge rules abortion can proceed during COVID-19 shutdown

(Joe Gratz/Flickr)

A U.S. District judge ruled late Monday night that abortions will be allowed to continue during the State Health Order that banned all unnecessary medical procedures.

The State Health Order issued on March 27 that shut down several non-essential businesses will stay in place. The judge’s ruling effectively classifies abortion as one of the essential procedures permitted to continue during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall had argued that the order meant all abortion clinics should shut down. He believed that COVID-19 could spread in crowded waiting rooms and that the clinics would be taking up the time and equipment of medical professionals that were needed elsewhere.

Marshall’s interpretation of the order held for one day as all abortions scheduled for Monday in Alabama were canceled.

The ACLU had argued in their emergency action that abortion was “essential, time-sensitive health care.”

Judge Myron Thompson said in his decision that the delay in providing an abortion caused by the temporary shut-down of the abortion clinics “may pose an undue burden that is not justified by the State’s purported rationales.”

Similar rulings to the one in Alabama were put into place in Texas and Ohio Tuesday night. Both of those states had shuttered abortion clinics with similar methods to the one attempted in Alabama.

The legal mechanism used by Thompson is a temporary restraining order that will stay in effect until April 13. Further legal proceedings are expected in the case as soon as this week.

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

Marshall says COVID-19 precautions require halting all abortions; ACLU sues in opposition

(Steve Marshall Campaign)

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall believes that the State Health Order issued on March 27 requires abortion clinics in Alabama to temporarily cease operations. The ACLU believes abortion is an essential service, and they are suing to keep Alabama’s clinics open.

“Today, the State of Alabama is facing litigation because the State refused to grant abortion clinics a blanket exemption from the restrictions imposed by the State Health Order issued on March 27,” said Marshall in a statement.

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The State Health Order issued on Friday, March 27, says that all medical procedures are temporarily banned except those “necessary to treat an emergency medical condition” or those procedures required by underlying conditions and/or ongoing treatment.

The ACLU’s Alexa Kolbi-Molinas said in a statement that “leading medical experts have recognized, abortion is essential, time-sensitive health care.”

“At a time when all Americans are making significant sacrifices to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it is remarkable that one class of providers demands to be treated differently than all others,” commented Marshall.

Marshall’s office also filed an amicus brief to support Texas and Ohio, which are both facing legal opposition due to similar temporary bans on abortion.

Late Monday afternoon, a federal judge appointed by George W. Bush ruled against the Texas ban, allowing abortion to continue in the Lone Star State.

According to reporting by Alabama Media Group, the abortions scheduled for Monday in Alabama were canceled.

If a federal judge in Alabama does not make a similar ruling to the one in Texas by 8:00 p.m. on Monday, then the Alabama abortions scheduled for Tuesday will be canceled as well.

Marshall believes that abortion clinics “are by no means exempt from the known risks of spreading the virus in crowded waiting rooms.”

Alabama’s attorney general went on to add that he thinks the abortion clinics would be “depleting scarce personal protective equipment that should be reserved for those treating the virus.”

Randall Marshall, head of the ACLU in Alabama, argued that preventing a pregnant woman “from getting an abortion doesn’t do anything to stop the COVID-19 virus.”

The legal proceeding by the ACLU was filed as an “emergency legal action” so a decision by a judge will most likely be delivered quickly.

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

Madison County and Baldwin County top charts for population growth in Alabama

(Pixabay, YHN)

New data shows that Madison County and Baldwin County continue to drive population growth in the Yellowhammer State.

Alabama’s 67 counties had a net population increase of 15,504 citizens in the most recent available year. Of the increase, 11,284 were in Madison and Baldwin counties, which is 73% of the total.

The data, based on new U.S. Census data that reflects estimated population changes between July 1, 2018, and July 1, 2019, was organized and mapped out by the nonpartisan Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA).

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Madison County, driven by the city of Huntsville, continues to be Alabama’s biggest county experiencing strong growth. The county saw 5,905 people move there in the year measured by the new statistics, which was the most of any county. That was a 1.6% uptick in just a year for a county that now has 372,909 residents.

Population Change 2018 – 2019 (PARCA/YHN/Univ. of Alabama)

Of Alabama’s big counties (population more than 200,000), Baldwin had the highest percentage growth with 2.5%. The home to cities like Orange Beach, Daphne and Fairhope gained 5,379 people to give it a total of 223,234 residents.

Limestone County, which borders Madison to the west, had the largest percent increase of all Alabama counties. Between 2018 and 2019, Limestone County’s population increased by 2,738 people or 2.8%.

Alabamians do not have much reason to expect the area to slow down its growth. The massive Mazda-Toyota Manufacturing facility will be in a portion of Limestone County that is within the city limits of Huntsville.

Dallas County and the larger black belt area were the biggest losers in Alabama’s population checkup.

Dallas County, home to Selma, lost almost 3% of its population in just the last year as part of a 15% decrease the county has suffered in the last decade. Since July 1, 2010, 6,617 residents have left the county.

Monroe, Perry, Sumter, Conecuh, Choctaw, Wilcox and Lowndes counties all saw year over year decreases of more than 1.5%.

Both of Alabama’s college towns continued to see solid growth in the new data, growing by half a percent each. Lee County slowed a bit in the 2019 numbers; it has increased by 17.3% in the last decade.

Population Change 2010-2019. (PARCA/YHN/Univ. of Alabama)

The decade as a whole saw similar changes to the year 2019; big increases in Madison and Baldwin along with strong growth in college towns and the suburbs.

Some observers have noted that the city of Huntsville and Madison County appear to be driving growth for North Alabama as a whole, while the towns in Baldwin County appear to be pulling population away from their neighboring counties.

Shelby and Limestone are considered similar by some state observers in that they house many residents of nearby Birmingham and Huntsville, respectively.

In raw population totals, Jefferson County still dominates the rest of the state. The county with its seat in Birmingham has a population of 658,573, which is more than 200,000 more than second-place Mobile.

(PARCA)

The official 2020 Census that will give even more accurate numbers is currently being conducted. Officials at all levels of government in Alabama are urging participation.

Individuals who have not yet taken the estimated ten minutes or less to fill out the form can go here.

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

3 days ago

Ivey urges Alabamians to practice social distancing — ‘With faith and perseverance we’ll get through this together’

(Governor's office/Youtube)

Governor Kay Ivey released a video Monday urging Alabamians to practice social distancing, staying six feet apart from each other, during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“For now and for the foreseeable future please consider staying safe at home,” says Ivey near the beginning of the video.

The governor’s video comes on the same day President Donald Trump approved a State of Emergency for Alabama that will make it easier for the federal government to provide assistance in recovering from the coronavirus.

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Ivey tells the public that now is a time for neighborliness. She urges people to let others help them if help is needed.

To conclude the message Ivey quotes part of 1 Peter 5:10. She says, “The God of all grace, after you have suffered a little while, will restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Watch:


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

Hyundai is asking South Korea for medical supplies on behalf of Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed

(Contributed)

The Hyundai Motor Corporation is in conversation with the government of South Korea about sending surplus medical supplies to Alabama after a request for assistance by Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed.

Hyundai is based in Seoul, South Korea and has a large plant in the Montgomery area.

“Our community’s strong ties with Hyundai Motor Corporation coupled with our shortage of needed medical supplies prompted our request for assistance,” said Reed in a statement.

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As the nations of the world respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the actions of South Korean leaders have been unparalleled in protecting their citizens and suppressing the Coronavirus infection rate,” explained Reed about why he reached out to Hyundai.

Currently, Hyundai is identifying which South Korean supplies have approval from the FDA for use in America.

As of 9:52 a.m. on Saturday, March 28, Alabama has 644 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Montgomery County has 18, Elmore County has 12 and Autauga County has 6.

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

Alabama Trucking Association CEO: ‘If you see a trucker, thank a trucker’

(Pixabay)

With the coronavirus pandemic upending almost every aspect of American life, increased focus has been given to the trucking industry.

Almost every commercial good purchased by any consumer in Alabama was brought to that place of business, at least part of the way, by a trucker.

Yellowhammer News interviewed Alabama Trucking Association CEO Mark Colson to see how Alabama’s truckers were dealing with the crisis.

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“Trucking is open for business, and its an essential business,” began Colson, noting that beyond trucking companies themselves, gas stations and auto-shops that service trucks have all been deemed essential buy the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“When store shelves became empty for a moment, they got filled right back up. The warehouses that hold those goods got filled back up,” pointed out Colson with regards to the necessity and efficiency of America’s truckers.

Multiple reports from across Alabama reported described truckers struggling to get meals while on the job because their vehicles could not fit under the drive-thru clearance and many fast food places do not normally allow walk-up orders.

Yellowhammer asked Colson about those issues.

“It’s been a little bit of a problem here and there … but there is no problem a trucker can’t solve. Just give us a little bit of time and good information and we can figure it out,” he replied.

He added, “Truck stops like Love’s, Flying Pilot J, even organizations like Mcdonald’s, they’re becoming innovative about how they allow people to walk through their drive-thru, or deliver the meals out.”

Colson said the coronavirus ordinances from all different types of government have led to all truckers keeping hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment like masks with them in their cab for use before, during, and after dropoffs.

“Governor Ivey has done a great job,” Colson commented about the Truckers’ relationship to government during the pandemic. “Everyone is in a problem-solving mode, that is a good thing.”

Governor Kay Ivey had previously raised the weight limit for trucks and increased the allowable hours of work for trucks and truckers carrying supplies of need during a State of Emergency, like medical equipment and food for grocery stores.

Colson said that if the coronavirus precautions are required to stay in place for a protracted period of time that the Trucking Association hopes to work with the state to resume some amount of CDL testing, which is currently paused out of social distancing concerns.

“They know about it, they’re aware of it,” Colson said of State Government. “Depending on how long this goes, we may need to get new drivers out there.”

Yellowhammer News asked Colson what the public could do if they wanted to support their truckers.

Colson responded that the first and most important thing people could do was, “when you’re on the highway, drive safely around trucks.”

He went on to say, “You know #thankatrucker, the president tweeted it, that’s a big deal, and it’s going to be a bigger deal as we get on into this.”

“The families of truckers, if you know them, just thank them, support them, make them feel loved,” Colson continued.

“If you know their family, take them a meal,” he concluded.

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

and 6 days ago

Ivey orders ‘non-essential’ businesses shuttered statewide — No ‘shelter-in-place’ order at this time

(The University of Alabama in Huntsville/Contributed)

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Friday announced an updated State of Emergency order related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with the latest variation closing down “non-essential” businesses across the Yellowhammer State.

Businesses affected by Ivey’s announcement fall into one of four broad categories: entertainment venues; athletic facilities and activities; non-essential “close-contact” service establishments; and non-essential retail stores.

Places like grocery stores, take-out/delivery restaurants and pharmacies remain open. The order, effective 5:00 p.m. CT on Saturday, extends to April 17, subject to alteration or extension by the governor.

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Ivey made the announcement in a live-streamed address. The governor was joined by Dr. Scott Harris, the state health officer. To practice social distancing, members of the media were not able to attend. The governor’s office did not allow live remote questioning of Ivey or Harris. Instead, written questions had to be submitted by at least two hours prior to the conference; the governor’s office screened and chose which questions would be answered ahead of time.

You can watch Ivey’s and Harris’ remarks below:

Ivey reiterated that she does not believe a statewide “shelter-in-place” order is warranted at this time. She encouraged localities to go further than her State of Emergency order as needed on a case-by-case basis, saying “one-size” does not fit all.

The order details that non-work related gatherings of 10 or more are banned statewide. The state had previously set the limit at 25 people in one place.

The penalties for breaking the Public Health Order are a $500 dollar fine per infraction and a misdemeanor charge.

Liquor stores and gun stores will remain open. The order lists out exactly what types of businesses must close.

“I cannot stress to you enough the fact that we must be serious about eliminating the spread of this deadly virus,” warned Ivey.

“Foks, this is real, it is very real,” she continued.

“Last week I authorized Adjutant General Sheryl Gordon with the Alabama National Guard to activate up to 100 guardsmen.

“I will soon be putting their first unit to work,” added Ivey.

Yellowhammer News has asked the governor’s office to provide further clarification on what the governor’s plans are for the National Guard unit.

UPDATE 1:15 p.m.

Gina Maiola, press secretary for Ivey, stated, “As the governor mentioned, there are 100 members of the Alabama National Guard on standby that she will soon be putting to work. Governor Ivey and Adjutant General Gordon are actively working on these plans.”

“We will use a measured and balanced approach to address this crisis,” the governor went on to say.

“Unfortunately there is no instruction manual,” she confided to the public.

Ivey stressed multiple times in her speech and in her responses to questions that she feels a responsibility to keep as much of Alabama’s economy functioning as possible.

Yellowhammer News asked Harris how, in effect, today’s order was different from a shelter-in-place order.

“The intent of this is similar to maybe what a shelter-in-place is. It is not coercive, it’s not literally a shelter-in-place, but we’re trying to emphasize the importance that people [need] to stay home and stay away from crowds,” replied Harris.

The order can be read below or here:

The following “non-essential” businesses must close to non-employees, effective Saturday, March 28, at 5:00 p.m. CT:

Night clubs
Bowling alleys
Arcades
Concert venues
Theaters, auditoriums, and performing arts centers
Tourist attractions (including museums and planetariums)
Racetracks
Indoor children’ s play areas
Adult entertainment venues
Casinos
Bingo halls
Venues operated by social clubs

Fitness centers and commercial gyms
Spas and public or commercial swimming pools
Yoga, barre, and spin facilities
Spectator sports
Sports that involve interaction with another person of closer than 6 feet
Activities that require use of shared sporting apparatus and equipment
Activities on commercial or public playground equipment

Barbershops
Hair salons
Waxing salons
Threading salons
Nail salons and spas
Body-art facilities and tattoo services
Tanning salons
Massage-therapy establishments and massage services

Furniture and home-furnishings stores
Clothing, shoe, and clothing-accessory stores
Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores
Department stores
Sporting goods stores
Book, craft, and music stores

This came the day after Ivey announced students would not physically return to school this academic year.

This is breaking news and will be updated.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

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

6 days ago

Medal of Honor recipient Bennie Adkins in hospital with coronavirus

(Adkins Family/Contributed)

Medal of Honor recipient Bennie Adkins is in critical condition at the East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, according to a report the Opelika-Auburn News.

The 86-year-old served in the United States Army for over 20 years, including three non-consecutive tours in Vietnam.

For heroic actions taken during a bloody battle in 1966, Adkins was awarded the Medal of Honor by then-President Barack Obama in 2014.

As of Thursday night, he has been placed on a ventilator to help him breathe while his body tries to fight off the COVID-19 respiratory illness.

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Adkins’ official citation that accompanied his Medal of Honor reads in part:

When the camp was attacked by a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force in the early morning hours, Sergeant First Class Adkins rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position continually adjusting fire for the camp, despite incurring wounds as the mortar pit received several direct hits from enemy mortars. Upon learning that several soldiers were wounded near the center of camp, he temporarily turned the mortar over to another soldier, ran through exploding mortar rounds and dragged several comrades to safety.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 2.7 million Americans served in Vietnam, with 258 earning a Medal of Honor.

Other honors Adkins has earned include the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, Silver Star, Bronze Star Medal and the Distinguished Service Cross among many others.

By the time Adkins retired from the Army, he had achieved the rank of command sergeant major.

He returned home to Alabama to get a bachelor’s degree from Troy State University before establishing Adkins Accounting Service, where he was CEO for 22 years.

“We’re very appreciative of the prayers and support from people, frankly, from around the country. We’re hopeful for the best, but realistic as well,” Adkins’ son told the News.

Adkins’ native Lee County is suffering the highest per-capita COVID-19 infection rate of any county in Alabama. The area has 47 of the state’s 538 coronavirus cases as of 9:15 a.m. on Friday.

Command Sgt. Major Bennie G. Adkins’ autobiography can be purchased here.

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

Ivey: Public schools closed rest of school year, students will use ‘alternate methods of instruction’ at home

In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Governor Kay Ivey announced that she has signed an executive order mandating students to not return to the classroom for the rest of the school year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting April 6, Alabama’s public school students will receive “instruction from home,” according to the governor’s remarks.

“Folks, this is for real,” Ivey said about COVID-19.

Alabama’s students had been scheduled to return on April 6 after a two and half week closure that was aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. April 6 remains the date that instruction will resume.

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State Superintendent Eric Mackey during the press conference explained that the methods used for home instruction will vary by district.

According to Mackey, some places where almost all students have computers will go to online instruction. Districts with worse broadband access will distribute physical packets of instructions to students.

“It’s old fashioned, they make copies and send them home,” Mackey said when asked to elaborate on the methods to educate students without reliable internet.

He also referred students to local libraries, which often have computers for the public.

Mackey stressed that the plan for each district was not final yet, and to expect more information in upcoming days.

The Alabama State Department of Education is coordinating with each superintendent individually.

According to Mackey, most students will only have lost around seven days of classroom instruction since the break ordered by the governor coincided with previously scheduled spring breaks for most schools.

Mackey acknowledged that for extracurricular spring activities, Thursday’s executive order from the governor amounted to a full cancellation.

Alabama’s state superintendent also said that his department had extended the required end of the school year to June 5, but added that many schools should be able to finish before that date.

UPDATE 6:15 p.m.

The governor’s supplemental State of Emergency proclamation associated with this announcement 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.

6 days ago

Almost 50,000 Alabamians have filed for unemployment since Sunday

(Pixabay)

According to preliminary data from the Alabama Department of Labor, 48,191 Alabamians filed for unemployment between Sunday and Wednesday, a number that shatters all records.

In the month of February, 5,819 Alabamians filed for unemployment.

The worst week of the Great Recession from 2007-2009 saw 20,894 unemployment claims filed in Alabama.

Yellowhammer News confirmed the numbers in this story with a spokesperson for the department.

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The United States Department of Labor reported Thursday morning that 3.28 million people filed for unemployment insurance across the United States last week, a period of time when the Department of Labor says Alabama lost 10,892 jobs.

The 48,191 new claims have all come since then.

All numbers for the current week are preliminary.

The breakdown as follows:

  • February — 5,819
  • Week ending March 21 — 10,892
  • March 22 and 23 (Sunday and Monday) — 16,955
  • March 24 (Tuesday) — 14,326
  • March 25 (Wednesday) — 16,768

WSFA reported earlier in the week that so many people were filing jobless claims that the Alabama Department of Labor’s capabilities were being strained.

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

Prominent Alabama Dems call for shelter-in-place order

(W.Miller/YHN)

Several prominent Alabama Democrats have called on Governor Kay Ivey to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order.

An order of that type that would close all non-essential businesses and require the vast majority of Alabama’s citizens to remain in their homes. Such orders have been issued in a number of states with high numbers of coronavirus cases.

Alabama House of Representatives Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) tweeted on Thursday morning, “Do the right thing, Issue the Shelter in Place Order.”

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Daniels was echoing the sentiment of State Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa), chair of the Alabama Democratic Party, who tweeted a stark warning Wednesday if a shelter-in-place order is not made.

In comments made to Alabama Media Group, Alabama Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) said of a shelter-in-place order, “I think that’s what’s going to be needed for us to be able to stay ahead of this in the state of Alabama.”

Two Democratic mayors have taken stronger action than the state has required.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin got his city council’s approval for a shelter-in-place order for his city. Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor, has issued a curfew for the residents of Tuscaloosa.

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in a statement called on the public and local officials to enact “stringent measures,” including shelter-in-place orders.

Jones’ office emailed a statement to Yellowhammer News that read, “I agree with Lt. Governor Ainsworth one hundred percent and called him last night to thank him and to discuss ways to put the health and safety of the people of Alabama above all else. Last night in the Senate, we unanimously passed a bill that will help stabilize the economy by quickly getting money to businesses and individuals so that folks can stay home and protect themselves and their communities. But we can’t stop the spread of this virus by legislation. That is going to take a combination of everyone voluntarily taking every precaution and state and local officials enacting stringent measures, including shelter in place orders, to ensure that our citizens are protected and we relieve the burden on our hospitals and medical providers.”

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) did not immediately return Yellowhammer’s request for comment.

As of 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Alabama has 449 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Jefferson County has 140 and Tuscaloosa has 17.

In a press conference Tuesday, Ivey said she would issue a shelter-in-place order “if and when it is best for our state.”

“My priority is keeping the Alabama economy going as much as possible,” she added.

Ivey is scheduled to deliver another update on Alabama’s COVID-19 preparation on Thursday, March 26, at 4:00 p.m.

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

HudsonAlpha unveils series of videos on the science of COVID-19

(HudsonAlpha/Vimeo)

The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville has published a series of videos to inform the public about the science behind COVID-19.

Each video is hosted by Dr. Neil Lamb, who is the vice president of Educational Outreach at the institute.

Four instructional videos have been uploaded so far, detailing what the coronavirus is, its outcomes, its timeline and symptoms, and how to prevent further spread.

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A release from HudsonAlpha promises more installments in the coming weeks.

The full suite of videos are available 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

First Alabama coronavirus death confirmed in Jackson County

(PIxabay, YHN)

The Jackson County Commission announced late Wednesday afternoon that Alabama’s first COVID-19 death was one of their part-time county employees.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey confirmed Wednesday night that the recently passed individual was an Alabama resident whose death resulted from contracting coronavirus.

The Jackson County employee was one of only two Jackson County citizens to test positive for the virus, as of Wednesday, March 25.

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As of 8:50 p.m on Wednesday, Alabama had 386 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

The letter from Jackson County Commission Charman Tim Guffey, in full (paragraph breaks inserted by Yellowhammer News), as follows:

The Jackson County Commission and the employees of the County offer the family of one of our part-time employees its heartfelt sympathy in the passing of their loved one.

The Alabama Public Health Department has confirmed that the employee passed away after having contracted the COVID 19 virus. From the date the part time employee last worked, the expected incubation period has expired.

The employee worked in a department at the Jackson County Courthouse that did not require regular contact with the public. All County employees who worked in the same department have been notified and none of them have reported any symptoms associated with the COVID 19 virus.

The work area where the employee worked will be fully sanitized and will be checked thoroughly before any employees are allowed to return to work when the Courthouse opens again not earlier than April 6, 2020. We will continue to monitor the situation to protect the health of all County employees and the public.

Governor Kay Ivey issued a statement alongside the confirmation on Wednesday evening, saying:

It is with profound sadness that I confirm that one of our citizens has passed away from the COVID-19 virus. I extend my prayers and deepest sympathies to the family and loved ones during these extraordinary circumstances. I continue to urge everyone that this virus is real, it is deadly, and we should continue to maintain social-distancing as much as possible. Together, we will overcome these challenges and difficult days.

I appreciate the diligence of the Alabama Department of Public Health for thoroughly investigating this case, which unfortunately was indeed a Coronavirus-related death.

RELATED: Ainsworth criticizes Alabama’s coronavirus prep — ‘Not taking a realistic view of the numbers or adequately preparing for what awaits us’

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

Ainsworth criticizes Alabama’s coronavirus prep — ‘Not taking a realistic view of the numbers or adequately preparing for what awaits us’

(Ainsworth Campaign)

In a new memo first obtained by Alabama Political Reporter, Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth expressed his disapproval of the state’s readiness for what he believes will be a “tsunami” of coronavirus (COVID-19) patients in state hospitals.

The letter, which was dated on Wednesday, March 25, was addressed to the members of the Alabama COVID-19 Task Force that was assembled earlier in the year by Governor Kay Ivey.

“[I]t is my opinion that this task force and the state are not taking a realistic view of the numbers or adequately preparing for what awaits us,” Ainsworth wrote.

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Ainsworth had personal praise for Governor Ivey’s assembling of the task force, as well as the hard work done by State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

Per the letter, the experts with whom Ainsworth has conferred have instilled in him a belief that Alabama has “substantially more cases than are being reported due to lack of testing.”

“Time is our enemy, and each moment that we lose by not preparing for the coming deluge will result in the loss of life and the crippling of our healthcare infrastructure,” added Ainsworth later in the document.

The lieutenant governor included a table of projected Alabama COVID-19 caseload in his letter. He said, “Using simple math and statistics, the most conservative data and real-time cases we are experiencing indicate Alabama could soon face the following scenarios beginning today:”

“A tsunami of hospital patients is likely to fall upon Alabama in the not too distant future, and it is my opinion that this task force and the state are not taking a realistic view of the numbers or adequately preparing for what awaits us,” he advised. “Every health specialist with whom I have spoken is anxious about surge capacity and has expressed doubts about our preparations.”

Ainsworth proposed that the state “should begin contacting family doctors and their staff” in order to address the staffing shortfalls he believes the coronavirus will cause.

“This is the kind of coordination and work that should have already been started on a statewide basis, but Alabama has not yet begun the process,” Ainsworth admonished the task force.

As part of his conclusion, he wrote, “No one will ever fault us for being over prepared for the worst case scenario, but blame will be well deserved if we chose to wait for whatever comes and do nothing to prepare.”

Read the full letter:

RELATED: Ainsworth: ‘Too many among us are not taking the coronavirus threat seriously’

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

University of South Alabama students stranded in Peru coming home

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-01) announced Wednesday that a group of college students from the University of South Alabama who have been stranded in Peru will be returning to the United States.

The group of students, who were studying for positions in the field of medicine, became trapped in Peru when the country closed its borders on March 17 as a way to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.

“We are so relieved that the Peruvian government has cleared them for travel back to our country, and I am thankful to all who worked so hard to ensure this positive outcome. We look forward to welcoming them back home,” Byrne said in a statement.

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According to information provided by Byrne’s office, the students left Peru on a flight with other stranded Americans this morning.

University of South Alabama spokesman Bob Lowry told FOX10 in Mobile that “the school has students still abroad in five other countries – two in South Korea, and one each in Japan, Germany, Thailand and Australia.”

President Donald Trump has mentioned the plight of the students during his press conferences in recent weeks.

“Since learning nine days ago about a group from South Alabama unable to leave Peru, my staff and I have worked tirelessly with the State Department, university officials, and my Congressional colleagues to enable their safe return home,” Byrne added.

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

Growing chorus of Republicans urge consideration of economic impacts of COVID-19 precautions

(PIxabay, YHN)

In a Facebook post on Wednesday morning, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04) joined a growing number of Republican elected officials arguing that the health of the economy must be taken into account amid measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

After acknowledging the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak, Aderholt commented that “as we look beyond the crisis, we must consider that the economic damage could cripple the country.”

The Haleyville native continued, “President Trump wants people back to work by Easter. I don’t know the best timetable, but I’m hoping it can be weeks not months.”

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Aderholt’s comments come in the wake of Republicans across the country arguing for the necessity of economic considerations during the pandemic.

In an interview on Friday with Yellowhammer News contributor Jeff Poor’s radio show on WVNN, State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) expressed some misgivings with the severity of the coronavirus precautions.

“I watch what is happening to the economy and how the politicians seem to be trying to outrace themselves to implement new restrictions. I’m starting to get real serious questions about how things are operating,” advised Orr.

U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (AL-05) was one of the first politicians to make comments with similar considerations to Aderholt’s. He tweeted on Saturday, “A collapsed economy risks more American lives than #COVID19 does.”

That line of thinking was made more prominent by a tweet from President Donald Trump on Sunday, where he said in part, “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”

RELATED: Are we in danger of being broke and sick instead of just sick?

Trump indicated that he would “love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter” in a press conference, but later cautioned, “Rest assured, every decision we make is grounded solely in the health, safety and well-being of our citizens.”

Some prominent Republicans have argued that business can only fully resume after the virus is dealt with.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) argued on Twitter, “There will be no normally functioning economy if our hospitals are overwhelmed and thousands of Americans of all ages, including our doctors and nurses, lay dying because we have failed to do what’s necessary to stop the virus.”

“Once we get past this the economy is going to rebound,” U.S. Rep Gary Palmer (AL-06) assured the public during an appearance on Talk 99.5’s “Matt & Aunie Show,” arguing that a good economy was only on pause until the spread of the virus is contained.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) has promoted a measure in the stimulus bill recently passed by the Senate that will provide $300 billion for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“My priority is keeping the Alabama economy going as much as possible,” said Alabama Governor Kay Ivey in a press briefing Tuesday.

In the same briefing, Ivey argued that Alabama was not in need of the very strict “shelter in place” orders implemented by some more direly affected states. Such orders have particularly strong negative effects on a state’s economy due to only the most essential businesses being allowed to continue operations.

“We have to get back to work,” said Ivey, who also added, “The safety and well-being of Alabamians is paramount.”

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 in COVID-19 update: No statewide shelter-in-place order is planned — ‘We are not California, we are not New York’

(Governor Ivey's Office/Twitter)

On a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey assured the public that a statewide shelter-in-place order is not currently planned.

“We are not California, we are not New York, we are not even Lousiana,” said Ivey, referencing three states harder hit by COVID-19 than Alabama.

“We’ll make that decision if and when it is best for our state,” continued the governor. “My priority is keeping the Alabama economy going as much as possible.”

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Shelter-in-place orders have been put in place by officials in several states with large numbers of coronavirus patients. They are strict orders that everyone without an essential role in the government or certain businesses must stay inside their homes.

Tuesday, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin proposed a shelter-in-place order for the city of Birmingham.

Jefferson County has the largest number of coronavirus patients in the state, with 91 of the 242 total as of 4:45 p.m on Tuesday.

Dr. Scott Harris, head of the Alabama Department of Public Health, was also a part of the briefing. He told reporters that around 8% or 9% of Alabamians who have tested positive for COVID-19 have required hospitalization.

Later in the briefing, Ivey said that a decision about reopening schools would be made closer to April 6. The governor is having a meeting with State Superintendent Eric Mackey later this week where the issue will be discussed.

In more scheduling comments, Ivey said she is in constant discussions with state lawmakers about the remainder of the legislative session.

“It is hard to do budgets until we know what the revenue will be,” remarked Ivey.

Ivey recently pushed back the due date for income tax filings until July 15, and the full economic effects of the coronavirus precautions are presumed by observers to be significant but can’t be predicted with any precision.

When asked about a state-funded bailout like the one currently before Congress, Ivey responded, “[U]nlike the federal government, we can’t print money.”

Ivey urged small business owners affected by the coronavirus precautions to seek the disaster loans being provided by the Small Business Administration.

Alabama’s governor also revealed she had already voted in the Alabama Republican primary runoff election by absentee ballot.

Ivey believes that the guideline from the Secretary of State’s office that allows anyone fearing COVID-19 to vote absentee is a sufficient safety measure for the upcoming election.

She was asked by a reporter if she favored switching Alabama to a no-excuse-needed vote by mail system and responded that she thinks that could open Alabama’s elections to possibilities of fraud.

In her closing remarks, Ivey urged her constituents to donate blood and fill out their census forms.

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

Birmingham City Council authorizes shelter-in-place order

In a live-streamed address on Tuesday afternoon, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin asked the Birmingham City Council to authorize a Shelter-in-Place Order for all Magic City residents.

As of 1:40 p.m on Tuesday, Jefferson County is home to 90 of Alabama’s 215 confirmed coronavirus cases, making it the state’s hardest-hit area by a large margin.

Woodfin’s proposal would require every resident in the city of Birmingham to stay in their home until April 3, with exceptions for trips to purchase “essential commodities” and to help give medical care to family members or veterinary care to pets.

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A large number of Birmingham’s citizens are exempted from the order, including all people necessary for the operation of the city’s government, essential businesses and utilities among others.

A full list of exceptions can be found in the full proposal, which the mayor’s office has posted online.

A previous Public Health Order from Jefferson County’s Health Officer had already closed all non-essential businesses.

Woodfin’s shelter-in-place recommendation comes amid calls for a similar statewide order by Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) and the Alabama House Democrats.

The council will vote on the order later Tuesday afternoon. Jefferson County residents can keep up with the latest local coronavirus-related information here.

UPDATE 5:20 p.m.

The Birmingham City Council at approximately 5:19 p.m. CT adopted the ordinance unanimously after a lengthy discussion. You can watch the meeting on the council’s Facebook page.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations 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

Watch: Birmingham teen Levi Watkins advances to next stage on ‘The Voice’

(Warner Bros. Television/Contributed, YHN)

Fourteen-year-old Birmingham resident Levi Watkins has advanced to the knockout rounds of NBC’s singing competition show “The Voice.”

In the episode broadcast Monday night, Levi faced off in a “battle round” against fellow contestant Jamal Corrie.

The two alternated verses on “Counting Stars” by OneRepublic.

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Watkins did so well that judges Joe Jonas and John Legend lamented not selecting the Alabamian for their teams.

“Levi, wow … I kept waiting for you to mess up,” said Legend before turning to his fellow coaches and exclaiming, “but he didn’t mess up!”

Watkins earned his place on the show one month earlier with his rendition of Train’s “Hey Soul Sister.”

Blake Shelton selected both Watkins and Corrie for his team. As such, it was up to him to select the winner of the “battle round” that the two singers took part in.

“The winner of this battle is Levi,” concluded Shelton.

“There’s a lot about what Levi does that I think we still haven’t heard yet,” added Shelton in a direct address to the camera that appended the competition footage.

“The Voice” airs Monday nights on NBC.

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