2 weeks ago

BCA’s Katie Boyd Britt spearheading ‘Keep Alabama Open’ campaign as other states shut down

The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) on Tuesday launched the grassroots movement to “Keep Alabama Open.”

The new campaign, which was announced in a press release, comes in opposition to recent public calls for a nationwide mandatory shutdown, which would come from the federal government if instituted.

In the organization’s release, BCA outlined that it fully supports the State of Alabama’s ability and right to manage its own affairs when it comes to the public health and wellbeing of our people.

The release noted that throughout the pandemic, Alabama business owners and workers have worked diligently to follow State Health Orders and best practices when it comes to keeping customers and themselves safe, while continuing to earn a living and support their families.

“Nothing is more important to BCA than the safety of hardworking families across Alabama,” stated Katie Boyd Britt, BCA president and CEO.

“As this year has already shown, Alabamians are at their best when overcoming adversity,” she continued. “COVID-19 has stolen lives and destroyed livelihoods across our state, and these next few months will require all of us working together to win this fight. Now is not the time to mandate a nationwide, one-size-fits-all lockdown; instead, we must each renew our personal commitment to combatting this invisible enemy in order to safely and responsibly Keep Alabama Open. BCA commends Governor Ivey and her administration for continuing to exercise thoughtful leadership in this unprecedented time.”

Governor Kay Ivey’s administration has proven that the State of Alabama is perfectly capable and willing to make the tough decisions needed to save lives and livelihoods, utilizing Alabama solutions tailored specifically for our unique situation and needs, BCA’s release underscored.

Through Keep Alabama Open, BCA aims to unite hardworking Alabamians in the earnest pursuit of protecting jobs and safeguarding self-governance.

The message is simple: Alabama is best positioned to make decisions for Alabama.

BCA encourages Alabamians to follow all health guidelines and orders. The organization explained that COVID-19 remains a serious health threat to our citizens and communities and that personal responsibility and buy-in is needed to Keep Alabama Open. The nascent campaign spearheaded by BCA strives to highlight our shared commitment to the rest of the country. Alabama cannot afford to shut down, and, working together, we can save lives and jobs at the same time, BCA wrote.

One underreported facet of the pandemic highlighted by BCA is that many Alabamians depend upon their jobs for their health insurance and the means to support their families: to feed them, pay for medical treatment and medicines, and provide shelter. Ultimately, a shutdown could not only put Alabamians in severe financial distress, but it could also produce adverse health outcomes, even deaths. This threat is particularly acute to small businesses in the Yellowhammer State, BCA’s release outlined.

Britt also emphasized that BCA is proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow pro-jobs advocates at the outset of this campaign, including the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association, and Alabama Retail Association.

Jeremy Arthur, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama, said, “As we have seen throughout the pandemic, businesses have found ways to innovate, allowing them to safely and responsibly keep their doors open for business. The Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama is excited to join BCA in the effort to ‘Keep Alabama Open,’ ensuring those businesses and families can continue to prosper in the great state of Alabama.”

NFIB Alabama State Director Rosemary Elebash commented, “NFIB is pleased to join the ‘Keep Alabama Open’ campaign to encourage Governor Ivey and elected officials to let businesses continue to operate as long as they continue to follow public health guidelines to protect their customers and their employees. Small businesses are determined to get through this, but they can’t keep the doors open without customers. Small businesses account for 99.4 percent of all businesses in the state and employ 47.5 percent of Alabama’s private-sector workforce. When we help small businesses, we help everyone.”

Mindy Hanan, president and CEO of the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association, stated, “Restaurants and hotels have historically operated under highly regulated safety guidelines and now have taken new steps to meet additional sanitation and social distancing guidelines required by state officials.”

“As Alabama’s second largest employer it is important to us to Keep Alabama Open and its citizens employed. The National Restaurant Association estimates over 45,000 restaurants had closed due to the virus as of September. Our industry simply will not survive another shutdown,” she added.

Rick Brown, president of the Alabama Retail Association, also emphasized the critical nature of this campaign.

“Alabama retailers have been devastated during the ongoing pandemic, and a shutdown would wipe out countless local, community-oriented retailers throughout our state who are working day in, day out to keep their doors open as it is,” he advised. “Our members are proud to be operating as safely and responsibly as possible to support their employees, customers, families and communities. With the Christmas season quickly approaching, now is the time to Keep Alabama Open and shop local – not lockdown.”

Members of the public wanting to Keep Alabama Open are encouraged to join the movement on social media, as well as with new window signs and bumper stickers.

Learn more on the campaign website here.

Tuesday’s announcement comes after states such as California, Washington, Nevada, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont, as well as cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia, have chosen to impose new shutdowns or partial shutdowns on their jurisdictions.

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

27 mins ago

UAB infectious disease expert says Alabama coronavirus situation at ‘scary inflection point’

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) infectious disease expert Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo held a virtual briefing on Tuesday during which she provided context for Alabama’s troublingly high rate of coronavirus spread and concerning number of hospitalized patients.

As Yellowhammer News reported on Monday, Alabama is experiencing a record number of COVID-19 patients in its hospitals, including at Marrazzo’s own UAB Hospital. New cases, meanwhile, are very near the highest average the state has experienced.

“This is not a surge… but a spike,” Marrazzo said of Alabama’s current increase in coronavirus numbers, repeatedly warning that the next few weeks could bring a “tidal wave” of new COVID-19 patients.

Marrazzo further relayed that Alabama is doing less testing than earlier in the pandemic, and she believes the current case numbers are an “underestimate” of reality.


“We are not even in the post-Thanksgiving surge yet,” cautioned Marrazzo with regards to the even further increase in cases she and others expect to come about after many citizens traveled last week.

“This is a really, really scary inflection point,” Marrazzo said of Alabama’s current COVID-19 numbers, adding that hospitals may need to set up “ancillary care places” if the number of patients requiring hospitalization continues to go up.

“A lot depends on what happened over Thanksgiving weekend,” she said.

The doctor said one hypothetical situation keeping her up at night is a potential shortage of health care workers leading to some patients who urgently need care not being able to receive it in a timely manner.

“Are we going to have enough people to take care of what I thank may be a tidal wave of patients in the next month?” Marrazzo asked rhetorically.

She described that Mobile has currently exhausted its supply of ICU beds and said the statewide ICU bed situation is “not particularly optimistic.”

Marrazzo said Monday that she has gone to great lengths over the course of the pandemic to avoid being alarmist and offered some more positive news amid the rising cases.

“We have managed to improve the way we take care of people in the hospital,” she noted, further explaining that far fewer patients require being placed on ventilators now that doctors have more experience treating the virus.

“I think the vaccine news is very, very encouraging,” Marrazzo highlighted, mentioning specifically the medical company Moderna’s submission of its vaccine candidate to the FDA.

The expert also explained a complicating factor in the upcoming vaccine dispersal, for which the consensus is that health care workers will get the first doses, but the next round of people to get vaccinated is not wholly agreed upon.

Marrazzo described how priority could be made to give it to older citizens who are most at risk for serious complications if coming down with COVID-19. Another priority might be giving it to those in the community most likely to transmit the virus even if they are younger or less vulnerable.

With regards to the Pfizer vaccine, which was similar in its effectiveness to Moderna’s vaccine but must be stored and transported at much lower temperatures, Marrazzo said she was “very encouraged” by the company’s recent efforts to see if its vaccine was stable enough to be transported and stored more easily.

Near the end of her briefing, Marrazzo said “a huge amount of fatigue” is likely to blame for the numbers increasing even as the public is aware of the proper precautions – like mask wearing and social distancing – that must be taken.

The doctor said that going forward, “shaming is not the answer,” and those interested in stopping the virus must “appeal to people’s better nature.”

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

2 hours ago

Alabama Power employees raise money to help people in need

Employees at Alabama Power raised more than $49,000 in November to support nonprofit agencies and community partners who are helping people in need this holiday season.

The virtual fundraiser was organized by the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) as an alternative to traditional supporting activities. APSO State Board President Kodi Belford said the pandemic changed the way APSO volunteers would normally assist these organizations.

“What has been especially hard this year is knowing that organizations in the community need our support, and due to the pandemic, we have shifted how we engage,” Belford said. “While the pandemic has changed things, it hasn’t completely prevented us from being there for our communities. We are continuously finding new ways to provide support, and I am extremely proud of our members and how they are overcoming these hurdles.”


The money will support several nonprofit agencies and community partners, many of which either purchase clothing and toys for foster children or provide food for families in need. Employees from Southern Company Services, Southern Power and Southern Nuclear also participated in the fundraiser.

“The pandemic has changed the way in which APSO is able to serve, but our long-standing commitment to serving the community has not wavered,” said Tequila Smith, vice president of Charitable Giving. “I’m proud of the way APSO volunteers have remained engaged and continue to give back. This fundraiser is just one example of how our APSO volunteers have found a way to still make a difference and ensure those in need have a bright holiday season.”

APSO shared highlights of its partnerships during a live-streamed event Nov. 17. During the event, APCO Employees Credit Union President Derrick Ragland presented a $15,000 donation to APSO.

“We have a long history of supporting APSO, Renew Our Rivers, Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels and other events and we are so proud to be part of this partnership with Alabama Power,” Ragland said. “Just because COVID has stopped traditional events, doesn’t mean the need is not still there. We are proud to be part of the Alabama Power family and will continue our support of the charitable initiatives of Alabama Power.”

Some of the organizations benefiting from the fundraiser include Home of Grace, Ronald McDonald House of Mobile, Lifting Spirits of Senior Citizens, Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, Boys Club of Sylacauga, Shelby County Department of Human Resources (DHR), St. Clair County DHR, Talladega County DHR, Vincent Elementary School Backpack Buddies, Walker County DHR, Walker County Salvation Army Angel Tree, AIDS Alabama, Vineyard Family Services, YWCA of Central Alabama, Jefferson County Salvation Army Angel Tree, Mulherin Home, Montgomery Area Food Bank, Girls Inc. of Dothan, Miracle League of Dothan, Wiregrass Area Food Bank, Bigbee Humane Society, Boys & Girls Club of West Alabama and City of Lights Dream Center.

For more information about APSO, visit PowerOfGood.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 hours ago

City of Mobile to purchase 300-acre ‘Brookley by the Bay’ plot — ‘Will be an economic boom’

The City of Mobile on Tuesday announced an agreement to purchase hundreds of acres of land in a multi-faceted deal that is intended to provide public access to Mobile’s waterfront for generations, preserve sensitive wetlands and secure invaluable property for 21st century economic development.

The announcement was made in a press conference featuring Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL), Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, University of South Alabama (USA) Foundation President John McMillan and other dignitaries at the Mobile Downtown Aeroplex at Brookley.

The approximately 300-acre swath of land to be purchased is commonly known as “Brookley by the Bay,” sitting along the western shore of Mobile Bay to the east of the namesake aeroplex. It is made up of multiple parcels owned by the USA Foundation.

“Today’s announcement is a win-win for the city of Mobile and the state of Alabama,” Ivey said in a statement.


“By preserving our wetland areas, we are ensuring that future generations of Alabamians can experience the beauty of Mobile Bay,” she continued. “Also, expanding the footprint of Brookley Aeroplex will be an economic boom, not only for the Mobile area but for the entire state. I appreciate everyone involved in this extraordinary project and making it a reality for the people of Alabama.”

Maps of the land can be viewed here.

The purchase agreement, which was approved by the Mobile City Council on Tuesday, is the culmination of six years of negotiations between the City of Mobile and the USA Foundation.

“This is a truly transformational purchase that will impact Mobilians for generations to come,” Stimpson commented. “With this agreement we will secure nearly 150 acres of waterfront property in one of the last undeveloped areas on our shoreline. It will be managed by the City of Mobile Parks and Recreation department for all Mobilians to enjoy. Additionally, the nearly 150 acres being set aside for economic development will ensure Brookley Aeroplex has a great opportunity to sustain the growth that will one day make it the world’s 4th largest site for the construction of commercial aircraft.”

The total purchase price as agreed will reportedly be $42 million, with $33 million due upon the subsequent closing of each parcel and the remaining $9 million payable should an option be exercised by the City within the next 5 years.

“This is a uniquely situated property, located close to downtown Mobile, the Alabama State Docks and adjacent to the Airbus Final Assembly Lines,” McMillan explained. “Development of this property will greatly enhance the economic vitality of the Greater Mobile community and greatly benefits the entire community, the City of Mobile and the University of South Alabama, which the Foundation is chartered to support.”

Of the 150 acres of waterfront property, about 50 acres of coastal wetlands will be purchased with $2 million of NFWF funding from the State of Alabama, and 100 acres at the site of the old Brookley Center will be purchased with $16 million from GOMESA funds.

Of the 150 acres for economic development, approximately 100 acres will be purchased with $15 million from the Governor’s Economic Development Fund. This parcel will be developed into an industrial park that will serve as an ideal location for the aerospace supply chain supporting companies like Airbus, ST Aerospace and Continental. The City of Mobile will also maintain an option to purchase the remaining 50-acre parcel for the next five years for $9 million.

“This is huge win for the City of Mobile,” stated Elliot Maisel, chairman of the Mobile Airport Authority. “Under the city’s ownership, the property will enhance the quality of life for all citizens through future job growth and recreational opportunities. This tract of land is just one piece of the mosaic that fits into the future growth of Brookley over the next 20 years. We look forward to working with the City to maximize the development opportunities surrounding this property.”

The announcement marks the culmination of several years of planning, as well as a long-standing partnership between the City of Mobile and the State of Alabama.

“In particular, I’d like to thank Governor Ivey. Due to the complexity of this transaction, this would not have occurred were it not for her steadfast support,” Stimpson concluded.

Tuesday’s news also comes after a plan was announced in recent months to move all of Mobile’s commercial air traffic to Brookley.

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

4 hours ago

Rapid disease pathogen identification is one step closer following successful demonstration by GeneCapture

Soon it could only take an hour to find out what pathogen is making you ill following the successful demonstration of the world’s first multi-pathogen identification using non-amplified RNA detection by GeneCapture, a company cofounded by researchers at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

GeneCapture has licensed a molecular binding technology from UAH, and the company’s CAPTURE PLATFORM is on track for commercialization within two years.

The GeneCapture team has briefed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on its approach and has begun to prepare for the clinical testing required for FDA clearance. It is in discussions with industry leaders for various applications in health care rapid infection detection.

“We made history today – this is the first time an automated rapid pathogen identification has been reported directly from the RNA of the sample, with no modification or amplification of its genetic source, in about an hour,” said GeneCapture CEO Peggy Sammon. “We envision a future where finding out why you are sick can be solved almost anywhere, in an hour, and without being chained to a lab.”


The company’s unique disposable cartridge and portable reader platform enables rapid, inexpensive multi-pathogen detection at the point of care. Whether the illness is bacterial, viral, fungal or protozoan, a single test that’s estimated to cost around $20 will pinpoint the cause.

The novel technology consolidates sample prep and molecular signature detection in one plastic cartridge with a one-button portable reader.

The initial molecular binding concept was conceived by researchers at UAH and licensed exclusively to GeneCapture. The co-inventors on the original patent included Dr. Krishnan Chittur, professor emeritus in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering; Dr. Joseph Ng, professor in the Biological Sciences Department; Dr. Mark Pusey, UAH adjunct professor; and Jeff Dowell, who at the time was a student in UAH’s graduate program in Biotechnology Science and Engineering. In 2016, GeneCapture was awarded $100,000 in Alabama Launchpad’s inaugural LEAP Alumni Competition for local start-ups.

The partnership with GeneCapture is an example of a truly groundbreaking technology developed at UAH and being made available for the benefit of all, said Kannan Grant, director of UAH’s Office of Technology Commercialization.

“I would term this as a disruptive technology and not merely an incremental improvement to the current state of the science,” Grant stated.

“UAH research has been at the cutting edge of technology development,” he added. “UAH has always shown responsible stewardship so the fruits of taxpayer-funded research are being made available for public consumption at the earliest possible time.”

Since its founding, the company has filed an additional 11 patents, automated the process in a cartridge, built prototypes and performed successful pre-clinical validation tests. In addition to the commercial applications, the company has been awarded multiple Department of Defense contracts to mature the technology for potential military operational use.

GeneCapture’s CAPTURE PLATFORM has a closed cartridge that accepts a direct sample of urine, blood or a sample from a swab and then concentrates and exposes the pathogen’s RNA fragments to custom DNA probes on an array. Once the RNA is captured, the specific probes activate an optical sensor. The pattern across the array identifies the pathogen. Limits of detection have been validated and are currently clinically relevant for most bacterial infections. They are now being optimized for low-load viral infections.

Infection detection will soon be portable, fast and inexpensive, GeneCapture officials have advised.

“Just as the shift from relying on central computers to desktop and handheld devices enabled entirely new markets, so will decentralized, portable multi-pathogen infection detection enable new point of care markets,” Sammon explained.

A rapid diagnostic solution will fill a critical need, noted Dr. Louise O’Keefe, Ph.D., the director of UAH’s Faculty and Staff Clinic and an advisor to GeneCapture.

“Our industry needs a breakthrough in turnaround time for diagnostic results,” Dr. O’Keefe said. “GeneCapture’s approach will transform the challenges we deal with every day.”

Ray Garner is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News. He is the retired chief of staff to the president at The University of Alabama in Huntsville as well as the former business editor of The Huntsville Times. Ray also served as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives.

7 hours ago

7 Things: 100% could get vaccine by June, Alabama sees record hospitalizations, almost 10,000 kids missing from Alabama schools and more …

7. State Christmas tree being delivered today

  • In Montgomery, the state Christmas tree will be delivered today, and the tree lighting ceremony is currently scheduled for Friday at 5:30 p.m.
  • Governor Kay Ivey announced the tree lighting ceremony yesterday, and added that the Alabama National Guard band “will perform this year’s musical selections.”

6. Voting organizations in Georgia allegedly try to get people out of state to register

  • In Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has announced that there are four voter registration groups currently under investigation for allegedly attempting to get people who don’t live in the state to register to vote in the U.S. Senate runoff election on January 5.
  • One group, founded by Stacey Abrams, reportedly attempted to get people living in New York City to register to vote in the state, and one called Vote Forward may have tried to register a deceased woman in Alabama to vote in the state. Raffensperger has said that these groups “will be held responsible” if found guilty.

5. More Alabama schools going remote

  • Now that the election is over, Dr. Anthony Fauci and his fans in the media have come to the same conclusion President Donald Trump came to months ago: schools should remain open. However, Birmingham City Schools and others in Alabama are still shutting down.
  • Birmingham City Schools’ return to remote learning comes after 21 positive COVID-19 tests and Superintendent Mark Sullivan saying, “The current COVID-19 global pandemic is drastically impacting our community and our schools.”

4. Huntsville City Schools closed due to cybersecurity threat

  • On Monday, the Huntsville City School system closed at midday over an apparent cybersecurity threat and told all students and parents that no school-issued devices should be used and need to be powered down immediately.
  • School administrators have been “working with authorities to work to resolve the issue,” and spokesman Craig Williams said that they’re dealing with a ransomware attack. Everyone has been asked not to use school computers, phones or platforms until the issue is resolved.

3. Almost 10,000 students missing this year

  • Enrollment in Alabama schools is down by about 9,800 students that are being considered unaccounted for in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. There were about 5,000 students who enrolled in a state virtual school, but that left the other 9,800 unaccounted for.
  • This is almost double what was reported last month; State Superintendent Eric Mackey confirmed these numbers and said they’re enhancing efforts to locate the missing students. The largest drop in enrollment was for children in kindergarten.

2. New high for hospitalizations

  • As the coronavirus pandemic continues and Alabama is currently in the middle of another spike in cases, the Alabama Department of Public Health has also reported that the state is seeing the highest number of hospitalizations yet at 1,717.
  • The president of the Alabama Hospital Association Donald Williamson said that he’s “worried” especially as cases are anticipated to continue to rise after the Thanksgiving holiday and quickly approaching Christmas holiday.

1. Vaccine will be available to everyone that wants it by June

  • Operation Warp Speed director of supply, production and distribution Lt. Gen Paul Ostrowski said on MSNBC that by June, “100% of Americans that want the vaccine will have had the vaccine by that point in time.”
  • Ostrowski added that they’ll “have over 300 million doses available to the American public well before then.” This provides a more definitive timeline for how soon the vaccine for the coronavirus will be in full supply, as most people have just been giving estimates.