6 days ago

Jefferson County running independent COVID-19 vaccination process from rest of state, creates separate hotline to call

The Jefferson County Department of Health is conducting its own vaccine distribution process, separate from the rest of the state, with a web portal and phone hotline for use only by citizens of the county.

Officials from the county provided an update on the effort via a live-streamed press conference on Monday.

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson on Monday relayed that the county was still in Phase 1A of the vaccine distribution plan, meaning that only “health care workers, emergency medical service providers, and resident of long term care facilities are eligible.”

“We’re working on getting them done this week,” added Harris of those in Phase 1A.

According to Wilson, two additional categories of people will be added to the list of those eligible for vaccination beginning on Monday, January 18.

Those two categories, per Wilson, are people age 75 and over, and non-medical first responders such as law enforcement and firefighters who were not eligible in the first phase.

In Jefferson County, adding those two categories means an additional 46,000 to 47,000 people are eligible to receive the vaccine.

Wilson stressed to the public on Monday that the county is not moving into the full Phase 1B section of the vaccination process, but is rather adding those age 75+ and first responders to the first phase.

A call center has been set up, exclusively for residents of Jefferson County, where people can get information about whether or not they are eligible for the vaccine.

The number to call is (205) 858-2221.

Wilson warned that the number is “not exactly an appointment center, but it is a way to help make sure people are linked to those entities that can schedule appointments.”

The widely publicized statewide vaccine hotline does not make appointments for Jefferson County residents.

Additionally, citizens of Jefferson County can fill out an online form, and health officials “will review your information and make a determination on which phase of the vaccine distribution is most appropriate for your situation.”

Wilson advised, “There is currently a limited supply of vaccine and we have a lot of people to vaccinate.”

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

1 hour ago

Veronica Crock joins Commerce team as senior project manager

MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Veronica Crock, an experienced economic developer and former educator who focused on workforce preparedness, has joined the business development team at the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Crock, who holds the title of senior project manager, will concentrate her efforts on advanced manufacturing projects statewide. She will also have an initial focus on Southeast Alabama, where she previously worked as an economic developer.

“The project managers in Commerce’s Business Development Division work strategically to create opportunities and jobs for citizens all across Alabama, and Veronica has the expertise to help us advance that mission,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“She is a great addition to our team.”

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‘OUTSTANDING JOB’

Crock previously served as the president of the Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corp. in the region that houses the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence/Fort Rucker and numerous aerospace companies.

She also served as president of Grow Southeast Alabama, an 11-county organization that promotes industrial growth and job creation across the region.

“Veronica is well known to our team at Commerce for the outstanding job she did in leading the local economic development efforts in Dale County, as well as her leadership with the regional efforts of Grow Southeast Alabama,” said Ted Clem, director of Commerce’s Business Development Division.

“We are excited to have someone of her caliber on our project management team.”

EXPERIENCE

Before starting her career in economic development, Crock served as dean at Enterprise State Community College and the Alabama Aviation College, where she collaborated with economic development organizations, local governments, and educational entities to establish a solid workforce development background.

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University, a master’s degree from Troy University, and completed doctoral research at Alabama State University. She is a graduate of the Applied Economic Development Honors Program at the University of Alabama and the Intensive Economic Development Training Institute at Auburn University.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to work with such a dedicated team of economic development professionals,” Crock said. “I look forward to serving the state in this new role and will work hard to be a valuable and contributing member of the Alabama team.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 hours ago

New respirators to aid front-line workers at Anniston hospital

A midnight run to Miami is helping protect health care workers at Regional Medical Center (RMC) in Anniston.

Thanks to the support of multiple community partners, RMC has obtained 20 Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) that will be used by professional staff treating patients at the hospital who are suffering from COVID-19.

PAPRs are worn over the head, typically with a clear screen in front, to protect health care workers from potential exposure to airborne pathogens. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, PAPRs are in short supply, just when they are needed most.

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RMC officials were able to secure a supply of PAPRs – in Miami – with help from the Oxford Police Department. Indeed, not only did the police help find the vital equipment, they also agreed to make an overnight dash to South Florida to retrieve them.

The officers arrived back in Anniston Tuesday morning and delivered the critical equipment to the grateful team at the hospital, which continues to see a surge in COVID patients. 

“Nearly a year into this pandemic, we are grateful for the continued support that has kept our physicians and staff going,” said Lagina Fillingim, RMC Foundation director. “Thank you to everyone who made this donation possible.”

Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge said the department was happy to assist.

“If we help them, it’s going to help us,” Partridge said. “They’re first responders like we are. They’re on the front lines every day.”

He said Oxford Mayor Alton Craft reached out to the department to see if they could help the hospital locate the PAPRs. “I told him we’d certainly try,” Partridge said.

“We went ahead and made an emergency purchase because they’re in high demand. Two officers drove down to pick them up,” he said.

He said the PAPRs will not only help the hospital workers, they indirectly help the police department and the entire community.

“When an officer is hurt or injured in the line of duty, we need the doctors and nurses to take care of them, and they can’t do that if they’re sick with COVID,” Partridge said.

The PAPRs were purchased with support from the Alabama Power Foundation and other community partners, including Noble Bank, the Calhoun County Chamber of CommerceCalhoun County Economic Development Council and the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama.

The RMC Foundation continues to seek donors to support a variety of programs at its affiliated facilities, including the purchase of needed equipment and supplies. To learn more or to donate, visit https://rmccares.org/donate-now/.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 hours ago

Alabama Power hydro generation benefits from 2020 rainfall

Lots of rain in 2020 meant lots of clean, renewable, low-cost hydropower for Alabama Power customers.

Preliminary figures show the company produced significantly more hydropower in 2020 than projected, placing 2020 as the eighth-best year on record for hydroelectric energy production.

“Hydropower is one of the most cost-effective sources of energy,” said Herbie Johnson, Hydro general manager for Alabama Power. “The more hydropower produced, the better for our customers.”

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With hydropower, there’s no need to purchase fuel, since the source of the energy is a renewable resource: rain. Hydropower also creates no emissions, helping protect air quality.

Of course, hydropower is subject to the whims of Mother Nature, since it depends on ample rains to keep hydro reservoirs filled.

That wasn’t a problem in 2020, with record spring rains, adequate summer showers and two major hurricanes in the fall. Indeed, those record spring rains resulted in the best January through April in the company’s history for hydropower production.

Those spring rains broke records across the state, leading to higher-than-average rainfall totals for the year in multiple locations. At Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, for example, rainfall for all of 2020 was the fifth-highest on record. Rainfall data for Birmingham dates back to 1896. Anniston, Birmingham, Huntsville, Muscle Shoals and Tuscaloosa all recorded their soggiest first quarters ever in 2020, according to the National Weather Service.

The substantial spring rainfall, combined with wise management of water resources throughout the year, helped make 2020 a strong year for hydropower generation in Alabama.

Turbine upgrades at several Alabama Power dams in recent years have helped the company produce more renewable energy with less water. Alabama Power has 14 hydroelectric facilities on 11 lakes across the state. The company’s lakes also provide sources of drinking water, recreational opportunities and help fuel local economies.

Typically, Alabama Power gets between 4% and 8% of its electricity annually from hydro. The company’s diverse generating mix includes power produced from nuclear, natural gas and coal-fired power plants, and from renewable resources such as solar and wind.

Learn more about Alabama Power hydro generation at https://apcshorelines.com/.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 hours ago

Daughter of Tuskegee receives COVID vaccine

As a daughter of the city of Tuskegee, I embrace her proud history. Tuskegee Institute, now University, the prolific George Washington Carver and the legacy of the courageous Tuskegee Airmen are among the first topics that I’m asked about when I meet people who are not from the area. Some people even ask if I know Lionel Richie, which always makes me smile. Invariably, conversations turn to another, less welcome topic, the shameful Tuskegee Syphilis Study that remains a scourge on my beloved hometown. Lately, the Study is being talked about in news reports as the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on people of color increases.

With the recent news of emergency authorization for two COVID-19 vaccines, I’ve thought a lot about the weight of history and the skepticism and distrust for the healthcare industry that lingers in the African American community. As a registered nurse with Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS), I wonder how willing Veterans from my community will be to trust and take advantage of the promising, potentially lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine that is being offered at our facility.

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In-mid December, VA launched a phased plan to vaccinate Veterans who reside in community living centers and employees with the goal to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to all Veterans and employees who want to be vaccinated. CAVHCS received its initial shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and began vaccinating on December 22.

As I’ve weighed the pros and cons of the vaccine and what saying yes or no could mean, I say with certainty that I will get the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. While I understand the vaccine does not guarantee that I will not become infected, it lowers the risk of getting infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Though I no longer live in Tuskegee, my commitment to the city runs deep as my octogenarian parents, whom I care for, still live in the community. As a wife, mother, health care professional and neighbor, getting the vaccine is only one way I’m looking out for the well-being of the Veterans I serve, my family and the residents of my childhood home.

After being vaccinated, I will continue to wear a mask, wash and sanitize my hands frequently and keep appropriate distance as recommended by the CDC. I urge Veterans and everyone in my hometown to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines to make an informed decision about being vaccinated against the coronavirus.

VA has online resources with information about the COVID-19 vaccines. Veterans who are interested in being vaccinated should call CAVHCS at 800-214-8387.

Cheryl Owens is a registered nurse with Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System

7 hours ago

Alabama’s innovative weather data network growing

Alabama Power is joining forces with Baron Critical Weather Institute (BCWI) to expand the collection and analysis of real-time weather data in Alabama in an effort to improve weather-related decisions by citizens, first responders and government agencies.

A BCWI weather sensor and webcam was installed Jan. 13 at Alabama Power’s facility on 4th Street near downtown Tuscaloosa as part of a new pilot project between Alabama Power and BCWI. BCWI founder and CEO Bob Baron said weather data and video from the equipment will be sent continuously to BCWI for integration into its mesonet, a high-density weather network it uses to improve public safety through advanced data analysis.

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“These sensor reports allow us to see instantaneous changes in the wind, barometric pressure and temperature,” Baron said. “Data and video from the mesonet helps us identify and track severe weather faster, as well as improve the accuracy of winter weather forecasting across the state.”

Alabama Power partners with Baron Critical Weather Institute from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The BCWI, a nonprofit organization, was established in 2018 to research how weather affects transportation. It has since evolved its focus into world-class instrumentation supporting public safety, educational outreach and economic development. Baron said Alabama Power will help BCWI connect its network to benefit public safety agencies, such as the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and the Alabama Department of Transportation, as well as meteorologists at news outlets statewide.

“The goal of the Baron Critical Weather Institute is to install at least one webcam and sensor in every county in the state,” Baron said. “Alabama Power has a great footprint and we’re very excited about them being involved in what we’re doing.”

Alabama Power Engineer Meredith Morgan said the company is partnering with BCWI because it believes the data and video will help both the company and its customers.

“We saw this as a beautiful partnership,” Morgan said. “We saw this as a way to better protect our state, as well as provide our company additional weather information needed to keep our crews safe.”

Morgan said a second BCWI weather data sensor and webcam will be installed at an Alabama Power facility in Birmingham in the near future, with more possibly to follow.

To see weather data and video from the BCWI mesonet, visit BaronCriticalWeatherInstitute.com and click on “Map” in the navigation menu at the top of the page.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)