6 months ago

Hemp to hand sanitizer: Alabama veteran’s business adapts to meet coronavirus demand

The employees of On Duty USA have ceased making CDB oil and are instead turning out hand sanitizer by the pallet to meet demand created by the requirements of life in a pandemic.

With an office in Birmingham and a manufacturing facility in Kentucky, On Duty USA was founded by Alabamian and U.S. Navy veteran Greg Keeley. The company has now operated for more than a year producing CDB oil which it has marketed specifically to ailing veterans.

In recent weeks, On Duty USA has sought to meet the new demands of its customers and better equip Americans to fight the coronavirus.

“When the COVID-19 outbreak happened, we filled a need for consumers,” Keeley told Yellowhammer News. “Although we sell a lot of CBD oil online, we put a lot of focus on retail sales, too, so it made sense to do something else. We thought, ‘let’s do the right thing and make something that can help people.’ So we repurposed the labs and we’re pumping out thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer every day now. It’s been nuts. We’re selling across the country, to hospital systems, the VA. Our little company in Birmingham and Lexington is all over the place.”

A combat veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Keeley founded the company out of his own experience dealing with the adverse effects of combat.

“When I came back in 2012 from Afghanistan, I had pretty pronounced PTSD and traumatic brain injury, and I was taking all the drugs the VA gave me for about five years,” he said.

At the urging of his wife, Keeley decided he needed to decrease the amount of medication he was taking. So he went to a PTSD support group, and that’s where he first heard about CBD oil.

He bought some oil from China and other places and none of it worked, according to Keeley. The idea that he should make the product himself began to forumulate. With the help of a friend who is an infectious disease doctor at the University of Kentucky, Keeley began the manufacturing process.

“It worked for me in two days,” he stated. “Within two weeks I ceased taking any other medication. I had been taken six or seven different drugs a day for years.”

One thing that is consistent throughout the business is the involvement of veterans.

“Nearly everyone who works for us is veteran,” he outlined. “They have all served mostly overseas.”

The company began marketing specifically to veterans, as well.

“In the beginning, most of our customers were veterans and first responders, as well as hospital workers and teachers,” explained Keeley. “Our customer base has broadened quite a lot in the last six months. From our perspective, though, our core customers wear uniforms.”

Right now, 100-percent of On Duty USA’s manufacturing is devoted to producing hand sanitizer. Keeley indicated that the company may switch back some production lines later as their CBD oil supply dips.

With all of the hand sanitizer components sourced out of Birmingham, it will likely become a permanent addition to On Duty USA’s product line.

“I think sanitizing will be part of our lives for quite a ways to come,” Keeley observed. “People are going to have it in the entry way of their house for people to use when they visit or when someone comes home. We may scale back at some point, but we will keep producing hand sanitizer for all of our customers and retail customers.”

The company’s commitment to veterans is a big part of the direction Keeley and his partners have decided to pursue.

“Our hand sanitizer production keeps our guys, most of whom are vets, working on the production lines,” Keeley pointed out.

Keeley, who answers questions for veterans and other customers directly from his Instagram account @GregOnDuty, recognizes the fact that his customers are the ones on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight.

“Given our customer base of cops and firemen and other first responders who use On Duty, we feel obliged to keep pumping it out as best as we can,” he offered. “One of the things we resolved when we made a decision to do this was that we weren’t going to price gouge folks or be unreasonable with our prices. A lot of people online are charging double what we charge.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

34 mins ago

College football picks — SEC week 1 and more

The Season of Sankey officially gets underway today. The SEC takes the field for the first time this fall as a result of conference commissioner Greg Sankey’s well-planned approach to playing football amid COVID-19 conditions.

During the last two weeks, a parade of conferences have backtracked on plans to cancel their seasons and put in place schedules set to kick off beginning next month. If only they had followed one simple rule: be more like Sankey.

No doubt the season will be unusual. Expect the unexpected. And, as always, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Here are a few picks.

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THE BASICS

No. 2 Alabama (-29) at Missouri: The Crimson Tide have the fewest non-COVID questions of any team in the country. They also have the most talented roster. Missouri will have a tough time scoring while Nick Saban gets to pick his team’s score.

The pick: Alabama 41, Missouri 9

No. 4 Georgia (-28) at Arkansas: Not a lot of intrigue here, either. The D’Wan Mathis era begins. Georgia wins. Maybe the only real question is: how will Kirby Smart handle dipping and wearing a mask at the same time?

The pick: Georgia 34, Arkansas 7

No. 5 Florida (-14) at Ole Miss: Everyone loves Lane. We get it. But there is a difference in these rosters. Through rain, sleet or snow — or direct deposit — Kiffin will recruit better talent to Oxford in the coming years. Right now, Florida is a markedly better team top-to-bottom.

The pick: Florida 52, Ole Miss 20

No. 8 Auburn (-6.5) at Kentucky: Everyone and their momma is taking Kentucky and the points in this game, not to mention the number of people picking the outright upset. Is it bowl game fatigue? Is it Auburn’s losses on the defensive line? We don’t know. What we do know is that Chad Morris may be the best offensive coordinator in the country if Gus Malzahn lets him cook.

The pick: Auburn 35, Kentucky 24

BUYER BEWARE

No. 16 Tennessee (-3.5) at South Carolina: This is a “the barely proven head coach got a raise the week before playing the first game” pick. Plus, South Carolina finally has some actual structure on offense with the addition of Mike Bobo as offensive coordinator and a serviceable starter at quarterback in Collin Hill.

The pick: South Carolina 20, Tennessee 16

West Virginia at No. 15 Oklahoma State (-6.5): This pick breaks two important rules: 1) don’t make a pick because of a coach, and 2) be very wary of the heavily public side. Neal Brown is a rising star. Mike Gundy is something other than that. Neither team has played a game that matters yet, but they looked very different in their respective first weeks. Let’s join the crowd.

The pick: West Virginia 30, Oklahoma State 21

BONUS

Mississippi State at No. 6 LSU (-16.5): How can we not make a pick in the first-ever SEC game coached by two non-English speakers? All offseason we have heard people ponder about whether Mike Leach’s system will work in the SEC. Any system will work if you have good enough players. The Bulldogs currently do not. On the other hand, one can only imagine the carnage in Baton Rouge post-national championship. At least Coach O gave us this gem.

The pick: LSU 33, Mississippi State 16

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 hour ago

Gus Malzahn: Auburn ready to host Kentucky, kick off delayed season

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said he is happy game week has finally arrived, even though he knows his Auburn Tigers football team will be tested by the visiting Kentucky Wildcats.

“It’s been a long time coming to get to this point,” Malzahn said. “We’re playing a really good Kentucky Wildcat team. When you look at them offensively, last year they were one of the best rushing teams in all of college football. To be able to do that in this league says a lot.”

But Malzahn said he is also impressed by his own squad.

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“Overall, I’m really excited about this year’s team,” he said. “We have all kinds of new faces out there. I believe we have 13 new starters, so I’m really excited to watch this team grow. I really feel that if we stay healthy, we’ll have a chance to improve each game, and of course with 10 SEC games, it’s important for teams to improve throughout the year. I’m really looking forward to watching our guys play. I’m excited.”

Auburn hosts the Wildcats at 11 a.m. Sept. 26 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

Gus Malzahn: Kentucky presents a challenge for Auburn’s opener from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 hours ago

Gulf State Park section succumbs to Sally’s surge

One aspect of living on Alabama’s beautiful Gulf Coast is the realization that the best-laid plan is no match for Mother Nature.

The original plan was to gather on September 16 at the Gulf State Park Pier to celebrate the grand reopening of the 1,542-foot pier after a $2.4 million renovation.

Although I’m a veteran of many tropical storms and hurricanes in my 28 years on the Gulf Coast, including back-to-back hits by Ivan and Katrina, the system that turned into Hurricane Sally threw me and many Gulf Coast residents a wicked curveball.

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Off to bed with a predicted peak of 85 mph winds, I was awakened by an ominous roar. With one peek through the high windows on our vibrating front door, it was obvious this was not a clone of Hurricane Danny from 1997 that dumped copious amounts of rain on the area but did not have the wind-damage potential of Sally.

As Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said, “Sally sucker-punched us.”

Sally made landfall in Gulf Shores in the early hours of September 16 as a strong Category 2 hurricane with winds clocked at 105 mph. A wind-speed detector on a nearby tower clocked a 121-mph gust.

However, Sally’s brutality was magnified by her crawling forward speed of 2 mph, which made the incessant winds seem to last forever. Like my friend Dwight Lores said, “A human can easily walk at 3 miles per hour. That’s why Sally did so much damage.”

When the first hint of sunrise allowed a minimal assessment through the aforementioned door, trees were down in every direction. Unlike many Baldwin County homes, thankfully ours was not damaged by any of the falling trees, but it was almost three days before we could even leave our driveway. On the fourth day, a utility crew from Warren County, Kentucky, restored our power, a remarkable feat considering the extent of the damage. All hail to a hot shower.

Of course, I prayed for the best for everybody on the Alabama coast, but I feared it was not going to be the outcome we wished, especially for those structures vulnerable to storm surge.

I soon got word through the little cell service available that the northern Gulf Coast’s premier fishing and educational pier, which opened in 2009 after Ivan razed the previous pier, had succumbed to the constant battering of Sally’s surge.

The section of pier closest to the end octagon was gone. The majority of the blowout deck panels were scattered all along the sugar-sand shoreline.

The good news is the new Lodge at Gulf State Park and nearby structures were relatively unscathed because those buildings were designed to withstand winds of up to 150 mph.

Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), and Greg Lein, Alabama State Parks Director, were able to perform cursory assessments late last week.

“We had damage in places we didn’t expect, and in other places where I expected to have a lot of damage, it turned out to be not as bad,” said Commissioner Blankenship, who toured the area with Governor Kay Ivey last Friday. “The damage to the pier is the most obvious that everybody has seen on TV and had the most questions about. We were very surprised by the amount of damage to the pier. The cabins at Gulf State Park on Lake Shelby took a beating. I’m afraid a lot of them will be total losses. But I was pleasantly surprised by how the dune system held up on the beach. And the Lodge at Gulf State Park, which was built to fortified building standards, fared very well during the storm. The FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) administrator was there, and we showed him the Lodge. He was very impressed with the resilience of the Lodge and how building to that standard has a big impact on the recovery.”

Commissioner Blankenship said divers are scheduled to assess the damage to the pier and determine the structural integrity of the remaining pilings.

“After that is finished, we will be able to make plans to get the pier reopened at least to the part where it broke off while we repair the entire structure back out to the octagon,” he said.

Director Lein said the campground at Gulf State Park suffered quite a bit of damage.

“It wasn’t until Friday that staff was able to access all of the park and assess the damage because of the water and downed trees,” Lein said. “A lot of the electrical distribution panels in the campground were impacted. That system will have to be assessed by an electrician to see what repairs are needed. Now that the conditions have improved, we’ve been able to clear all the campsite pads. All the modern buildings at the park appear to be okay. A couple of campers that were left on the site were tipped over by the wind. A few of the campers in the storage area were pushed together, but only one was overturned.”

The cabins and cottages on Lake Shelby highlighted how construction standards can make a big difference in potential damage.

“The cabins suffered major damage,” Lein said. “They lost portions of their roofs. Some of the walls collapsed. It appeared the wind got under the roofs in the porch areas and ripped them off. On the cottages, the roofs are intact. The older cabins had significant damage, but the modern cottages were not as affected.”

Lein said the good news about the pier is that the staff has been able to recover more than 200 of the deck panels that are designed to blow out to protect the infrastructure.

“They found some about 4 miles down the beach,” Lein said. “A couple were found in swimming pools down there. It’s amazing our crew has been able to recover so many panels. The pier will be inspected. If it’s structurally okay, we’ll be able to put a lot of those panels back, and we may be able to reopen a portion of the pier. The pier house appeared to not have any damage.”

Lein said strike teams were formed several years ago in each district of the State Parks system to assist in natural disasters. The teams are comprised of employees capable of running chainsaws, skid steers, backhoes and tractors.

“We had more than a dozen strike team members down there to join the men and women from Gulf State Park, working together as one team to clear roads and paths so support personnel had access to all of the park,” Lein said. “They achieved a huge amount of relief to the park in three days. They brought generators with them to power part of the Lodge and the park office. I can’t say enough about the strike teams and how successful their deployment was in supporting the Gulf State Park staff. The crews were all fed by the chef and staff at the Lodge’s Food Craft restaurant, and that was such a morale booster for the teams to get a warm meal.”

Commissioner Blankenship said he has been impressed by the spirit of cooperation and willingness of folks who don’t live on the Gulf Coast to lend a helping hand.

“I appreciate our strike teams that came down to assist at Gulf State Park,” he said. “They have done a great job of cleaning up the park. It will help us get the park reopened a lot quicker, and it allows for some of our employees who rode out the storm to take care of their families and limit the damage done to their homes. That’s extremely important. Every single employee was without power for a certain amount of time and had damage at their residences they needed to attend to. Having people come in from areas that weren’t impacted helped those affected people. It is very important to me to have our employees taken care of.”

Meanwhile, Commissioner Blankenship said the Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) facilities in Dauphin Island sustained significant damage. The MRD office building suffered roof damage, and the docks at the office were destroyed.

“But Meaher State Park on the Causeway and 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center seemed to do okay,” he said. “There were trees down but not a lot of other damage.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

15 hours ago

New COVID-19 cases at the University of Alabama down 95% from three weeks ago; Less than 2% of isolation space being used

The University of Alabama System on Friday afternoon released its weekly update with COVID-19 related data from each of its three distinct institutions: the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

The data — covering the seven-day period from Friday, September 18, through Thursday, September 24 — was impressive for all three universities.

The University of Alabama saw yet another incredible decline in the number of new cases week-over-week.

Only 48 students tested positive at UA during the latest period, a 60% decrease from the week prior and a monumental 95% decrease from earlier in the month.

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Another great sign is that UA set a record high for the amount of quarantine/isolation rooms available on-campus. Only 1.74% of these rooms are occupied (9/518), down from 3.88% seven days ago.

Additionally, numbers at UAB and UAH continue to look strong. In Birmingham, 16 students tested positive compared to 13 at UAH. These are both week-over-week decreases.

At UAB, zero isolation rooms are being used — a landmark feat; at UAH, 25.9% of isolation rooms are in use (22/87 rooms), a slight improvement from the previous week.

A release from the System advised, “No cases have been traced to contact in the classroom on any of the three campuses. There are no reports of current hospitalization.”

Finally, sentinel testing of students, faculty and staff is ongoing System-wide, with less than 1% of individuals from this form of sample testing being positive. A release from the System advised this indicates “virus mitigation strategies are effective and there is a very low rate of asymptomatic positive cases throughout the UA System.”

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, has credited the “strong leadership” and meticulous planning of the UA System for its successful return-to-campus efforts.

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

15 hours ago

Tommy Tuberville endorsed by another major pro-life group — ‘Jones is unfit’

The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List’s political arm on Friday announced its endorsement of Republican Tommy Tuberville for the United States Senate.

Tuberville, who previously was endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee, is running against U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in the November 3 general election.

“For two years the pro-life values of Alabamians have been ignored and derided by pro-abortion Senator Doug Jones. That’s why it is imperative that Alabama elects Coach Tommy Tuberville to the U.S. Senate,” stated SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser.

This comes after SBA List recently rated Jones with an “F” grade in its annual scorecard of incumbent members of Congress.

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Jones has been a staunch pro-abortion advocate while in the U.S. Senate, previously voting against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act two separate times. That legislation would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation based on scientific research suggesting that fetuses are capable of feeling pain by that point in pregnancy, per National Review. A report released recently suggested that fetal pain is in fact possible even earlier in pregnancy than 20 weeks.

Alabama’s junior U.S. senator also previously voted against banning using federal funds for abortions.

“Earlier this year, Coach Tuberville’s opponent Doug Jones laughed off the issue of painful late-term abortion and called it ‘stupid’. Doug Jones went so far as to vote in favor of late-term abortion and was demoted to an ‘F’ grade on our National Pro-Life Scorecard,” Dannenfelser added. “In contrast, Coach Tuberville is 100% pro-life and will be an outspoken voice for the unborn. Just as he delivered victory on the football field, we have full confidence that he will deliver big wins for the pro-life movement.”

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Tuberville welcomed the endorsement.

“I’m proud to have the endorsement of one of the nation’s most active and respected pro-life organizations,” the former Auburn University head football coach said in a statement to Yellowhammer News.

“In the 47 years since Roe v. Wade was handed down, more than 60 million unborn lives have been senselessly taken,” Tuberville continued. “As Alabama’s interim senator, Doug Jones has voted to preserve late term abortions and even supports using our taxpayer dollars to fund them. I’ll fight to protect the unborn and vote to confirm judges who will overturn the travesty known as Roe v. Wade. It’s time to replace Doug Jones with a senator who will represent our conservative Alabama values, not the California and New York values of his liberal campaign donors.”

The endorsement came the same day that Jones confirmed that he will not consider the merits of President Donald Trump’s next Supreme Court of the United States nominee, who will be announced by the president on Saturday evening.

“I will not support the confirmation of any Supreme Court justice nominee, regardless of who it might be — I will not support that nominee — before the outcome of the November 3 election has been determined,” Jones said.

“Senator Doug Jones betrayed Alabamians when he voted against Justice Kavanaugh and has betrayed them again today, before President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee has even been named,” Dannenfelser said in a separate statement.

“During his short time in office, Jones has proven to be an extremist, repeatedly siding against constituents and voting with the most radical members of his party – like Kamala Harris – in favor of abortion on demand through birth, paid for by taxpayers. … Jones is unfit to represent the pro-life, pro-Trump state of Alabama and will be held accountable at the ballot box,” she concluded.

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