1 month ago

State governors must lead by example and should be held accountable

Amid concerns of a second wave of the coronavirus, California has closed some of its beaches. The Dow dropped. Apple temporarily closed some of its U.S. retail stores again. As states reopen, many are wondering whether some states will institute a second shutdown.

A second shutdown would be harsh news for the ordinary working Americans who are disproportionately impacted by the economic shutdown. But we must allow state governors to decide what is best for their states.

Giving state and local leaders the leeway to make decisions regarding their own residents’ livelihoods and safety was the right call for Trump to make at the start of this pandemic. It is vital that federal agencies don’t take a “one state fits all” approach to our economic recovery. Our governors and lawgivers need to practice accountability to their local constituents and do what’s best for the communities they directly serve. Anything other than that is a mistake that will undermine our common battle against COVID-19 and our common fight to restart the American economy.

We have inspiring examples from across the nation of state governors taking a responsible and considered approach to the coronavirus. South Dakota, for example, never shut down; governor Kristi Noem chose instead to protect her residents’ civil liberties. In Wyoming, which has fewer than 600 positive COVID-19 cases, and Alaska, which has just 399, Governors Gordon and Dunleavy wisely decided that shuttering businesses would be an unnecessary violation of their citizens’ rights. And in Alabama, where there has been a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, Governor Ivey has worked hard both to keep her state informed about COVID-19 and to keep economically damaging restrictions on her local communities at a minimum. As her state continues to battle COVID-19, she has insisted on tailoring her state’s response to her community’s real economic needs. Considering that one in five U.S. workers has filed for unemployment since mid-March, these governors are doing what’s right to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus on ordinary Americans while still paying heed to the reality of COVID-19.

For many who were skeptical of a state-by-state approach, Georgia’s partial reopening was a test case. Businesses in Georgia had the choice to reopen or not; some towns hit hardest opted not to reopen early on, while other businesses, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, found they could work without in-person meetings.

Governors should be given the freedom, trust and respect to make the right decision for their residents. But this approach only works if governors truly seek what is best for their citizens, and don’t just willy-nilly impose strict lockdowns that they themselves don’t even think are worth obeying. Neither is the coronavirus an excuse for governors to score political points or enforce personal political causes. Governor Whitmer’s unnecessary ban on gun sales and Governor Northam’s extreme restriction on religious gatherings were irresponsible and excessive.

Lockdowns are not without risks. Unemployment is linked with long-term health risks like cancer, mental illness and even suicide. Many unemployed families can’t pay their medical bills or provide proper nutrition for their children. According to The Washington Post, “more than 40 percent of job losses could become permanent.” Governors who use the extreme measures of lockdowns in irresponsible ways are needlessly hurting Americans.

The U.S. government was right to take steps to quell the public health crisis and is right in continuing to provide support for states, small businesses, hospitals and individuals. But now, it is time for all of America’s governors to follow the examples set by Governors Ivey, Noem, and Gordon and Dunleavy and use right judgment, caution and care as they consider the particular needs of their states.

Many of the leaders who reopened their states before the majority did so faced media backlash, and they shouldn’t have. Forging ahead with smart, informed plans to reopen was an act of courage. By implementing plans that gradually allow businesses to return to normal operation, governors prioritized the long-term health of their states’ residents and did their best to protect them from coronavirus.

Everyone – the general public and lawmakers alike – should be allowed to do their part to stem the spread of the virus while also taking care of their communities and their families economically.

Public health must be protected, but so, too, should Americans’ Constitutional rights and their economic livelihood. Keeping people safe, guarding our rights and getting the economy running again are not mutually exclusive. As our country makes decisions regarding a second wave, governors need to lead with accountability and personal responsibility.

Timothy Head is the executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition.

3 hours ago

Chuck Martin endorses Republican Russell Bedsole in Alabama House District 49

Russell Bedsole’s Republican candidacy has received a boost in the Alabama House District 49 special election.

This seat, covering parts of Bibb, Chilton and Shelby Counties, was vacated by the resignation of State Rep. April Weaver (R-Brierfield), who left the legislature to join the administration of President Donald J. Trump.

Bedsole led the pack in the GOP primary held last week, finishing ahead of second-place Mimi Penhale and third-place Chuck Martin. Since no candidate got a majority, a runoff will be held on September 1.

On Wednesday night, Martin endorsed Bedsole in that runoff via a Facebook post.

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Martin led Bibb County in primary votes and finished with a competitive 24.25% overall.

In a release, he expounded on why he is publicly backing Bedsole.

“After thoughtful consideration, I am endorsing Russell Bedsole to represent District 49 in the Alabama House of Representatives,” Martin stated. “Like me, Bedsole has deep roots in District 49. I believe he will be a strong voice for Bibb, Shelby, and Chilton counties, and he will fight for our communities’ conservative Christian values in Montgomery.”

Bedsole, a longtime deputy sheriff in Shelby County and an Alabaster city councilor, has already been endorsed by the likes of Shelby County Sheriff John Samaniego and the Alabama State Fraternal Order of the Police in the race.

“It is an honor to be endorsed by Chuck Martin,” Bedsole commented. “As a representative of District 49, I will fight for pro-life and pro-Second Amendment legislation, along with funding for developing crucial infrastructure, in the Alabama House of Representatives.”

Penhale, the legislative director for Shelby County’s legislative delegation, has taken an unpaid leave of absence from her state government job to run for office. She has been endorsed by the Alabama Farmers Federation.

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

5 hours ago

License plate to support Alabama business proposed — Must meet 1,000 application benchmark

A license plate that will support Alabama small businesses will be created if 1,000 apply for one by July 31.

Funds from purchasing the plate will be given to Main Street Alabama, which will in turn provide workshops and grants to small businesses around the Yellowhammer State.

The tag can be applied for here. A $50 fee accompanies the application.

“With this program, individuals can show their dedication to their favorite small businesses, who in many cases are their friends and neighbors, with a tag that gives back to them with workshops and grants focused on strengthening their business,” said Main Street Alabama state coordinator Mary Helmer in a statement.

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Helmer added, “Small businesses keep it local by consistently sponsoring the local baseball team, providing gift baskets for the local charity drives and creating jobs in their community.”

Main Street Alabama is a non-profit entity and an offshoot of Main Street America organization.

The artwork on the tag was created by Chris Seagle, a graphic designer based in Birmingham.

The idea for a car tag supporting small business originated among a group of elected officials in Jefferson County.

Casey Middlebrooks, a member of the group and a Hoover City Councilman, said that his fellow officials “felt Main Street Alabama had the statewide presence and resources to facilitate support to small businesses throughout the state.”

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

5 hours ago

Ivey urges Alabamians to complete Census — Billions in funding, congressional seat at stake

Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) on Friday released a video public service announcement urging Yellowhammer State residents to complete the 2020 Census.

The deadline to complete the Census recently was moved up to September 30, meaning there is less than seven weeks left for Alabamians to either self-respond or respond to Census Bureau field staff.

Leaders from the public sector, as well as industry, economic development, charitable and civic organizations, have warned for months that Alabama has a lot on the line during the 2020 Census response period.

Projections have shown the state will lose a congressional district and corresponding electoral college vote — likely to a far-left state such as New York, California or Illinois — if Alabama’s response rate continues to lag.

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“Complete your 2020 Census today,” Ivey said to begin the new PSA. “We only have until September 30.”

“Without you, Alabama stands to lose billions in funding, a seat in Congress and economic development opportunities,” she continued. “It only takes minutes to complete. Go to my2020census.gov or participate by phone or mail.”

The governor concluded, “Be counted — if not for you, for those in Alabama who depend on you for a brighter tomorrow.”

Watch:

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

6 hours ago

Report: Birmingham golf tournament Regions Tradition canceled for 2020

A report from WBRC in Birmingham on Friday says that the yearly golf tournament Regions Tradition has canceled the 2020 edition due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The event organizers say it will be back in early May of 2021.

WBRC says they were told by a “source close to the tournament” about the decision to cancel the 2020 version.

The tournament had previously been rescheduled from its normal late spring/early summer slot until September due to COVID-19 concerns.

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Regions Tradition is a tournament on the PGA Tour Champions circuit, a series of competitions held each year for golfers over age 50.

According to Alabama NewsCenter, the annual Regions Tradition tournament has an economic impact on the Birmingham area between $20 million and $25 million every year.

The Tradition was first held in 1989 and is one of the five major golf tournaments on the Senior Circuit.

Regions took over as the event’s sponsor in 2010 and relocated the tournament to the Birmingham area beginning in 2011.

Steve Stricker won the tournament in 2019, a title he will now keep for two years.

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

Jefferson County health officials say coronavirus pandemic precautions will continue into 2021

Two impactful figures in Jefferson County’s healthcare system advised on Friday that the coronavirus pandemic and resulting precautions such as mask-wearing will remain a major factor in public life at least through the end of 2020.

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson and CEO of the UAB Health System/Ascension St. Vincent’s Alliance Will Ferniany briefed reporters on coronavirus information during a Friday morning videoconference.

“This pandemic is not going away by the end of December,” warned Ferniany.

Wilson said it was “very likely” that he would push to keep a mask order in place across Jefferson County “through the flu season” which would indicate the ordinance would stay in place at least through the spring of 2021.

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“We have pretty good evidence that our face-covering orders, and our help from the public wearing face coverings, has made a difference,” remarked Wilson.

“We still have a ways to go but we’re starting to bend the curve downward,” Wilson told reporters.

The remarks made by Wilson and Ferniany are similar to what Mobile County epidemiologist Dr. Rendi Murphree told Yellowhammer News in recent days.

Ferniany said that UAB is making a significant investment in rapid testing that should be ready for action by the end of the year, the availability of which should make dealing with the virus more manageable.

Wilson highlighted a standard he felt more people should understand.

The county health officer said that any person exposed to someone positive for COVID-19 should quarantine for 14 days, even if they go out and get a test showing they do not have the virus.

“Fourteen days is the maximum amount of time from being exposed to the virus where you could still develop symptoms,” Wilson said to explain the policy.

Ferniany said UAB Hospital is currently treating around 90 patients, down from a peak of 130. He relayed that 40 of the COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized are in the ICU.

RELATED: Alabama coronavirus update: Hospitalizations begin to decrease, new cases falling

The executive also said that the toughest aspect of caring for COVID-19 cases currently is the shortage of nurses. He said the hospitals he oversees are down “several hundred nurses” with the partial explanation that traveling nursing companies are luring workers away with higher wages.

Wilson reported additional good news for Jefferson County. He said that the area is not experiencing a higher rate of black citizens dying from COVID-19 than white citizens.

“So far we’re not seeing a racial disparity in terms of deaths in Jefferson County,” he relayed.

“Forty-one percent of our deaths in Jefferson County with COVID-19 are African American. The African American population is 43%,” Wilson stated.

Yellowhammer News asked Wilson what kind of benchmarks he would need to be passed to trigger a loosening of coronavirus precautions and whether that would be dependent on a vaccine.

“We’re not going to be out of the woods for quite a long time,” Wilson responded.

“The bottom line will be the amount of disease activity we have in the community, and the trajectory of that,” he continued.

With respect to the vaccine, Wilson replied, “It is really hard to predict what is going to happen with the vaccine: How effective is it going to be, how widespread we’re going to be able to vaccinate people and how soon. There are way too many unknowns for us to say much about that.”

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