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Weekend Digest – August 8, 2021

1. Alabama ICU beds almost full as COVID hospitalizations continue rapid rise

  • Critical care units in Alabama hospitals are nearing capacity due to increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients, but recent deaths from the virus still remain relatively low.
  • State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said Friday that about 93% of Alabama’s ICU beds are occupied as the more transmissible COVID-19 delta variant continues to spread in the state and vaccination rates remain low.
  • As of Saturday there were 1,968 Alabamians hospitalized from COVID-19, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. A month ago, just 235 people were hospitalized. Most of those patients are unvaccinated, Harris said.
  • Alabama Hospital Association President and CEO Don Williamson told Alabama Daily News the lack of ICU beds is a concern.
  • “As patients with COVID increasingly fill the ICU beds of Alabama’s hospitals, the shortage of ICU beds impacts all of our citizens,” Williamson said. “An ICU bed needed by a COVID patient is one that is not available for a stroke, heart attack or automobile accident. The rapid escalation of COVID threatens our entire health care system.”
  • Read more from me HERE.


2. Mask mandates in schools draw support, ire of parents

  • Alabama students are returning to classrooms this month with local school systems split on whether masks will be required.
  • Mask mandates in local K-12 schools have drawn a mix of support from parents who see it as the best way to protect unvaccinated children against COVID-19 and anger from those who see it as infringement on personal decisions, news outlets report.
  • The Alabama Department of Public Health, adopting guidance from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, is recommending schools require masks as the state sees an uptick in COVID-19 cases. Alabama is leaving the decision to local school systems, instead of imposing — or forbidding — mask mandates as some states have done.
  • Hoover City Schools on Friday voted to require masks for the first 30 days of the school year.
  • “I want my kid and every other kid in the community to go back safely – this includes high-risk kids, kids with disabilities, and we can’t do that without a mask mandate,” Misty Mathews, a parent, told WBRC.
  • But some students carried signs reading, “no more masks” during the meeting and a group of parents opposing the mandate gathered to pray in the parking lot.
  • Read more HERE.


3. ADOC says it has built method for nitrogen gas execution

  • Alabama told a federal judge this week that it has finished construction of a “system” to use nitrogen gas to carry out death sentences, an execution method authorized by state law but never put into use.
  • The Alabama Department of Corrections indicated in an Aug. 2 court filing that it is waiting to make sure the nitrogen hypoxia system is ready, before writing procedures for how it will be used. The prison system did not describe how the system would work or give an estimate on when the state may try to use the new execution method.
  • “The ADOC has completed the initial physical build on the nitrogen hypoxia system. A safety expert has made a site visit to evaluate the system. As a result of the visit, the ADOC is considering additional health and safety measures,” a lawyer for the state attorney general’s office wrote in the court filing.
  • Alabama in 2018 became the third state — along with Oklahoma and Mississippi — to authorize the untested use of nitrogen gas to execute prisoners.
  • Read more from Kim Chandler HERE.


4. Senate slog to pass infrastructure bill goes on over weekend

  • Senators will resume a weekend session toward passage of a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package after running into opposition from a few Republicans who want to drag out final votes on one of President Joe Biden’s top priorities.
  • The measure would provide what Biden has called a “historic investment” in public works programs, from roads and bridges to broadband internet access, drinking water and more. In a rare stroke of bipartisanship, Republicans joined Democrats on Saturday to advance the measure and more votes are expected Sunday. If approved, the bill would go to the House.
  • Despite the overwhelming support, momentum has dragged as a few Republican senators refused to yield 30 hours of required debate before the next set of procedural votes, which could delay swift passage of the package and result in a dayslong slog.
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., a negotiator on the bill, said about 17 to 18 Republicans have indicated they support the bill, which would ensure eventual passage, though that may not come until Tuesday.
  • “It could go quicker, but it’s going,” Cassidy said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding, “And that’s the good thing, it’s going.”
  • Read more HERE.


5. Census experts puzzled by high rate of unanswered questions

  • Census Bureau statisticians and outside experts are trying to unravel a mystery: Why were so many questions about households in the 2020 census left unanswered?
  • Residents did not respond to a multitude of questions about sex, race, Hispanic background, family relationships and age, even when providing a count of the number of people living in the home, according to documents released by the agency. Statisticians had to fill in the gaps.
  • Reflecting an early stage in the number crunching, the documents show that 10% to 20% of questions were not answered in the 2020 census, depending on the question and state. According to the Census Bureau, later phases of processing show the actual rates were lower.
  • The rates have averaged 1% to 3% in 170 years of previous U.S. censuses, according to University of Minnesota demographer Steven Ruggles.
  • The information is important because data with demographic details will be used for drawing congressional and legislative districts. That data, which the Census Bureau will release Thursday, also is used to distribute $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year.
  • Read more HERE.



ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama ICU beds almost full as COVID hospitalizations continue rapid rise
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Mask mandates in schools draw support, ire of parents
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama says it has built method for nitrogen gas execution
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Senate slog to pass infrastructure bill goes on over weekend
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Census experts puzzled by high rate of unanswered questions
AL.COM – One in three Alabama schools now require students to wear masks.
AL.COM – Alabama says it has built ‘system’ for nitrogen gas executions.
AL.COM – Alabama’s hospitals face steepest COVID wave yet: Week in review.
AL.COM – Hurricane forecasters tracking three tropical waves in Atlantic.
AL.COM – Masks optional at Jefferson County Schools to start year: Superintendent.
AL.COM – Columnist Amanda Walker: What if our kids are watching?
AL.COM – Columnist Frances Coleman: Shame on those who would minimize the reality of Jan. 6.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – State Sen. Elliott: Joe Biden, Birmingham-Southern College ‘disrespect for the rule of law’ is ‘pretty shameful’.
AP NEWS – US now averaging 100,000 new COVID-19 infections a day.
THE HILL – Trump slams McConnell, infrastructure package: ‘A disgrace’.
POLITICO – The Memo: Strong jobs report offers vindication for Biden.
POLITICO – Contributor Charles Sykes: Who Trump Thinks Is Really to Blame for the Covid Surge
DECATUR DAILY – Sorrell proposes anti-mask mandate legislation.
FLORENCE TIMES DAILY – Landers: 70% of state’s COVID cases are from Delta variant.
TUSCALOOSA NEWS – With COVID-19 cases rising, DCH Health System faces internal staff vaccination challenges.
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Alabama COVID cases strain ICU bed capacity amid delta surge, low vaccination.
OPELIKA AUBURN NEWS – The Opelika Auburn News: Schools should require masks.
DOTHAN EAGLE – The Dothan Eagle: Schools should require masks.
WASHINGTON POST – The Washington Post: Private fortunes shouldn’t be abolished. But our society shouldn’t be this unequal, either.
WASHINGTON POST – Contributor Garrett Graff: Only private businesses can end the pandemic now. They just might do it.
WASHINGTON POST – Senate clears key procedural hurdle on $1 trillion infrastructure deal as new disputes erupt.
WASHINGTON POST – Marjorie Taylor Greene fans cheered low vaccination rate in Alabama, which tossed 65,000 doses.
NEW YORK TIMES – As Democrats Seethed, White House Struggled to Contain Eviction Fallout
NEW YORK TIMES – After Trumka’s Death, A.F.L.-C.I.O. Faces a Crossroads
NEW YORK TIMES – Biden, in a Push to Phase Out Gas Cars, Tightens Pollution Rules

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