The Associated Press

Schools in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, and in Madison and Montgomery Counties, say they'll go with virtual classes for the first part of the new school year. A program to aid Alabama families with students who are limited to distance learning this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic will provide $100 million dollars for increased internet service. The state says vouchers will help pay for the cost of equipment and high-speed internet service through the end of the year, They'll be available for students who receive free or reduced-price meals or meet other income criteria.

Health officials in Alabama say a surge in coronavirus cases has overwhelmed Alabama's ability to provide test results within the expected 2- to 3-day turnaround. The Alabama Department of Public Health says the current timeframe for results for most COVID-19 testing performed in Alabama by commercial laboratories and the state laboratory is now averaging about a week. The department asked health providers to limit testing to the "most vulnerable" and asked employers not to require employees to test negative for the virus before returning to work.

NPR

Jeff Sessions is pushing back at President Donald Trump's criticisms. Sessions is running for the GOP nomination for his old U.S. Senate seat. Trump has voiced disapproval on Session's recusal in the Russia investigation when he was attorney general. Sessions responded to Trump, by tweeting that the president was "damn fortunate" that he recused himself as required by law. Sessions says it protected the rule of law and resulted in Trump's exoneration.

Pixabay

The Republican leader of the Alabama Senate says an idea to use federal COVID relief dollars to build a new Statehouse should be "part of the discussion." Alabama lawmakers expect a special session later this year to decide how to spend coronavirus dollars from Washington. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh says legislative leaders gave Governor Kay Ivey a preliminary list of ideas that included $800 million for broadband access across the state and $200 million for a new Statehouse. Marsh says his priority is rural broadband access.

Pixabay

Restaurants in Alabama, and elsewhere in the nation, are thinking ahead to the day when their dining room doors reopen to a changed world due to the coronavirus. Restaurant owners say there may be physical differences, like masked waiters, disposable menus or fewer tables so patrons can sit further apart. Richard Schwartz' company owns several Alabama beachside restaurants, including Doc's Seafood Shack in Orange Beach and Hazel's Nook in Gulf Shores.

Pixabay

Roughly forty million African Americans are deciding minute by minute who to trust during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Associated Press is reporting on whether blacks are ready to put their faith in the government and in the medical field during the coronavirus pandemic. Historic failures in government response to disasters and emergencies, medical abuse, neglect and exploitation have jaded generations of black people into a distrust of public institutions. Some might call it the "Tuskegee effect," referring to the U.S.

Pixabay

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama's death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak has risen to three.

The Alabama Department of Public Health is reporting that one person each has died in Lauderdale and Madison counties.

That's in addition to a previously reported death in Jackson County.

All the counties where deaths have occurred are located in north Alabama. Gov. Kay Ivey has shut down schools for the rest of the academic year, limited gatherings and could announce additional measures Friday.

Pixabay

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has passed an unparalleled $2.2 trillion economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers and health care systems engulfed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 880-page measure is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history.

The unanimous vote Wednesday came despite misgivings on both sides about whether it goes too far or not far enough.

It caps days of difficult negotiations as Washington confronted a national challenge unlike any it has ever faced.

Pixabay

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP)-- Thousands of Alabamians are filing for unemployment benefits as the coronavirus pandemic causes workplaces to temporarily close or reduce operations.

The Alabama Department of Labor said nearly 17,000 people filed unemployment claims over two days. Most of the claims were listed as related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Most were from the hospitality industry.

Alabama and other states have mandated closures to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus and avoid overwhelming hospitals.

Pixabay

Alabama has ordered the closures of day cares, beaches and on-site dining in restaurants as the state tries to contain the spread of the Coronavirus. Gov. Kay Ivey announced the order, which expands an order to all sixty-seven counties that had previously been in place for six counties surrounding Birmingham. The order lasts until April fifth. Alabama's largest coastal city, Gulf Shores, had already announced the closure of public beaches because throngs of young people on spring break were ignoring rules meant to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

APR's Pat Duggins

Research by Northern Illinois University finds that tornadoes are occurring more frequently in the South than in part of the Great Plains which has been known as "Tornado Alley," Professor Victor Gensini found that twisters are occurring more frequently in the southern version of Tornado Alley. "Dixie Alley" includes Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. The Montgomery Advertiser reports the cause of the shift is unknown, though some theories focus on climate change, the newspaper reported.

Alabama lawmakers could revisit criminal justice reform as the state grapples with prison overcrowding and a shortage of corrections officers. State Senator Cam Ward says sentencing reform will be part of a package of bills that lawmakers will consider. This legislation is in response to the threat of a Department of Justice lawsuit over conditions in Alabama prisons. Ward says other measures will seek to raise the pay of correctional officers and put additional oversight on the state prison system.

APR's Pat Duggins

All-America safety Deionte Thompson and cornerback Saivion Smith have joined a growing crowd of Alabama players leaving early for the NFL draft. Thompson announced his decision on Twitter. He's the sixth Crimson Tide underclassman to announce his decision to leave early. Thompson was a consensus All-American in his first season as the starter. He made 79 tackles and had two interceptions and four forced fumbles. Smith made his decision on Saturday.

Pixabay

The government shutdown has suspended federal cleanups at Superfund sites around the nation. The Associated Press reports this includes Birmingham's north side. The mostly African-American community has been forced to cope with high levels of arsenic, lead and other contaminants in the soil that the Environmental Protection Agency has been scraping up and carting away, house by house.

Republican Kay Ivey won a full term as Alabama Governor over Democrat Walt Maddox. The state’s second female head of state ran a campaign that emphasized the state's recovering economy and restoring trust to state government. Ivey’s victory dashes Democrats' hopes of making gains in the deeply red state. Republicans swept all statewide offices and contested congressional seats and unofficial returns showed Ivey capturing almost sixty percent of the vote in the gubernatorial contest. Ivey had been lieutenant governor, became governor nineteen months ago when then-Gov.

Officials in Huntsville are giving a gun maker three more years to meet job quotas in an incentive deal. The Huntsville City Council on Thursday approved the extension for Remington Outdoor Company. The gun maker got sixty nine million dollars in state and local incentives when it announced the plant in 2014. In return the company was supposed to have hired six hundred and eighty local employees last year. The Remington plant makes handguns and rifles.

Damage surveys are continuing in some areas after twenty eight confirmed tornadoes that hit Alabama and other areas of the south Wednesday night and into Thursday. National Weather Service surveyors in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama updated the number of twisters as part of a storm system that moved across the region. Alabama had two tornadoes, including one that damaged a factory in Cusseta. Mississippi also saw at least ten twisters, including one in Natchez with estimated top winds of one hundred and fifteen miles per hour, which damaged trees and structures.

Work is set to begin soon on a "mega sports complex" in northeast Alabama. The Gadsden Times reports work to clear the land for construction on the one hundred and thirty nine acre site is set to begin this month. Supporters want the facility to have up to fourteen soccer fields to accommodate the nine hundred soccer players in Etowah County's two soccer leagues. The fields also can reportedly serve as playing grounds for other sports, and softball and baseball.

Tropical storm Michael has formed just east of the Yucatan Peninsula. Southwesterly wind shear is impacting the developing storm causing deep thunderstorm activity. Despite the wind shear, forecasters were expecting this system to become tropical storm “Michael” before day's end. Tropical storm warnings are flying for western Cuba and the tourist spots of Tulum and Cozumel along Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

Anti-smoking advocates say they hope to strengthen smoking restrictions across northwest Alabama after Sheffield passed a tighter ordinance. However, restaurant owners say the city is hurting their businesses and smokers are urging a boycott of Sheffield. The city ordinance banning smoking in public spaces begins later this month. The group Smoke Free Shoals told the Times Daily that it hopes to get Florence, Muscle Shoals and Tuscumbia to follow Sheffield's move. However, officials in Florence and Tuscumbia say they're uninterested in changes.

Alabama's Democratic candidate for attorney general wants the state Ethics Commission to review campaign contributions to his opponent. At issue is $735,000 in Attorney General Steve Marshall’s war chest. Joe Siegelman believes the money from the Republican Attorney General Association violates the state ban on transfers between political action committees. Marshall and RAGA maintained the contributions are legal.

Public health and corrections officials are responding to an illness outbreak at an Alabama prison that left one inmate dead. The Alabama Department of Public Health said Friday that here has been a pneumococcal disease outbreak at the Ventress Correctional Facility in Barbour County. Three inmates were hospitalized and one inmate died after developing meningitis. Health officials says the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria can cause illnesses ranging from ear and sinus infections to pneumonia and meningitis.

Alabama's Mobile County is confirming its twelfth case of West Nile virus. The county's health department reported its first case was reported in August. The health department says mosquito activity peaks at dusk and dawn. Officials said the best ways to prevent bites are to wear long pants and shirts, use repellent, and avoid standing water. Humans with the virus or other mosquito-borne diseases often have symptoms of high fever, severe headache, nausea, stiff neck, confusion, muscle weakness, paralysis, disorientation, and seizures. In rare cases, the virus can cause coma or death.

The Alabama Hospital Association launched a campaign this week to push for expansion of the state's Medicaid program. Politicians in the Deep South have often opposed expansion, but the Alabama Hospital Association is urging citizens and policy makers to think of expansion as they would any other economic development investment, arguing it would benefit communities and the entire state health care system in addition to the estimated three hundred thousand people who would gain health care coverage, add thirty thousand jobs, and twenty eight billion to the economy.

Alabama's Supreme Court voted 5-4 to overturn the death sentence of a Birmingham man convicted in a 2009 robbery and shooting. The high court is directing a Jefferson County judge to sentence Anthony Lane to life without possibility of parole. The ruling came after the U.S. Supreme Court had ordered Alabama's courts to reconsider the death sentence in 2015. The Justices cited cases that say states can't execute people with mental disabilities. However, even after that, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals had reaffirmed that Lane should get the death penalty.

The Alabama Department of Education wants more money for school security and other programs next year. The Montgomery Advertiser reported that State Schools Superintendent Eric Mackey says he wants more money for reading and math programs, as well as for pre-kindergarten special education. Mackey says additional funding is also needed for transportation and school nurses. The Superintendent told the state board of education that the $30 million for school nurses would not add one nurse in Alabama. He said state funding for the nurses would free up local money for other programs.

Publix supermarkets is asking its customers and associates to directly assist those affected by Hurricane Florence. The chain operates over a thousand stores in Alabama and throughout the southern U.S., including North and South Carolina which are among the states hard hit by Florence. Shoppers can donate any amount by adding it to their grocery totals when checking out at Publix registers. All of the funds collected will go to the American Red Cross in support of Hurricane Florence relief efforts.

The estate of the man at the center of the popular "S-Town" podcast is suing the show's creators. The executor for John B. McLemore’s estate says the producers exploited details of his private life for financial gain. The lawsuit contends McLemore didn't give permission to broadcast the intimate details of his sexual orientation, mental state and other aspects of his life. "S-Town" tells the story of McLemore, an antique clock restorer from the town of Woodstock who killed himself in 2015.

He calls her a "Swampy Star." She calls him a tiger thief. Alabama Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh and State House member Will Ainsworth of Guntersville are swapping accusations ahead of Tuesday's heated GOP runoff in the race for lieutenant governor. Each also claims the other is distorting the truth. Cavanaugh is running an ad targeting Ainsworth's theft arrest when he was a college student and was accused of stealing fiberglass tigers in downtown Auburn. The charges were later dropped.

Alabama Power says over fifty thousand of its customers are waking up in the dark this morning (as of 8 am) following a line of strong thunderstorms. The system pushed through Alabama downing trees and power lines. WHNT-TV reported that a seventy -year-old woman is in critical condition after being struck by lightning. Lineville Police told reporters they had a fatality, but didn’t provide details. Severe thunderstorm warnings were issued for multiple Alabama counties as the storms, with winds as high as sixty miles per hour, swept through the state.  

Pages