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Weekend Digest – January 7, 2021

Good afternoon and happy Super Bowl Sunday!
Here’s your Daily News for February 7.

1. Coronavirus cases drop at US homes for elderly and infirm

  • Coronavirus cases have dropped at U.S. nursing homes and other long-term care facilities over the past few weeks, offering a glimmer of hope that health officials attribute to the start of vaccinations, an easing of the post-holiday surge and better prevention, among other reasons.
  • More than 153,000 residents of the country’s nursing homes and assisted living centers have died of COVID-19, accounting for 36% of the U.S. pandemic death toll, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Many of the roughly 2 million people who live at such facilities remain cut off from loved ones because of the risk of infection. The virus still kills thousands of them weekly.
  • The overall trend for long-term care residents is improving, though, with fewer new cases recorded and fewer facilities reporting outbreaks. Coupled with better figures for the country overall, it’s cause for optimism even if it’s too early to declare victory.
  • “We definitely think there’s hope and there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” said Marty Wright, who heads a nursing home trade group in West Virginia.
  • Read more from Jay Reeves HERE.


2. Shelby indicates he won’t run again

  • U.S. Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the Senate’s fourth most senior member, has told confidantes that he does not intend to run for reelection next year_— prompting some Republicans to urge the powerful, establishment politician to reconsider, even as potential replacements prepare to run for his seat.
  • The senator in recent weeks told one close Alabama ally that he was not planning on running in 2022 for what would be his seventh term, according to the ally, who was not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The person said some in the state were still trying to get Shelby to change his mind out of concern about losing clout and worries that the senator might be replaced by a fringe candidate who would not be as effective.
  • Shelby spokeswoman Blair Taylor said Friday that the senator has not made a decision, “but there will likely be an announcement forthcoming in the next few weeks.”
  • A titan of Alabama politics, the 86-year-old politician has spent 42 years in Washington, serving first in the House before the Senate. His stepping down would leave a power void for the region. It would also set off a free-for-all primary in a national party deeply divided between traditional Republicans like Shelby and those who model themselves on former President Donald Trump.
  • Some prominent state figures are still hoping that Shelby will reconsider.
  • “I hope he will run again. I don’t think there is anyone who has meant more to the state of Alabama in that position in my lifetime,” former Gov. Bob Riley said.
  • Read more from Kim Chandler HERE.
  • FYI, Todd tells me he will have more analysis on the situation in the next edition of Inside Alabama Politics, coming Monday.


3. Calendar timing means virus deaths won’t be seen in census

  • The human loss from the coronavirus will not be reflected in the 2020 census because of a matter of timing, which could save a congressional seat for New York but cost Alabama one.
  • Because the start of the pandemic in the U.S. and the April 1 reference date used for the census fell so close to each other last year, the deaths that began in mid-March will not show up in the state population figures that determine political representation in Congress.
  • The timing will paper over the losses from the virus, which has killed around 44,000 people in New York state, including concentrations in some New York City neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Alabama has reported around 8,000 virus-related deaths.
  • New York still is projected to lose at least one seat, but the quirk in the calendar should ensure that the state gets the last of the 435 congressional seats by a margin of more than 20,000 people, and that would save it from losing a second congressional seat, said Kimball Brace, a redistricting expert at Election Data Services.
  • “When you get to that last seat or two, any little change could have an impact,” Brace said.
  • Read more HERE.


4. Calls grow for US to rely on rapid tests to fight pandemic

  • When a Halloween party sparked a COVID-19 outbreak at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, school officials conducted rapid screening on more than 1,000 students in a week, including many who didn’t have symptoms.
  • Although such asymptomatic screening isn’t approved by regulators and the 15-minute tests aren’t as sensitive as the genetic one that can take days to yield results, the testing director at the historically Black college credits the approach with quickly containing the infections and allowing the campus to remain open.
  • “Within the span of a week, we had crushed the spread. If we had had to stick with the PCR test, we would have been dead in the water,” said Dr. Robert Doolittle, referring to the polymerase chain reaction test that is considered the gold standard by many doctors and Food and Drug Administration regulators.
  • With President Joe Biden vowing to get elementary and middle school students back to the classroom by spring and the country’s testing system still unable to keep pace with the spread of COVID-19, some experts see an opportunity to refocus U.S. testing less on medical precision than on mass screening that they believe could save hundreds of thousands of lives.
  • Read more HERE.


5. Weary postal workers hope for new tone, change

  • The U.S. Postal Service’s stretch of challenges didn’t end with the November general election and tens of millions of mail-in votes. The pandemic-depleted workforce fell further into a hole during the holiday rush, leading to long hours and a mountain of delayed mail.
  • Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has vowed to make improvements after facing withering criticism and calls for his removal for his actions that slowed delivery of mail before the election. Some critics hoped President Joe Biden would fire DeJoy, but a president can’t do that. Instead, Biden could and likely will use appointments to reshape the Board of Governors, which meets Tuesday for the first time since his election.
  • It’s unclear how swiftly Biden’s administration will move. A White House spokesperson declined to comment on upcoming appointments.
  • Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, said he’s hoping for some “bold appointments” by Biden.
  • “We want a Board of Governors that understands fundamentally this is not called the United States Postal Business,” he said. “It’s not a profit-making business. It’s here to serve the people.”
  • Read more HERE.


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Coronavirus cases drop at US homes for elderly and infirm
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – AP sources: Alabama senator has indicated he won’t run again
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Calendar timing means virus deaths won’t be seen in census
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Calls grow for US to rely on rapid tests to fight pandemic
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Weary postal workers hope Biden will bring new tone, change
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Lawmakers fast-track COVID-19 bills, liability protection
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – US employers add just 49K jobs as unemployment falls to 6.3%
AL.COM – Alabama posts lowest coronavirus case numbers in months: Week in review.
AL.COM – AP analysis: Federal executions likely a COVID-19 superspreader.
AL.COM – Congressional probe finds toxic metals in baby food brands.
AL.COM – Unions show solidarity for Amazon workers in cold rain.
AL.COM – Odd combination of census date, COVID-19 deaths could cost Alabama congressional seat.
AL.COM – President Biden says ‘erratic’ Trump shouldn’t get intel briefings.
AL.COM – Columnist Amanda Walker: High odds and low interest in an Alabama lottery.
AL.COM – Columnist Frances Coleman: So much for women ‘having it all’ in the pandemic.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – State Rep. Wingo decries lack of transparency from Ivey administration on prisons; Says legislation could be ‘one of our only options’ for answers.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – State Sen. Shelnutt voices support for efforts to roll back health emergency executive powers — ‘We need to have some checks and balances’.
THE HILL – Republicans worry Greene could be drag on party in suburbs.
THE HILL – GOP blames White House staff for lack of COVID-19 relief deal.
THE HILL – Republicans look to pummel Democrats on school reopenings.
POLITICO – Sasse inflames GOP with anti-Trump video.
DECATUR DAILY – Keeping Meals on Wheels recipients connected more important than ever, volunteers say.
DECATUR DAILY – The Decatur Daily: Legislature takes another shot at lottery.
TIMES DAILY – Educator retirements rise as COVID angst sets in.
ANNISTON STAR – The Anniston Star: Rolling the dice for education.
ANNISTON STAR – Columnist Phillip Tutor: The remaking of Alabama’s coat of arms.
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Coronavirus testing of Alabama legislators, now back in session, could accelerate.
OPELIKA AUBURN NEWS – Auburn University set to reopen campus Monday; top medical official feels prepared.
OPELIKA AUBURN NEWS – Auburn University to rename dorms after first Black graduate and first Black member of Board of Trustees.
DOTHAN EAGLE – The Dothan Eagle: Wire-tap bill is too broad.
WASHINGTON POST – Biden inherited a USPS crisis. Here’s how Democrats want to fix it.
WASHINGTON POST – Paid family and sick leave could expand for the first time in decades because of the pandemic.
WASHINGTON POST – Columnist Megan McArdle: A tax break for paying your taxes? Please.
WASHINGTON POST – Trump’s election fraud falsehoods have cost taxpayers $519 million – and counting.
WASHINGTON POST – Wyoming GOP censures Rep. Liz Cheney for voting to impeach Trump.
WASHINGTON POST – Marjorie Taylor Greene is just the latest radical White woman poisoning politics.

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