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.

4 hours ago

Ainsworth encourages Alabamians to ‘Ring for the Resurrection’ on Easter

(Will Ainsworth/Contributed, Pixabay)

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth is asking all Alabamians to join him in a “Ring for the Resurrection” campaign on Easter Sunday. The effort is intended to promote unity at this COVID-19 time of prolonged separation and to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ following his crucifixion.

Ring for the Resurrection, which was created by Ainsworth, calls for all churches and individuals across the Yellowhammer State to ring a bell at noon on Sunday, April 12, in joint celebration of the holiday.

“Social distancing guidelines require us to remain apart from our extended families, church members, and other individuals on a sacred religious holiday that normally encourages us to gather together,” Ainsworth said in a statement on Wednesday. “But I realized that the simple act of ringing a bell can allow us to remain physically distant while being united in spirit.”

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“My wife, Kendall, our twin boys, Hunter and Hays, and our daughter, Addie, will be among those ringing a bell at noon on Sunday to celebrate the miracle of Easter,” he concluded. “While Gov. Ivey’s stay-at-home order, the public’s health and safety, and simple common sense prevent Christians from gathering in large groups even on the holiest of days, all of us can join together in spirit as we ring a bell to recognize that Christ has risen.”

This comes after Ainsworth earlier this week unveiled a new website designed to provide small business owners with a one-stop online information hub related to the ongoing pandemic.

RELATED: Ivey announces campaign encouraging Alabamians to pray for medical personnel, first responders

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

6 hours ago

Alabama community colleges donate medical supplies to those fighting COVID-19

(Alabama Community College System/Facebook, YHN)

Community colleges across Alabama, many of which house nursing programs, are donating their medical equipment to those on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus.

According to a release from the Alabama Community College System (ACCS), many campuses across Alabama have equipment for their “simulated healthcare settings” where students train for medical careers.

“We are grateful for the daily sacrifice of Alabama’s healthcare providers and are grateful we can do our part to help serve our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jimmy Baker, chancellor of the ACCS.

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The equipment donated includes much sought-after ventilators that can help treat the most serious coronavirus cases.

The community colleges also handed out their supply of Personal Protective Equipment like masks to cover the face to local hospitals.

“Much like our efforts to meet the needs of every student that crosses our paths, our colleges work every day to help meet the needs of the communities they serve,” added Baker.

“On behalf of the Alabama Department of Public Health, I am grateful for the willingness of the Alabama Community College System to grant the urgent request for the loan of their available ventilators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” commented State Health Officer Scott Harris.

“We are continually encouraged by the number of entities across the state that are rising to the occasion to meet the needs of the citizens of Alabama,” Harris concluded.

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

6 hours ago

Aderholt: Implement ‘Buy America’ policies to secure medical, pharmaceutical supply chains

(WVTM/YouTube)

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) on Wednesday is set to send a letter to President Donald Trump advocating for additional “Buy America” requirements as the nation deals with the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Aderholt is known nationally as a staunch supporter of Trump’s “America First” trade agenda, especially when it comes to manufacturing. The congressman previously stated, “This president has stood up more for manufacturing jobs in Alabama and across the country — not just Alabama — than any president.”

Now, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to shape American life, Aderholt is urging the president to use his full authority under existing law to strengthen Buy America policies when it comes to the manufacturing of medical supplies and pharmaceutical ingredients.

Aderholt’s letter to Trump as follows:

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I appreciate the work your administration has done to address the health security threat posed by the COVID-19 virus. This global pandemic has highlighted the risk Americans face from an overreliance on imported products in securing public health.

This virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has rapidly spread across the globe with over 1.4 million cases confirmed according to Johns Hopkins University. With China producing significant quantities of the world’s medical supplies and active pharmaceutical ingredients, this centralization of global supply imposes significant health security risks should U.S. access be threatened or interrupted. Through China’s actions to hide the severity of the outbreak in their country, it is clear that they do not take their responsibility to international partners seriously.

While it is important to support our international allies in confronting this pandemic, we must prevent foreign control over the supply and price of health-related commodities in the United States. In order to assure an uninterrupted supply, it is critical to encourage the development of enough domestic capacity to avoid placing the lives of Americans in the hands of foreign suppliers.”

Buy America policies create demand for domestically produced goods, helping to sustain and grow domestic manufacturing and the millions of jobs it supports without additional spending. Americans expect that their taxpayer dollars will be used to purchase high-quality products produced in America by American workers and the businesses that employ them, not help China grow its domestic industry while enabling the collapse of U.S. manufacturing.

I encourage the use of existing authority to implement additional Buy America requirements for federal procurement of medical supplies and active pharmaceutical ingredients, helping use taxpayer- financed purchases to rebuild our public health industrial base in support of our national security.

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

7 hours ago

AlabamaWorks surveying businesses on workforce impacts of COVID-19

AlabamaWorks on Wednesday announced a new way for Yellowhammer State businesses to report how they continue to be affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Alabama COVID-19 Workforce Response Survey is designed to help policymakers fully understand the impact of this pandemic on the state’s workforce, as well as provide a clear path forward for businesses, industry and state government when determining the future focus of workforce in the state.

Responses to the survey will be accepted through Tuesday, April 21 at 5:00 p.m. CT. All Alabama businesses are highly encouraged to participate as the responses will help to protect the state’s workforce, manage the impact of COVID-19 and guide allocation of various resources.

“I am grateful to the Alabama Workforce Council for developing and deploying this much needed and user-friendly survey,” Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement.

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“As we work together to combat COVID-19’s impact, this tool will allow us to identify the needs of business and industry, resources that can help them and how we can best support Alabama’s businesses owners and hardworking Alabamians and their families,” the governor added.

The official survey can be completed here.

“While these are challenging times, we fully understand that now, more than ever, business and industry leaders must continue to work together with Governor Ivey’s administration and various state agencies to move us all forward together,” stated Alabama Workforce Council Chairman Tim McCartney. “Rest assured there is an unwavering commitment to do everything we can to minimize the negative impact COVID-19 has on our businesses, our economy, the state and all of its citizens. Using the results from this survey, I know we can all make a difference in combating the challenges from this pandemic facing so many throughout Alabama.”

You can up with the latest coronavirus-related information from AlabamaWorks here.

RELATED: State of Alabama launches online coronavirus response hub — ‘We are all in this together’

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

8 hours ago

Price of gas plummets as Alabamians stay home

(Pixabay, YHN)

Prices for a gallon of gasoline across Alabama have plummeted amid a glut of supply from overseas coupled with a lack of customers due to coronavirus precautions.

According to data collected by AAA, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded in Alabama was $1.689 on Wednesday, the lowest since 2016, and one of the lowest prices for the state in the last 15 years.

United States consumers went through 6,659,000 barrels of gas per day during the week ending March 27, a 37% decrease from the same week one year earlier and the lowest weekly number since the 1990s.

That number is expected to fall further, as more states have enacted “shelter-in-place” and “stay-at-home” orders since the most recent data was tabulated.

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J. Bart Fletcher, head of the Petroleum & Convenience Marketers of Alabama, an industry group, told Yellowhammer News over the phone that he has had many conversations with the convenience store owners that comprise his organization.

“I’m hearing anywhere from 20-40% drop in retail volume across the state,” he said when asked about how the coronavirus precautions were affecting sales.

According to Fletcher, rural stations are seeing less of a dropoff in sales than urban stores.

In addition to the drop in travelers caused by coronavirus precautions, oil prices have been subjected to a feud between Russia and Saudia Arabia, two of the largest oil-producing countries.

Saudia Arabia, in early March, reduced the prices of its crude oil output in an attempt to undercut Russian prices and gain dominance on the international market.

Russia, unfazed, proceeded apace with their oil production, resulting in an increased drop in prices for most customers around the world.

A meeting to potentially end the feud was postponed late last week.

“The issues we’ve seen with Saudi Arabia and Russia … is really the primary reason for the lowering of the retail gasoline prices,” Fletcher told Yellowhammer.

“Like any other product, the wholesale price determines what the retail price will be,” he added.

Fletcher said the convenience stores across Alabama are worried about “maintaining an adequate supply of employees,” which he says is a challenge faced by retailers across the state.

“My members are installing plexiglass between their retail clerks and their customers,” said Fletcher when asked how stores are adapting to these times of crisis.

Fletcher promised that his members will stay open and ready to serve across the state “so that people can keep on with their lives to the best degree possible.”

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

10 hours ago

Ed Farm hires Waymond Jackson as CEO of the Apple initiative in Alabama

(Nik Layman / Alabama NewsCenter)

Ed Farm has hired Waymond Jackson Jr. as its first CEO.

Short for “education farm,” the tech-focused education and workforce development initiative backed by Apple and the Alabama Power Foundation is already showing its value in the COVID-19 crisis. Jackson told Alabama NewsCenter he is looking at ways Ed Farm can build on its current work and what it looks like after the pandemic.

“Ed Farm, I think the program itself, could not have come at a better time,” he said. “When you think about the mission of that organization or what the program talks about – digital learning skills, equipping teachers with new-age technology for digital, transformative learning. You think about what’s occurring now with school not being in and you’re having to shift to a digital learning environment. A lot of the programming that exists at Ed Farm right now is set up to help in that way.”

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Waymond Jackson named CEO of Ed Farm from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Although Ed Farm was announced Feb. 27, one of its key programs, Teacher Fellows, spent more than a year prior to that equipping teachers in the Birmingham City Schools system to provide innovative approaches to the classroom, including distance learning.

As CEO, Jackson will be in charge of managing and developing external partnerships, recruiting funding partners, overseeing Ed Farm program expansion and launching a global education technology accelerator in Birmingham and beyond.

He expects Ed Farm to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with a great story to share with the world. In fact, discussions of where Ed Farm goes after COVID-19 are taking place with Apple and others.

“One of the things that’s been talked about with Ed Farm is this idea of having a global education technology accelerator right here in Birmingham that will bring people from all across the world to launch education technology here,” Jackson said. “When you think about the response that needs to come next, this is the perfect time for entrepreneurs and educators and individuals who have a passion for education, who have a passion for increasing education aptitude in not only urban areas, but in rural areas, to come together in an accelerator type of environment to look at those ideas that need to be in place to advance education now and education in the future.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook, an Alabama native, was in Birmingham for Ed Farm’s launch in February.

“The Ed Farm is about clearing a path for anyone – of any age, background or interest – whether or not they’re destined for a career in technology,” Cook said at the launc. “This is the culmination of a lot of hard work, of a strong vision for the future, of the tireless advocacy of educators, students and Birmingham leaders. With the team we’ve built here, with the Birmingham community, and with an abiding faith in education’s power as a ‘great equalizer’ – I’m grateful to walk this path together, and I can’t wait to see where it leads.”

Apple’s Community Education Initiative has given Ed Farm hardware, software, funding and professional learning support. The program will use Apple’s Everyone Can Code curriculum, which is being used in more than 5,000 schools around the world.

Adding Jackson as CEO is another key part of Ed Farm’s foundation, officials said.

“Waymond has the leadership skills and industry knowledge necessary for advancing Ed Farm’s mission,” said Anthony Oni, chairman of Ed Farm. “His workforce development experience aligns perfectly with our need to connect learners to the education, technology and support they need to enter the workforce prepared to lead and compete globally.”

Deon Gordon, president and CEO of TechBirmingham, said Jackson steps into the new job with a keen understanding of Ed Farm.

“Waymond has been a part of our efforts to elevate Ed Farm and deepen our region’s relationship with Apple practically since the beginning,” he said. “He is board chairman of TechBirmingham and I’m super excited to see the impact both organizations will continue to make through our partnership and due to his leadership as we grow and scale.”

Before joining Ed Farm, Jackson was senior vice president of Public Policy for the Birmingham Business Alliance, where he earned a national reputation for advancing workforce development initiatives. Most notably, Jackson founded OnBoard Birmingham and the Talent Recruitment Project – the Birmingham Business Alliance’s first early talent retention and recruitment program.

“This is a great leadership opportunity for Waymond and a natural progression for him following the work he has done at the Birmingham Business Alliance in workforce development and public policy,” said Fred McCallum, interim president and CEO of the BBA. “Because the BBA is currently looking for a new CEO, Waymond’s position won’t immediately be filled. The BBA is fortunate to have in place an experienced team in public policy, talent attraction and community development to ensure a seamless transition for our Investors and community partners.”

Jackson is excited about his new role.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to lead this organization, to work with the team that’s at the Ed Farm, to work with the great board members that are there and the strong corporate partners that we have right now in Apple and Alabama Power,” Jackson said.

Jackson will help lead Ed Farm as it scales beyond its pilot programs.

“The beauty about Ed Farm and how it is set up now is Birmingham is just the tip of the iceberg for this initiative,” he said. “This is something that has been pitched as being here in Birmingham, but having a global reach, a global impact. So we’re well underway in thinking through what that looks like.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

11 hours ago

Talladega Superspeedway to host blood drive Wednesday

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

A blood drive is Wednesday, April 8, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Talladega Superspeedway.

The blood drive will be inside the track’s International Motorsports Hall of Fame FOX Sports 1 dome located at the main entrance. Track officials said the goal is to help increase a healthy and reliable blood supply for the American Red Cross to provide area hospitals.

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“We are honored to assist our community during this unprecedented time, working with public health care officials and the American Red Cross for this very important blood drive,” said Talladega Superspeedway President Brian Crichton. “The FOX Sports 1 Dome is a 30,000-square-foot facility and offers plenty of space to practice social distancing so donors will feel safe while donating blood.”

Measures the Red Cross will take to make donors more comfortable upon their visit include:

  • Everyone will have their temperature taken before entering the blood drive, including staff and volunteers.
  • Additional spacing will be provided between beds and stations to go above social distancing guidelines.
  • No more than 15 people will be allowed in the venue at a time (including donors, staff and volunteers).
  • All recommended safety protocols will be used, including wearing gloves, routinely wiping down donor-touched areas, using sterile collection sets for every donation and preparing each arm for donation with an aseptic scrub.
  • Having hand sanitizer available.

The Red Cross is asking only for those that are healthy to donate. If you suspect you may be sick to any extent, the organization pleads to postpone your donation to a later time.

Appointments are required, as there will be no walkups. A blood donor card, a driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Donors 18 years of age and younger have to meet certain height and weight requirements, including weighing at least 110 pounds and being in generally good health.

For more information or to make an appointment to donate, download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) sponsor code: TALLADEGA.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

11 hours ago

Bradley Byrne as Secretary of Navy possibility? Says he is ‘flattered,’ but likelihood of being asked ‘pretty low’

(Jeff Poor / Yellowhammer News)

As of late, there has been a tremendous amount of turmoil in the U.S. Navy at a very critical time in the country. In the wake of the USS Theodore Roosevelt coronavirus outbreak and the dismissal of Capt. Brett E. Crozier, as the ship’s commanding officer, came Tuesday’s resignation of acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly.

Modly will be replaced by Undersecretary of the Army James McPherson, a retired rear admiral. Waiting in the wings to take the post permanently is President Donald Trump’s nominee Kenneth Braithwaite, the U.S. ambassador to Norway. The U.S. Senate has yet to take up Braithwaite’s nomination. However, that could be in jeopardy as well, according to a Politico report from earlier this year.

Meanwhile, in Alabama, with eight months left in his congressional term is U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), who is coming off a failed bid for the U.S. Senate seat up in November. Despite lacking military service, Byrne has ties to the U.S. Navy and congressional experience dealing with it as well. If the Braithwaite nomination falls through, could Byrne, a Trump loyalist, be a Secretary of the Navy possibility?

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It was raised by State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne), who currently serves in the state senate seat representing Baldwin County’s Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay that Byrne once occupied.

In an interview with Huntsville’s WVNN on Tuesday, Byrne responded to a question about that possibility, saying he would consider if offered but downplayed the possibility.

“Of course, if the opportunity presented itself, I would,” Byrne said. “You know, I’m on the seapower subcommittee. I work with the Navy a lot and have loved the work I’ve done with them. I certainly understand the importance that they play to the defense of the United States. The President has already got someone appointed to be the Secretary of the Navy awaiting confirmation. Modly just tendered his resignation today, and the President has already appointed the Undersecretary of the Army to be the acting Secretary of the Navy. The likelihood I’m going to be called to do something like that is pretty low. I’ll just keep on doing my job as the congressman from the first congressional district and be happy with it.”

“Don’t get me wrong — I’m flattered, and I’d love to do it,” he added. “The President has already got people in place, and this is no time to be upsetting the applecart. But you know, if the President of the United States calls me up and says, ‘I need you to go do something with the Navy,’ I’m going to say, ‘Yes sir, Mr. Commander-in-Chief,’ and go do what he asked me to do. I just don’t think it’s very likely that that is going to happen.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.

13 hours ago

Rep. Palmer: ‘China is constantly trying to take advantage of the situation’

(Congressman Gary Palmer/Facebook, YHN)

The behavior of the People’s Republic of China amid the coronavirus pandemic has left much to be desired. The government of the nation of an estimated 1.4 billion people has not been transparent and they have threatened punitive actions against nations that call them out for this behavior.

That is to be expected, according to U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover), who warns against expecting anything different from the Asian communist superpower.

During an interview with Huntsville radio WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Palmer deemed China a “bad actor,” and noted the action that led to President Donald Trump banning flights in and out of China to the United States.

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“China is constantly trying to take advantage of the situation,” Palmer said. “They impose themselves in the South China Sea, illegally in violation of international law. To expect China to behave in a way that we would want them to behave is foolhardy. They’re not going to do that. I can’t speak for the decisionmaking of other countries but if the United States were presented with the same opportunity as the Chinese would offer it, to get health care equipment but we would have to use Huawei, I would say turn it down.”

“The key — and I’m not an isolationist, I’m pretty much a free trader — there’s certain things you have to add to your calculations when you’re talking about dealing with certain countries around the world, whether it is Russia and the Saudis and what they’re doing with the oil prices, or China with them just flat-out being a bad actor, ” he explained. “I think that has to become part of the calculation here, and not lose sight of the fact of who we’re dealing with.”

“I mean, Xi Jinping — I was at a lunch with the president at the White House,” Palmer continued. “I’m part of a leadership team, and we met with President Trump on January 27, and he told us them about phone calls — multiple calls he had with Xi Jinping trying to allow our scientist to come in and help them stem the outbreak, and send the CDC in so we could get a better handle on what this virus was like. Xi wouldn’t allow it. That’s when the president banned out the flights into and out of China, which by the way, despite the fact that he was viciously attacked by the left-wing media — that was exactly the right decision.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.

14 hours ago

New coronavirus projections for Alabama drastically reduced from previous versions

(Pixabay, YHN)

The latest models from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) now predict far fewer hospitalizations and deaths from coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state of Alabama.

Often cited by health professionals and government officials across the country, the research group at the University of Washington at one time predicted nearly 8,000 deaths in Alabama and hospital bed shortages in the thousands.

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Updated models now project that there could be as many as 634 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,328 hospital beds needed to treat patients with the virus. IMHE notes that there are 5,743 beds available, which would leave the state with plenty of space for patients should these projections continue to hold.

As of 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) had reported 2,197 total COVID-19 cases and 64 deaths.

ADPH has recorded 271 hospitalizations since March 13.

Jefferson County has the most confirmed cases at 461. It has 12 reported deaths. Lee County has 133 confirmed cases and five reported deaths.

The United States has recorded 369,069 cases and 11,008 total deaths as of Wednesday morning.

Nursing homes continue to be an area of concern for Alabama health officials.

The Alabama Nursing Home Association (ANHA) announced this week that positive tests have occurred in 31 facilities. While that equates to a positive test in just over 13% of the state’s 231 nursing homes, CDC data suggests older individuals are affected more severely by COVID-19. Of those 65 and older, 4-11% perish when contracting the virus. That number rises to 10-27% for anyone 85 and older.

RELATED: ‘Don’t let the corona get on ya!’ — Alabama retirees sing during COVID-19 crisis

ANHA CEO Brandon Farmer believes nursing home cases will rise in the coming days.

“I predict the number of nursing homes with cases will grow as more tests are administered and the results are returned,” he said.

IMHE projects that Alabama’s peak day for resource use to care for COVID-19 patients will be April 20. The model predicts the state will reach its peak in daily deaths on April 22. It predicts 27 deaths on that day.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

14 hours ago

Alabama-based foreign affairs expert: ‘China will have a day of reckoning’ — WHO has ‘blood on its hands’

(Fox News/Twitter, Pixabay, YHN)

Greg Keeley, a Birmingham resident and regular Fox News contributor, told Yellowhammer News that there was no doubt in his mind there would be long-term ramifications for China’s role in the coronavirus outbreak.

A combat veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Keeley is frequently sought after for his expertise on matters of national security.

He says that while the world is currently devoting its time and resources toward getting healthy, taking action against China will eventually move to the forefront.

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“China will have a day of reckoning out of this,” stated Keeley. “What actually happens is to be determined but they certainly don’t get off scot-free.”

Keeley pointed out that President Donald Trump and some congressional leaders have already taken China to task. He said similar pronouncements have occurred in Australia and are beginning to reverberate throughout the United Kingdom and European Union.

As for China’s assertion that they have not had any more deaths or renewed outbreaks, he said China’s information cannot be trusted.

“That’s all nonsense obviously,” he said.

He views China’s attempts to provide other places in the world with medical supplies as hallow.

“Their public relations exercise of sending masks and ventilators to Africa and the U.S., they need them at home but they are sending them out to portray themselves as a global power,” outlined Keeley. “It’s backfired in a lot of places. I’ve talked to friends of mine that are physicians in Thailand and Burma and the material that the Chinese are sending is obviously stuff they would not use at home because most of it doesn’t work. It’s fake like most everything else that comes out of China.”

China’s motivation is clear as far as Keeley is concerned.

“The Chinese are trying to cover up their malfeasance of the last six months,” he explained.

On Tuesday, Trump criticized the World Health Organization (WHO) and its relationship to China, and he dangled out the possibility that the U.S. could cut off funding to the organization.

This comes as no surprise to Keeley.

“There are going to be enormous ramifications for the World Health Organization,” he predicted. “The World Health Organization was pushing China’s messaging and denials to the globe. The World Health Organization really does have blood on its hands from this exercise. They sold out to China, and they showed themselves for what they are.”

He also suggested the United States cuts off funding to WHO if its entire leadership structure is not replaced.

“They’ve been carrying water for the Chinese government for the last three months,” he remarked.

Keeley had one person in mind when asked to come up with a name to lead WHO.

“Dr. Anthony Fauci,” he quickly replied.

Aside from untangling the alliance between China and WHO, Keeley noted that there is one country, a long-time nemesis of the United States, which has been ravaged by the coronavirus.

“The Iranians are in a very bad state,” he said. “You noticed a few weeks ago they were reporting some numbers and the government officials who were sick. They’re not doing that anymore. My guess is they were underreporting by 10-times the actual numbers. They have whole regions which are basically wiped out, whole areas.”

Iran has 62,589 coronavirus cases, with 3,782 reported deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins. However, those figures are based off of information provided by the Iranian government.

The Jerusalem Post reported yesterday that the number of infections in Iran may actually exceed 500,000 people.

The initial reports out of Iran occurred before the government instituted an information lockdown, according to Keeley.

“What happened was that people still had access to some amount of social media and email, but they’ve obviously shut that down,” he contended. “The Ayatollah could be dead for all we know.”

Iran is one area of the globe Keeley plans to keep an eye on believing the virus could cause a seismic shift in the region’s political structure.

“Is this something that facilitates the overthrow of the mullahs?” he offered.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 day ago

Poarch Band of Creek Indians donates $1 million to local hospital

(Atmore Community Hospital/Facebook, YHN)

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians this week announced a $1 million donation to Atmore Community Hospital, which serves the city of Atmore and western Escambia County, Alabama, where the tribe’s trust lands are located.

The donation, which was approved by Poarch’s Tribal Council, provides funding that the hospital reportedly urgently needs to replace vital equipment such as a CT scan, ultrasound imaging and new hospital beds.

Additionally, the sizable funding from the tribe will help the hospital meet added expenses and staffing needs associated with collecting samples for testing and caring for patients potentially affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Poarch Band of Creek Indians Tribal Chair and CEO Stephanie Bryan said in a statement, “We know how critically important Atmore Community Hospital is to our Tribe and all of our neighbors who live in and around Atmore. We understand the financial challenges that rural hospitals like it face every day, and we support its mission and its leadership. That is especially true now that our country is dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. We are committed to doing everything we can to make sure this great hospital that serves our community has what it needs.”

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Atmore Community Hospital is governed by the Escambia County Healthcare Authority’s board of directors.

Chris Griffin, CEO of the Escambia County Healthcare Authority, stated, “This extremely generous donation from the Tribe could not have come at a more opportune time. We are committed to caring for our community, especially now during the Covid-19 crisis. These funds will help us pay for the expensive equipment and capital improvements that we have sorely needed, and the Tribe has also made it possible for us to cover the unexpected costs associated with the virus. We are so grateful that Poarch has supported us at critically important times through the years, and this is certainly one of them.”

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

1 day ago

Ivey delays due date for prison construction proposals by two weeks

(YHN)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has delayed the deadline by which the two competing developer groups must submit their proposals for how they would build the three new prisons the state has called for.

“Given the unforeseen circumstances associated with COVID-19, it is in the best interest of the state of Alabama to grant this extension so that the developer teams have adequate time to perform required due diligence and to prepare thorough and thoughtful proposals,” said Ivey in a release.

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The deadline extension is the latest development in a construction saga now over a year old.

Alabama is under a federal requirement to improve the conditions in its prisons. A federal judge has found that the current state of Alabama’s correctional institutions violated the 8th amendment’s protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

In February 2019, Governor Ivey announced a plan to build three new prisons for male convicts.

After a year-long process of determining who was qualified and able to accomplish a task of that size, the state is awaiting proposals from two groups composed of several companies each:

  • Alabama Prison Transformation Partners (Star America; BL Harbert International; Butler-Cohen; Arrington Watkins Architects; and Johnson Controls, Inc.)
  • CoreCivic (CoreCivic; Caddell Construction; DLR Group; and R&N Systems Design)

“The developer teams expressed the need for an extension – due to work and travel restrictions implemented in the wake of this national health crisis – and we fully supported the extension,” said Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) Commissioner Jeff Dunn.

“The spread of COVID-19 has only further demonstrated the critical need for new correctional facilities in Alabama,” he added.

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

UAB among first in the U.S. to offer clinical trial for the treatment of patients with severe COVID-19 using nitric oxide

(Pixabay, YHN)

The University of Alabama at Birmingham has been selected to begin enrolling patients in an international study assessing the use of inhaled nitric oxide (iNO) to improve outcomes for COVID-19 patients with severely damaged lungs.

Currently, there are no approved treatment options available against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, although many medications are currently being tested to see if they may be effective. Acute respiratory distress syndrome, a severe form of lung failure, is the leading cause of death in COVID-19.

iNO has been used for the treatment of failing lungs, but it was also found to have antiviral properties against coronaviruses. The antiviral effect of iNO was tested and demonstrated during the 2002-2003 SARS pandemic, which was caused by a similar coronavirus called the SARS-CoV virus.

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When lungs are failing, some parts of the lungs receive air while some do not. iNO is a gas that improves the blood flow to those areas of the lung that are receiving air, boosting the amount of oxygen circulating in the blood stream. It also reduces the work of the right side of the heart, which is under extreme stress during conditions of lung failure, such as severe COVID-19 infection.

With the start of this trial, any COVID-19 patient who is admitted to UAB’s ICU and is breathing with the assistance of a ventilator may potentially qualify for the study.

“This trial will allow the sickest COVID-19 patients at UAB access to a rescue therapy that may have antiviral benefits in addition to improving the status of lungs,” said Vibhu Parcha, M.D., a research fellow with UAB’s Division of Cardiovascular Disease.

Pankaj Arora, M.D., assistant professor in the division, is spearheading UAB’s efforts in providing this treatment option to eligible COVID-19 patients. The mechanism of benefit of iNO could be the direct antiviral effect as shown in the SARS 2003 pandemic, modulation of oxidative stress, or improvement of the ventilation perfusion matching in the lungs, Arora says. His group plans to study the cardiovascular effects of high-dose inhaled NO in an ancillary effort to the primary clinical trial.

“In humans, nitric oxide is generated within the blood vessels and regulates blood pressure, and prevents formation of clots and also destroys potential toxins,” Arora said.

The UAB team says this pandemic has led to an extraordinary unifying response by the medical community, including ICU physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, clinical trial specialists, reviewers and medical administrators, allowing for faster than normal approvals for potentially lifesaving research studies.

“The fact that we are able to get this trial started quickly was due to collaborations across specialties and fields of expertise at UAB with the common goal of providing the highest quality of scientifically proven care for our COVID-19 patients,” Arora said. “We are all trying to fight this together, and I hope, with our resilience, we shall overcome these difficult times.”

As the coronavirus pandemic grows each day, the medical community has been working tirelessly to help people infected with COVID-19. For up-to-date information about UAB and how to protect yourself, visit uab.edu/coronavirus.

(Courtesy of UAB)

1 day ago

Sessions releases next phase of plan to counter China — ‘Make American medical supplies in America’

(Jeff Sessions/Twitter, Pixabay, YHN)

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions has unveiled the second plank of his “Bet on America” plan that outlines how he believes America should go about standing up to China.

This piece of the plan would have the United States government take steps towards establishing a robust supply chain for medical supplies inside America’s borders.

“The United States is critically exposed because we are too reliant on the communist Chinese government and other foreign nations for our medicines and lifesaving medical equipment,” said Sessions in a release.

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Last week, in the first plank of the plan, Sessions called for a select congressional committee to lead an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and China’s role in covering it up.

Shortly after Sessions called for the investigation, a bombshell report was published by Bloomberg News detailing how U.S. intelligence agencies have determined that the communist government of China engaged in an extensive effort to cover up the extent of the outbreak there.

RELATED: Tuberville on China, coronavirus: ‘We’ve got to worry about Alabama and this country’ right now

“The Chinese Communist Party today controls the production and supply of too many goods and materials that are critical to America’s national security and our citizens’ public health,” Sessions commented in remarks accompanying the release of his plan.

Sessions pointed out that a huge percentage of the medicine and medical devices in the United States are made in China or rely on parts and chemicals made in China.

The key policy recommendation from Sessions in this plank of his plan is to mandate that 75% of health care spending by federal agencies be used to purchase American-made supplies.

Sessions highlighted agencies such as the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as groups that spend large sums on medicine and medical supplies.

“America need not shut itself off entirely from purchasing international medical products,” advised Sessions, before continuing, “But we must maintain a strong, American supply chain and ensure that we have the capability to make the products ourselves when international production is threatened or insufficient.”

The former senator from Alabama believes that President Donald Trump’s recent changes to the Chinese/American trade relationship are “strong and effective measures” that constitute “a good start.”

Sessions also wants the public to know “that the real threat is the Chinese Communist Party, not the good people of China.”

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

GOP State Reps. Garrett, Lovvorn urge Ivey to involve healthcare, business leaders in implementing coronavirus orders

(Joe Lovvorn, Alabama House District 79 Representative, Governor Kay Ivey, Representative Danny Garrett/Facebook, YHN)

In a letter sent to Governor Kay Ivey on Monday, State Reps. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) and Joe Lovvorn (R-Auburn) called into question the implementation of recent State Health Orders related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Yellowhammer News on Tuesday obtained the letter, which began by saying, “At the request of Speaker Mac McCutcheon, we have been asked to regularly update and inform the leadership of the House of Representatives about concerns and recommendations from the Alabama business community as we all work through the Cornonavirus crisis.”

“We are also members of the Emergency Small Business Task Force you established to address concerns specific to the small businesses,” the representatives noted.

While advising Ivey that task force members “support the decisions you and [State Health Officer] Dr. [Scott] Harris have made to make to take precautions necessary to prevent the spread of the virus and to safeguard the health of our citizens,” the letter continued to raise some serious concerns.

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“Although we support the Administration’s and Department of Health’s orders, we are concerned that the communication and implementation of these orders  have created unnecessary angst, hardship and confusion among individuals and businesses across the state,” Garrett and Lovvorn wrote. “We also believe the goal of limiting spread of the virus has been unintentionally compromised.”

The next paragraph, all in bold, emphasized, “In the future, we urge you to involve members of the business and health services communities in discussions of how best to communicate and implement decisions before orders are executed. We also request that you have a meeting with representatives of the business communities to hear their ideas on what can be done now to address unintended consequences that are occurring.”

The letter then listed three examples of purported communication and implementation concerns:

  • First, it was not clear in the initial order that “nonessential” businesses could continue to operate online or that they could utilize pick-up and curbside services. It took more than a week for this matter to be clarified and eliminate the confusion. Many individuals and businesses were unnecessarily harmed during this time.
  • Second, the initial order restricted visitors to hospitals. After the first order, we are aware of a situation where a hospital did not allow a family member to speak with medical personnel when their elderly mother – who has numerous health issues and limited ability to communicate—was admitted by ambulance to the hospital at 11;00 PM on a Friday. The family was not able to speak with the hospital personnel until 12 hours later, and only after a representative of ADPH intervened and clarified the order.
  • Third, the most recent order drastically reduced the number of people who can be inside an essential business. The affected large stores were not given advance notice of the decision and did not have time to adequately prepare for the ensuing chaos. On Friday night and Saturday before 5:00 PM, these stores were packed to capacity with people inside and outside who were confused about the Stay at Home Order and who were not practicing social distancing. In addition, we understand from several big box managers that merely reducing the numbers of customers inside the store based upon square footage is not an adequate solution.

“In each of the above examples, had a team of business and health care services representatives been involved before the orders were issued, a more effective and workable solution could have accompanied each order and provided clarity and less confusion. In addition, we could have potentially offered suggestions for optimal prevention of spreading the virus,” the letter outlined.

“We urge you to, now and in the future, please involve members of the affected businesses and health providers in developing implementation plans for executive orders. The members of the Legislature also stand willing to help and assist with planning and communication,” Garrett and Lovvorn stated.

You can read the full letter here.

Garrett is the House majority whip and has been an outspoken advocate for small businesses throughout the pandemic. He previously voiced his concerns that an Ivey administration State Health Order treated small businesses differently from national, big-box chains selling the same products.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News last week, Ivey responded to this type of concern, which has been expressed publicly by multiple legislators.

“The job that Dr. Harris and I have is to protect our people of our state, not worry about who buys what from where,” Ivey told Yellowhammer News. “We’re trying to protect our people as best we can…”

She added, “[W]e’re just trying to provide access to people to able to get what they need — but maybe not everything that they want from where they’ve been getting it. It’s just a matter of trying to protect people from coming in contact with one another.”

Ivey also stressed that balancing the economic impacts of her decisions is “one of the hardest things” she has to do.

“Economic health is vital to our people, as well as their safety and their health,” she said. “So, it’s a balancing act — both of which are very important. And I’m sure we’re going to make some mistakes along the way, and we’re not going to please everybody all the time. But we’re trying hard to protect both our economy — small businesses and our large businesses — so we can keep our economy robust, and it’ll be there when we’re all ready to go back to work.”

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

1 day ago

Ivey announces campaign encouraging Alabamians to pray for medical personnel, first responders

(Governor Kay Ivey/Twitter)

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday announced her new “Ribbons of Hope” campaign from the steps of the Alabama State Capitol.

Through this campaign, Ivey is encouraging the people of the state to tie ribbons around a tree, pole, mailbox or other fixture in their front yard as a symbol to remind everyone to pray for medical personnel, first responders and for one another during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

These “Ribbons of Hope” will symbolize faith, hope, love and prayer, per the governor’s office. Ivey was joined by several local pastors Tuesday to officially tie the first ribbon on a tree in front of the capitol.

During these unprecedented times, Ivey reportedly hopes these simple gestures will create unity among Alabamians and become a beacon of encouragement for everyone who sees them.

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“As an effort to remind the people of Alabama we are all in this together, I ask that each household tie a ribbon in their front yard to remember our medical personnel, first responders and for the health and protection of our family and friends,” Ivey said in a statement.

“Let’s use whatever ribbon we already have from a past celebration and may we see a beautiful array of color line our neighborhood streets,” she continued. “These ribbons will serve as a reminder to the people of our state that we are lifting each other in prayer, and that just like after the great flood in Genesis, we are mindful of the hope and promise of God during this pandemic.”

The governor was joined by First Baptist Church of Montgomery Pastor Jay Wolf, 89.1 FM Faith Director of Ministry Relations Billy Irvin, Hutchinson Street Missionary Baptist Pastor Courtney Meadows, Alabama Baptist Convention Hispanic Ministries Coordinator Anel Robiyana, His Vessel Ministry Minister Jo Hancock, Former Pastor at Frazer United Methodist Church John Ed Mathison and First Baptist Montgomery Lay Leader Soo Seok Yang.

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

1 day ago

Plasma donations needed from those who had COVID-19 and recovered

(W.Miller/YHN)

The Red Cross is asking for anybody who was diagnosed with the coronavirus and recovered to give blood plasma as soon as possible. The organization believes the donations may help those currently fighting the virus.

According to the Red Cross’ website, the plasma of a recovered patient “will have antibodies in their blood plasma that help protect them against future infections.”

Studies have not yet definitively proven that plasma from recovered patients, termed “convalescent plasma” by the medical community, is an effective treatment against COVID-19.

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The FDA is currently investigating convalescent plasma and its potential uses. The Red Cross says that there is some information that indicates “convalescent plasma could help some coronavirus patients – especially those who are seriously ill.”

Alabama Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth encouraged recovered patients to donate via Twitter on Tuesday, saying, “If you’ve recovered from COVID-19 infection, this is your chance to help someone.”

The head of Jefferson County’s Department of Health, Dr. Mark Wilson, likewise encouraged donations of convalescent plasma. He tweeted that a donation “could potentially help save someone’s life.”

Former COVID-19 patients wishing to donate their plasma can go here.

A never-infected citizen who wants to make a normal blood donation can go here or 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

ANHA president: 31 nursing homes in Alabama have reported COVID-19 cases

(Pixabay, YHN)

Alabama Nursing Home Association (ANHA) CEO Brandon Farmer said Monday that the Yellowhammer State has 31 nursing homes where someone has tested positive for coronavirus.

In some of the homes, it was a staff member who tested positive, and in others, it was a resident of the facility.

Farmer said the cases were “both at nursing homes in rural and urban locations,” adding, “These nursing homes are following the reporting guidelines and implementing isolation procedures.”

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According to ANHA, Alabama has 231 nursing homes that care for approximately 24,500 elderly Alabamians and employ about 31,000 workers.

“Our members have taken the threat of COVID-19 seriously from the start. Most restricted or stopped visitation and began screening employees before state and federal government agencies required it,” promised Farmer.

According to CDC data, 4-11% of those 65 and older perish when contracting the virus. That number rises to 10-27% for anyone 85 and older.

Farmer added that the members of his association are still experiencing delays in getting test kits and test results, which is endangering the residents at the facilities.

“I predict the number of nursing homes with cases will grow as more tests are administered and the results are returned,” commented Farmer.

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

U.S. Rep. Brooks: Democrats putting America’s interests ‘behind their quest and thirst for political power’ on coronavirus

(MSNBC/YouTube)

In recent days, there has been a push for House Democrats to launch an investigation into President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The media and even some congressional Democrats have not been shy about the possibility of convening a panel for such an inquiry. However, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) said such a maneuver would be par for the course for Democrats.

In an interview that aired Monday on Huntsville WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Brooks slammed his Democratic Party colleagues, accusing them of putting political ambitions ahead of the public amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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“It’s very clear that the socialist Democrats will use every crisis they can to try to maintain the power they have or grab more power,” he said. “And unfortunately, they are putting the interest of Americans second behind their quest and thirst for political power. Hopefully, the curtain has been pulled where the American people can better see what exactly the Democrats are doing.”

The Huntsville GOP lawmaker likened Democrats’ efforts to investigate the Trump administration to those investigations into alleged Russian interference and Russia-Trump 2016 presidential campaign collusion, as it pertained to the 2016 presidential election.

“They did this with the fake Russian collusion argument that went amuck for over two years,” he said. “They did this with the sham impeachment effort, and now they’re going to try to blame these deaths on Donald Trump. If you want to blame somebody, blame the Chinese Communist Party. If you want to blame somebody, the Democrats should blame themselves to some degree because to a very large degree, all media eyes and eyes in Washington were focused on the impeachment proceeding that had been ongoing for a number of months and had reached ahead this year.”

“And I had warned the public that this impeachment proceeding by the Democrats was a total and complete sham, and it was diverting our attention away from a lot of other serious public policy issues that we needed to address — things like border security, things like deficit and debt, things like the battle between free enterprise and socialism,” Brooks added. “At the time, I did not realize it was diverting public attention, and for that matter, elected official attention from the threat posed by this coronavirus. But that turns out to also be an effect of the sham Democrat impeachment that the Democrats foisted on the American people for more than six months.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.

2 days ago

Business Council of Alabama experts to answer coronavirus relief questions in televised event

(YHN)

The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) continues to be a leading resource for Yellowhammer State job creators looking to navigate the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The BCA on Monday announced that it will present the Small Business Exchange on Alabama Public Television (APT) this coming Thursday night. This event is designed to help small businesses apply for relief funding under the CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion federal stimulus package recently enacted in response to the pandemic.

In partnership with APT, BCA will bring together experts in business, banking, accounting and law to answer phone calls from Alabama business owners and employers as they grapple with the impact of the coronavirus on the state’s economy.

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New federal loans are now available for small businesses, but funding is limited in some cases and quick action is required to take full advantage.

“We have to make sure that Alabama’s small businesses get the loans and support they deserve in these tough economic times,” BCA president and CEO Katie Boyd Britt said in a statement. “These business owners need as much help as we can give them to work through the process. The first step in getting Alabama back to work is to get this loan money flowing to our businesses.”

Available funding includes $10 billion in Economic Injury Disaster Loans and $349 billion in Paycheck Protection Loans. Each program has different eligibility criteria, financing and application processes, and, coupled with general confusion about the programs, this has led many business owners to be uncertain about availability, qualifications, requirements and deadlines.

The point of the Small Business Exchange is to get much-needed accurate information to business owners as expeditiously as possible.

“Our team of experts is donating their time and resources because this is a critical time for small businesses,” Britt concluded. “This federal funding can and will save companies and save jobs, so the BCA is facilitating this process in any way we can.”

The Small Business Exchange program will air Thursday on APT from 7:00-8:00 p.m. CT.

In total, BCA experts will be available to answer questions over the phone from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Thursday and from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Friday.

To ask a question or consult with the BCA experts during these time slots, you can call 1-833-BCA4BIZ (1-833-222-4249).

Since the start of the pandemic, BCA has hosted a landing page featuring the latest resources and information for business owners related to the coronavirus. You can access that website here.

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

2 days ago

Alabama State Port Authority names John Driscoll as next director, CEO

(Alabama State Port Authority/Contributed, YHN)

The Alabama State Port Authority on Monday announced that its board of directors has named John C. Driscoll as director and chief executive officer for the port authority effective June 1.

He will succeed the retiring James K. “Jimmy” Lyons, who will assist Driscoll in the transition and serve as director emeritus until his full retirement at the end of the calendar year.

Driscoll most recently served as maritime director at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, CA. According to a release, he had operational and marketing responsibility for one of the nation’s top-10 container seaports. He was also credited with improving that port’s operating efficiency, financial performance and community relations.

“Over the last several months, the board and Jimmy Lyons worked through a nationwide search to identify a slate of qualified candidates,” Bestor Ward, chairman of the Alabama State Port Authority’s board of directors, explained in a statement. “It was John’s qualifications that made him the natural choice. Our board looks forward to John joining the Port Authority team in June.”

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Prior to working in Oakland, Driscoll served as vice president of export sales for CMA CGM (America) LLC, a leading global container shipping group.

He reportedly gained deep international maritime experience and contacts working with Sea-Land Service, Maersk Line and CMA CGM. Additionally, Driscoll successfully developed business operations in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

The Alabama State Port Authority owns and operates the State of Alabama’s deep-water port facilities at the Port of Mobile, currently the 11th-largest U.S. seaport by total trade.

“This is a gratifying opportunity and a career highlight,” Driscoll stated. “I’ve seen the caliber of people who work here and the contributions the Port of Mobile makes to Alabama, the local community, and global trade. There is so much to be proud of at Mobile. The responsibility in leading this port is fantastic, and we will work together to continue the progress made under Executive Director Lyons.”

RELATED: Alabama’s seaport expansion reaches another milestone

Driscoll attended the University of Maryland (College Park) and graduated with a B.S. in Business Management with an emphasis on Transportation and Marketing.

Lyons commented, “I’ve observed over the years John’s incredible contributions to the industry. His abilities were affirmed through our extensive assessment of his body of work and my conversations with those who have worked with him. I am confident John will be an excellent fit for our seaport, our management team, and our employees, and I personally look forward to the transition.”

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

UA Greek life donates food to local organizations

(UA/Contributed, YHN)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After University of Alabama classes unexpectedly moved online due to COVID-19, and students left campus for the remainder of the semester, many of the University’s fraternity and sorority houses were left stocked with food and supplies.

To ensure the food and supplies went to good use during this time of crisis, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, in conjunction with the University’s Center for Service and Leadership, arranged for the perishable and non-perishable food, paper products, toiletries and cleaning supplies from several Greek houses to be donated to local organizations.

“There is a huge need in Tuscaloosa right now for many families in our community,” said Dr. Kat Gillan, senior director of operations for Fraternity and Sorority Life. “The Greek organizations stepped up to meet some of those needs.”

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So far, the West Alabama Food Bank has received 4,642 pounds of food from 10 Greek houses, and arrangements have been made for the food bank to continue pick-ups from five more houses.

“This additional food is a great blessing, especially during this time,” said Jean Rykaczewski, executive director of the West Alabama Food Bank, which is serving a larger population due to the crisis. The donation will feed approximately 100 families.

Greek house food donations have also been made to the city and county boards of education, to be used for student meals, as well as to the City of Tuscaloosa Fire Department.

“It is imperative that The University of Alabama continues to serve our community in every way possible during this uncertain time,” said Courtney Thomas, director of the Center for Service and Leadership. “Active and engaged citizenship looks a little different right now but the need is strong.”

This is not the first time the UA fraternity and sorority community has come together to support Tuscaloosa in a time of crisis. In 2011, UA Greek Relief, a student-led initiative, distributed more than 52,000 meals to victims and volunteers following the April 27 tornadoes.

“Service is a key component of the Greek experience,” Gillan said. “When presented with the opportunity to give back to our local community in a time of need, UA fraternities and sororities stand ready to assist.”

For information about supporting the West Alabama Food Bank, visit westalabamafoodbank.org.

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.

2 days ago

State of Alabama launches online coronavirus response hub — ‘We are all in this together’

(Governor's Office/YouTube)

Governor Kay Ivey on Monday announced the launch of altogetheralabama.org, an online resource that will serve as a hub of information as the state continues to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A release from Ivey’s office advised that the site is now the state’s official guide to coronavirus relief efforts and is intended to help empower both those impacted by the outbreak and those who want to offer support.

“We wanted to quickly create a trusted resource that centralizes information, resources and opportunities for businesses and individuals in need of support,” Ivey said in a statement. “We are all in this together.”

The governor also released a video regarding the initiative.

Watch:

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The website is designed to be a comprehensive aide in navigating all issues related to Alabama’s COVID-19 response. Individuals and business owners can seek help and identify state and federal resources that can provide a lifeline in the form of low-interest loans and financial assistance.

Business owners, for example, can learn about the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program, which launched on Friday and is intended to provide a direct incentive for employers to keep their workers on the payroll. Displaced workers, meanwhile, can use the site to learn about enhanced unemployment benefits.

“It’s important for Alabama’s business owners and its workforce to take full advantage of the resources being made available through the federal government’s $2 trillion coronavirus relief package,” advised Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “The site is meant to expedite the process so both employers and employees can get back up on their feet as fast as possible.”

At the same time, the new site will function as a pathway for Alabama’s good corporate citizens and the general public to offer support and solutions that can help spark recovery across the Yellowhammer State. The hub is intended to act as a portal for companies, non-profits and individuals to volunteer, make donations of supplies, offer assistance programs and even post job openings.

The site was developed in partnership with Opportunity Alabama, a non-profit organization that promotes investment in the state’s designated Opportunity Zones.

“Over the last two years, Opportunity Zones have allowed us to build a network of stakeholders that care deeply about helping distressed places,” commented Alex Flachsbart, Opportunity Alabama founder and CEO. “We hope this site will provide a gateway linking our network to those businesses and communities in economic distress, no matter where they are in Alabama.”

In an interview with Yellowhammer News last week, Ivey also said that Alabama Power Company was helping to spearhead the AL Together effort.

“These are challenging times,” Ivey added in her Monday statement. “We needed a place to efficiently and rapidly post and disseminate information – as soon as it’s available – for all affected parties. Thank you for your support and partnership in helping bring Alabama together.”

Any business, program or individual who would like to join AL Together as a resource in COVID-19 response and relief can register here.

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