As contact tracing increases, some look at limits; Hundreds attend funeral of slain Moody police officer; University of Alabama removes Confederate plaques; Armed black store owner punched by officer; EDPA names Greg Barker president
1. As contact tracing increases, some look at limits
More resources in Alabama and nationally are being put into contact tracing as a tool for slowing the coronavirus’ spread.
Contract tracing is done to find people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and provide them with information, including home orders to quarantine, if applicable, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Health departments have used contact tracing for decades, but COVID-19 is expanding its utilization.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield last week told Congress the country needs between 30,000 and 100,000 people working on contact tracing in order to help contain the next wave of the coronavirus.
Here in the state, about 150 people are working with ADPH to do contact tracing during the pandemic. Last month, the Alabama Department of Public Health said it was partnering with the University of Alabama Birmingham to launch a Google and Apple smart phone application for proximity tracking.
One Alabama lawmaker says he’d like to see parameters put into law regarding information collection, privacy and individuals’ liberties.
“My No. 1 concern is the possibility of limiting the movements and freedoms of one person because of the diagnosis of another person,” Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said on Monday.
If Gov. Kay Ivey calls lawmakers back to Montgomery for a special session this year, Orr said he will file legislation on contract tracing.
2. Hundreds attend funeral of slain Moody police officer
Hundreds of people filled an Alabama church on Monday for the funeral of a police officer who was killed in the line of duty last week.
Dozens of police officers were among the mourners at services held for Moody police Sgt. Stephen Williams. After a funeral at the First Baptist Church of Moody, a long procession of vehicles followed a white hearse toward the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo for a burial service.
Williams, 50, was a husband and father of three. He was shot to death last week while responding to a call at a motel in Moody, located east of Birmingham, and two people are charged with capital murder in his death.
The officer's oldest son, Lake Williams, struggled to keep his emotions in check as he spoke before an overflow crowd.
“My dad was the single greatest man I've ever known,” said Williams, who recently graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. “He lived his life with a set of moral principles and values, values like putting others before yourself, living your life with love and always taking the opportunity to goof off while it comes.”
3. University of Alabama removes Confederate plaques
University of Alabama professor Dr. Hilary Green touches a memorial to students who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War after a plaque was removed by the university.
The University of Alabama has authorized moving three Confederate plaques and studying the names of buildings on campus with an eye toward possible change.
The plaques will be moved from the main library to “a more appropriate historical setting,” a news release said Monday. It did not say whether officials have decided where to move the plaques.
Some of the school's Board of Trustees also have been appointed to study the names of buildings on all University of Alabama System campuses and report to the board on any recommended changes, the statement said.
The announcement came a day after the school's Student Government Association called for the university to rename all buildings that have what it called “racist namesakes.” The group tweeted that it also wanted a review of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, a state law that bans local governments from renaming historical buildings without state approval.
The board’s statement did not say whether officials have decided where to move the plaques, which commemorate University of Alabama students who served in the Confederate Army and members of the student cadet corps that defending the campus.
An armed black business owner who called to report a robbery in his store in Alabama was punched in the face by a responding police officer who mistook him for a suspect, police said.
Surveillance video of the interaction started circulating on social media over the weekend. Decatur Police Chief Nate Allen held a news conference Monday to show footage of the altercation and to be “transparent” with the public, news outlets reported.
The body camera video shows responding officers coming into the store and the suspect, later identified to be a person involved in an alleged shoplifting at Penn’s store, lying on the ground.
An officer walks past the suspect and tells Penn to put down his weapon. Penn refuses saying, “I have a right to have my gun." Allen said that’s when Penn moved his hand over a gun lying on a counter next to him.
“We do know there was a gun there, we do know that the magazines were there, we do know that he was reloading the magazine,” Allen said at the news conference.
5. Greg Barker named president of Economic Development Partnership
Greg Barker has been named president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
EDPA is a private, nonprofit group that supports business recruitment and expansion efforts throughout the state.
Barker succeeds Steve Spencer, who recently retired as EDPA president.
Barker comes from Alabama Power Company, where he worked as vice president for customer services. Alabama Power Company CEO and EDPA chairman Mark Crosswhite said Barker has extensive experience in community and economic development going back almost 20 years.
"Greg is a proven leader in economic and community development," Crosswhite said. "His vast experience and expertise will be invaluable as we work to support new and existing Alabama businesses, drive business growth and attract new industry to our state."
College football is scheduled to kick off in less than three months and there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful that games will be played Labor Day weekend.
Universities across the country are taking the first cautious, detailed steps toward playing football in a pandemic, attempting to build COVID-19-free bubbles around their teams as players begin voluntary workouts.
Thousands of athletes will be tested for COVID-19, though not all. Masks will need to be worn — most of the time. Some schools will have players pumping iron this week. Others are waiting a few more weeks.
Both Auburn University and the University of Alabama recently reported that several players on their rosters tested positive for COVID-19.
Having players return to campus infected is worrisome but inevitable. The protocols being put in place are designed to catch and address that. The real challenge is keeping the players from getting infected after they return.
Southeastern Conference schools agreed to allow voluntary workouts starting Monday. The Big 12 and Pac-12 have set June 15 as their opening date. Other conferences, such as the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference, are letting schools figure out what’s best for themselves. Ohio State and Iowa in the Big Ten started voluntary workouts Monday, along with Louisville in the ACC.
Schools hope to transition to required team activities in mid-July. A copy of the the NCAA Football Oversight Committee’s six-week plan includes a typical four-week preseason practice schedule preceded by two weeks during which teams can do up to 20 hours per week of weight training, conditioning, film study, meetings and walk-throughs with coaches.