In compliance with the national state of emergency due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus epidemic, the Greene County Commission has devised a plan of action to provide for the health and safety of persons, including county personnel. The general plan includes steps to protect people at higher risk for complications; maintain critical operations; minimize impact on residents, customers and businesses; and be proactive by taking small measures now to minimize risk. More details of the Commission’s Action Plan can be obtained from the commission’s office. The county has reduced its onsite personnel to a skeletal crew. One person in each county office, including the Probate Judge’s Office, Revenue Commissioner, and County Commission will be on duty each day with others on call if the need arises. The offices of District Judge, Circuit Judge and Circuit Clerk were closed by the state last week. The sheriff’s office is also closed, but Deputies will continue to be on duty. Any emergency calls should be directed to E-911. Other essential county employees including sanitation workers will maintain their regular work schedules. Maintenance and county road personnel will have rotating schedules. According to County Commission Chairperson, Allen Turner, the county will continue to pay employees their current hourly rate during this emergency shutdown.
As of press time on Wednesday morning, Alabama was reporting 283 cases, with Jefferson County leading the state with 99 cases. No deaths are reported yet in Alabama. The virus is now infecting people in 28 of Alabama’s 67 counties. Interestingly, there are no confirmed cases reported yet in Greene County and in 11 of the 12 rural counties of the Alabama ‘Black Belt’, Pickens County reported its first case this morning. This may be because it is very difficult to get a test to confirm the virus. The coronavirus is most prevalent in urban communities of the state like Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa and Mobile. There is no guarantee that it has not already or will not spread to rural areas and communities around the state. New protocols require that testing be restricted to those with virus symptoms, referred by a doctor, heath care workers who may have been exposed, the elderly, living in nursing homes and others who can prove exposure to someone with the coronavirus. The coronavirus led to the closing of the four operating electronic bingo establishments in Greene County on March 16, 2020 because attendance in these places exceeded the state’s health department rules for safety and distance. Luther Winn, CEO of Greenetrack said, “We are following state health department guidance and will not reopen bingo or simulcasting until we are allowed. We have paid our staff last week and this week. We hope the Congressional stimulus package or unemployment will help us in the coming period.” Asked if electronic bingo will pay monthly fees to charities, county and municipal agencies, the hospital and school board, Winn said, “the revenues are not available to continue these fee payments, until we can re-open. All resources are going to employees and continued security.” In speaking with representatives of the charities at other bingo establishments, they said they agreed with Winn’s assessment and statements. They said once bingo reopens there may be a way to help restore the lost funds, from the per machine assessments, over time. The City of Eutaw has closed the Carver School and Community Center and the National Guard Armory to all community activities. City Hall is operating with a reduced staff. The regular City Council meeting held on the fourth Tuesday of the month has been cancelled. Mayor Raymond Steele said, “The City employees are continuing to work to assure basic water, sewer and street repair services to the residents. We have been continuing to improve our water services and get our meters and billing system updated. We are working with people who received very high bills to find leaks and negotiate suitable payment plans. Residents with problems should bring them to the attention of the Mayor and water department.” Many small businesses have closed or reduced hours and those businesses like fast food, the drug store and banks that have drive-through windows are using them in preference to allowing people into stores. The Greene County Health System including the Hospital, Nursing Home and Physicians Clinic are still open. The staff is taking temperatures and administering a survey to all who come. No visitors are allowed in the Nursing Home to protect residents although cell phones have been provided for voice and ‘facetime’ visits with residents. If you are sick and showing symptoms of the virus, you are asked to call ahead to make an appointment with the medical staff at the Greene County Physicians Clinic, so the proper precautions can be taken to protect staff and other patients.
LOS ANGELES – Within 24 hours of demanding immediate assistance on behalf of her constituent and 3000 Americans who were stranded in Morocco, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), Chair of the House Committee on Financial Services, received notice that the U.S. State Department had heeded her calls and chartered special emergency flights for all U.S. citizens in Morocco. The Moroccan government had previously announced the suspension of all international flights to and from its airports as a protective measure against the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). The special return flights, which were chartered by the State Department through American Airlines partner British Airways, began transporting Americans home from Morocco on Friday, March 20. “I am elated that my constituent and all Americans who were stranded in Morocco will now be able to safely return home to the United States,” said Congresswoman Maxine Waters. “The lack of response and distress that these U.S. citizens endured is absolutely unthinkable. I am pleased that the State Department has decided to uphold its responsibility to protect American citizens who are stranded abroad as we confront the coronavirus pandemic, and I commend American Airlines for their assistance with this matter. I urge my colleagues in Congress to continue to monitor reports of Americans who may be stranded in other countries and ensure that the Trump administration is providing assistance and safe passage home to all Americans who are stranded abroad.” On Tuesday, March 17, Congresswoman Waters received a call from her constituent requesting help with reaching the State Department and U.S. Embassy in Morocco, which had ignored requests for assistance from Americans who were stranded in Morocco. Congresswoman Waters immediately directed her staff to investigate the matter and further learned that approximately 3000 Americans were facing the same plight in Morocco. On Wednesday, March 18, Congresswoman Waters sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanding an immediate explanation as to how and when the State Department, as well as United States Ambassador to Morocco David T. Fischer, would implement a plan to repatriate stranded Americans in Morocco, including but not limited to State Department chartered flights leaving the region. She also made numerous phone calls directly to the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Morocco requesting answers and immediate assistance for her constituent. On Thursday, March 19, the State Department and the U.S. Mission to Morocco announced the arrangement of American Airlines (British Airways) flights for U.S. citizens and permanent residents beginning on Friday, March 20 from Marrakech International Airport in Morocco. On Friday, March 20, Congresswoman Waters also penned a “Dear Colleague” letter to House Members alerting them of the plight facing Americans who were stranded in Morocco, Peru, Guatemala, and other countries, and urged them to continue to work with the State Department to ensure the safe return of all Americans who are stranded abroad.
Ads will highlight Trump’s broken health care promises to African American and Latino voters in key battleground
From The Democratic National Committee
Today, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) launched a diverse media advertising campaign in 6 key battlegrounds (AZ, MI, NC, PA, FL, WI), beginning with ads highlighting Republicans’ broken promises on the issue of health care to voters of color ahead of the tenth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The DNC is beginning this campaign with a significant initial buy and will make an overall six-figure investment in minority-focused media outlets. “Victory in 2020 will be won in Black and Brown communities throughout the country, and we cannot afford to take a single vote for granted,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez. “President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Democrats in Congress made access to health care a reality for millions of people, especially in communities of color, and Trump’s agenda has trampled on that progress. In a time where America is facing a pandemic, it is important for voters to remember who has their back when it comes to protecting and expanding access to health care. These investments in diverse media outlets are happening much earlier in the cycle than ever before and we will continue to engage voters where they are on this critical issue, as often as possible.” The print ads, which will be published in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin were placed through the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and will commemorate the passage of the ACA and the benefits it provides, including protections for preexisting conditions.: The radio ads will be produced by a Hispanic-owned creative agency. The ads will air on Spanish-language stations throughout Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Florida and will also focus on the ACA’s passage and Democrats’ commitment to providing access to quality, affordable health care to the Latino community.
Rep. Karen Bass, Chair on the Congressional Black Caucus The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has submitted a sweeping list of proposals that it says elected officials must implement to specifically protect Black people in America and their best interests as the country grapples with the coronavirus crisis. The group of influential officials from Congress and the Senate sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer with suggestions centered on healthcare, protecting Black-owned businesses and voting rights to be considered as part of the estimated $1 trillion stimulus package to help with the economy during the coronavirus outbreak. Many of the asks from the list of suggestions were already being discussed in Congress and among local governments, including giving all workers access to paid sick days and paid family and medical leave so that people can seek treatment without fear of losing their jobs or paychecks. The CBC also proposed a nationwide suspension on utility shut-offs as well as a ban of all evictions, foreclosures and repossessions, which has already happened in some parts of the country but not all. The proposal also got more specific when it comes to Black-owned businesses. For example, it called for a 90-day moratorium on all consumer and small business credit payments (student loans, credit cards, mortgages, car notes, small business loans, personal loans). The CBC also called for $50 billion in new grants for the Small Business Administration to help negatively impacted small businesses, including those that are “minority- and women-owned.” In addition, the CBC proposed government-backed interest-free loans to entrepreneurs, businesses, nonprofits and independent contractors to cover operating expenses and payroll needs in order to keep workers fully employed. On the voting front, CBC asked for a change of procedure for casting ballots in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. That includes establishing a National Vote-By-Mail system for all remaining primaries and the general election. The group is also seeking an end to voter suppression by restoring Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. For prisoners’ safety, the CBC suggested releasing all juveniles who’ve committed non-violent crimes, ensuring all inmates and staff get coronavirus testing and “releasing incarcerated individuals in prisons, jails, and detention centers through clemency, commutations and compassionate release.” The CBC also said it wanted additional funding for the expansion of broadband access to ensure all students, including those in rural and urban communities, have access to tele-learning resources since many schools have canceled in-person education. The CBC also reiterated its demands made before the coronavirus hit, such as canceling student debt and providing funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), especially in this time of the coronavirus. As of Sunday evening, a massive $1 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill failed to pass the Senate, according to NBC News. Republicans, who needed 60 votes to move forward on the bill, weren’t able to win over Democrats who felt dissatisfied with worker protections in the bill, which was drafted by Republicans. Democrats also felt the rules on corporate bailouts were too lax. Negotiations on the now proposed $2 trillion stimulus bill are continuing between Senate and House Democrats and Treasury Secretary Manuchin representing the Trump Administration.
Bishop T. D. Jakes stands before about 30 people in his Potter’s House sanctuary that seats 8,200 in Dallas.
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Rev. Grainger Browning, pastor of the Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Fort Washington, Md., is used to preaching to two packed sanctuaries every Sunday. But on Sunday, March 22, Browning and a skeletal staff preached to a mostly empty sanctuary while his members watched on the Internet. “I feel like a spiritual first responder,” Browning said. “It’s called Live from the Church. We try to duplicate church as much as we can. We have members of the praise team and a skeletal staff.” Browning’s situation is one example of a new reality for churches around the nation. Even the 8,200-seat sanctuary of Bishop T. D. Jakes’ Potter’s House in Dallas has been virtually empty. As the Coronavirus spread around the nation and world and as state governments and health experts increasingly issue stay at home orders and suggest social distancing, life as usual has become non-existent. Members of the Class of 2020 are still hoping for their proms, commencement exercises and celebrations that are normal milestones for generations past. In sports, there are no NBA basketball games, NCAA tournaments or baseball Spring training. And in terms of mass gatherings, going to the movies, eating out, and even worshipping God in church pews has been forbidden for a season. Even weddings and funerals have been curtailed. As a result of the Corvid 19 virus, this lethal strain of the Corona flu, America is a stranger to herself with frightened and helpless citizens “sheltering in place” behind locked doors in a society where toilet paper has become priceless as indicated by the empty shelves in grocery stores. “People are losing it. My brother drives a bread truck and he said that his colleague was robbed, said Sean Brown, 39, a financial manager in Severn, Md. “They took his entire bread truck.” As of this writing, March 22, America had nearly 30,000 people diagnosed with COVID 19, which means America is now number three in the world in terms of a disease that has now killed more than 13,000 around the globe. This is despite glaring headlines and weekly White House briefings that produced more arguments than solutions. “If ever there is a time to practice humanity — it is now,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a tweet on Sunday. “The time to show kindness, to show compassion. New Yorkers are tough — but we are also the most courageous community that you have ever seen.” On Sunday, Sean Brown, the financial manager, a husband and father of two, watched a taped worship service from the University Park Church of Christ. Despite the change, he still has hope through his faith. “It is important to remember who is in control. God is still in control.” COVID 19 has ushered in an era of “social distancing.” And yet it is easy to find examples of hope in cities and towns and communities across America in terms of faith, family and every aspect of life. On Twitter, there was a video of a group of Cuban doctors of color in White lab coats and masks arriving in Italy and being greeted by people waiting in the international airport. As restaurants closed, many soup kitchens that regularly feed the homeless, such as Miriam’s Kitchen in Northwest Washington, DC, kept their doors open. But among the most notable changes are the churches which quickly adjusted their empty sanctuaries to computer screens and conference calls. Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland Tune, Chief Operating Officer for the National Council of Churches, said despite the Corona Virus “Most churches are using creatives to remain connected. They are using zoom, video conferencing, prayer calls. My home church in New York is having prayer callers at 6 am.” With Easter two weeks away, Browning said that he will have Lenten services every morning between six and seven AM that will be rebroadcast “people can start their day,” but Browning added, “I really missing the people it is like being away from your wife.” “My concern is for the people. There is concern about people dying but I don’t think I hear a heart for the people who survive. They literally don’t know how they are going to eat.” Browning of Ebenezer in Maryland said he is really concerned about conducting funerals when there is a restriction. “Right now, can’t have more than ten people. I can’t imagine having a love one dying and there are only 10 people there.” Even medical doctors are taken aback by the new realities. “We had our church by telephone conference,” said Tracey Burney, a retired urologist who attends Bethany CME Church in Clearwater, Florida. “Being a physician, we are always ready for the worst. But I have never seen anything like this in my wildest dreams.”
Activists aim to maximize Black census response through education campaign By Khalil Abdullah
TriceEdneyWire.com) – Jeri Green, 2020 Census Senior Advisor for the National Urban League’s Census Black Roundtable, is encouraging African-Americans, and indeed all Americans, to self-respond to the census, in part to allay fears the novel corona virus could be spread to households by a census enumerator, the person who knocks on your door with blank census forms and clipboard in hand. Even as the Census Bureau has announced a package of strategies to delay door-to-door enumeration and counting the homeless, among other initiatives, eventually the hard work will resume toward fulfilling the constitutional mandate on which so many aspects of American life depends. This is the first decennial census utilizing the Internet. Phone response is an option as well. Green encouraged using either method as an alternative to the standard nine-question paper census form now arriving at many homes. The paper form, addressed to “Resident” – and not to be mistaken for junk mail — is to be filled out and returned to the Census Bureau by mail. Non-responding addresses trigger a visit by a census enumerator. “In many of our communities, especially the Black community, a significant portion of our community waits for that knock on the door,” Green said during a national media telebriefing: Addressing Security Information and Privacy Issues, Census2020. The event was sponsored by the Leadership Conference Education Fund in partnership with Ethnic Media Services. Green was joined by Beth Lynk, LCEF’s Census Counts Campaign Director; Lizette Escobedo, Director of National Census Program, NALEO Educational Fund; John Yang, President and Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice; Ditas Katague, Director, California Complete Count Committee; and Lycia Maddox, Vice President of External Affairs, National Congress of American Indians. These speakers explained the often similar but also unique obstacles to marshalling their constituents’ responses to the census, one they agree will be one of the most challenging in America’s history and “one of the most urgent civil rights issues facing the country,” Beth Lynk observed. Yang said concern about the privacy of census responses among Asian American families, particularly those with mixed immigrant status households, was heightened by the Department of Commerce’s efforts to include a question on citizenship on the 2020 census form. He said surveys have shown that a significant percentage of Asian Americans, as high as 30 percent in one poll, still incorrectly think the question is on the form. Similarly, the citizenship question has roiled the Latino community. Some surveys showed that about half of Latinos still thought it would be included on the form, said Escobedo. “This is a significant concern for us.” Green also cited the historic lack of trust within the Black community, of how the federal government may use census information, as a looming impediment to a successful count. That same sentiment may depress the response rate from African and Caribbean immigrant residents who are increasingly becoming a percentage of the National Urban League’s constituency. The NUL and its 90 affiliates now have a presence in 36 states and the District of Columbia with the capacity to potentially reach two million American residents, Green reported. The NUL’s Make Black Count campaign, a collaboration with other organizations and religious leaders, has held national phone telebriefings. March’s event drew well over a thousand participants. Make Black Count is designed to increase awareness and understanding about elected congressional and state representation as well as the allocation of monetary benefits derived from the census. These tax-derived funds are returned, by population-driven formulas, to states, counties, cities, and towns. The federal contribution to rural hospitals, for example, has moved to the forefront of concerns as the demand for adequate bed space and equipment spike in the throes of the corona virus pandemic. With the corona virus dominating the news, the census is at risk of being pushed to the margins of the public consciousness. By following the Center for Disease Control’s guidance, Yang said his organization, as are the other telebriefing participants, is factoring in recommendations on how to improve public outreach. “A number of our grassroots-based organizations are moving more toward phone banks, text banks, to create more of a presence on-line because, certainly tabling opportunities, in-person opportunities are becoming restricted and we want to exercise caution and ensure the safety and health of our volunteers,” Yang said. Escobedo said NALEO, for example, is reaching many Latinos through Facebook. Yang also is concerned about how messaging about the virus and disease is being distorted. “Getting the facts right matter,” Yang emphasized. “We, unfortunately, are seeing a significant increase in hate incidents around Covid-19, corona virus, directed against the Asian community and this is something we need to stand up against. The reality is that this is a health hazard. It is not specific to one ethnic community. One ethnic community is not the carrier of this health hazard in a manner that is genetically based.” Lycia Maddox, Vice President of External Affairs, National Congress of American Indians, spoke about the uphill climb to achieving accurate representation of the Native American population. “Indian Country has the highest undercount of 4.9 percent, almost double the next population group,” she said of the 2010 census. Maddox said NCAI has partnered with other Native American organizations and tribal leaders in efforts to boost the response rate in communities that typically qualify as Hard to Count. HTC is a designation that applies to census tracts where the past history of responses to the census have lagged. Immigrant households, and ones where English is not the primary language, consistently fall under that rubric. But other descriptors — low-income households, rural communities, and lack of robust Internet access — apply to a significant percentage of the Native American presence. As a consequence, tribal nations also comprise part of California’s 11 million Hard to Count population in a state of 40 million residents. The size of California’s population alone sets it apart from the rest of the country, Katague explained. She said Los Angeles County, where 192 languages are spoken, has a population larger than 42 states. California has committed $187.2 million to achieving a complete count, funding that surpasses the combined financial commitment of the 49 remaining states. Maddox said the corona virus has made its presence felt among Native Americans in other ways. There are instances of some tribes limiting physical access by outsiders to reservations and communities in order to limit the potential of exposure to the virus. Another concern is that the recruitment of Native American enumerators, already difficult enough, will be negatively impacted. Jeri Green and the NUL are painfully aware of this possibility as well. “We are concerned about hiring,” Green said. “We know that the Census Bureau has to recruit 2.5 million people to hire 500,000 enumerators. We now worry about a greater attrition rate than they’ve had, where people might just say, ‘Okay, well, I’m out of here. I don’t want to knock on doors because of this virus.’ We don’t know. “But we have been, all along, trying to shift the dynamic and move the needle in the other way, even before this virus came on, and push self-response. And that’s what we’ve been doing, pushing the telephone lines and self-response because we don’t want those great numbers out there in the non-response universe.” Yet, one estimate is, at the acme of the census response, there could be as many as eight million hits a day on the census website. “We just have to hope and pray that the Census Bureau’s infrastructure for telephone questionnaire assistance and Internet response are all functioning,” Green said. “They seem to be all systems go.” Green, a former census employee, now retired from federal service, said, “We are fighting collectively to ensure that the Black population loses no ground–political, economic or civil rights as a result of the 2020 census. The stakes are too high. We must Make Black Count in the 2020 Census.”
The Greene County Commission held an emergency meeting last night at the William M. Branch Courthouse to discuss the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in Greene County. The Commission was concerned to bring its response to the virus in compliance with Federal and state directives to manage the crisis. The Commission heard reports from county agencies and related county services on their responses to the pandemic. At the end of the meeting, the County Commission approved a resolution giving Allen Turner, Chairperson of the Commission, discretionary authority to close or reduce the services and hours of service of County facilities and staff for the period from March 19 to April 19, 2020. Brenda Burke, County Administrator, announced that the Greene County Courthouse would be closed this week on Thursday and Friday (March 19 and 20, 2020) for deep cleaning. She also said all court activities, license tag renewals; driver’s license tests would be suspended until April 16, 2020, with no late fees or penalties. She indicated that the Greene County Courthouse would reopen next week for critical business but urged residents to postpone routine business until the emergency subsidizes and conduct business by phone or email in the interim period. “We may have to open only for limited hours and stop people at the front door to be sure that they need to come through the building,” said Commissioner Turner. They indicated that the offices in the Courthouse would be open and have staff to respond to problems and concerns. Prior to this morning’s announcement that the Republican Primary Runoff is postponed from March 31 to July 14, Turner said the Circuit Clerk would check the mail daily for absentee ballots and other correspondence relative to the election. Superintendent Corey Jones of the Greene County Board of Education said the schools were out this week for Spring Break and that the Governor had closed the schools through April 6. “There is a strong possibility that the schools may be closed for the rest of the semester,” said Jones. The Superintendent indicated that the teachers were preparing lessons and educational materials for the students to work on while they were at home. He also said that the Board of Education had received a waiver from the Federal government to continue to provide school breakfasts and lunches to the students. “We are working on a plan to provide nutritious food for our children, starting next week. This will include delivery of meals to selected sites around the county where it will be easier to distribute the food or have families to pick up the food from community centers, fire stations and other locations,” said Jones. Dr. Marcia Pugh, Administrator of the Greene County Health System said the county’s critical health facilities would remain open. “We are restricting entrance to the facility to the front door, where we have a temperature check and a short survey of health symptoms to make sure that people who may have the coronavirus are not allowed access to our other patients and nursing home residents. We are not allowing visitors into the Nursing Home as a protection for the residents, however we have cell phones available for virtual ‘face-time’ visits, said Dr. Pugh. Dr. Pugh also indicated that if you have ‘flu-like symptoms’ call ahead to make an appointment at the Greene County Physicians Clinic. “We can refer you for testing to the drive through testing at DCH in Tuscaloosa or Bryan-Whitfield Hospital in Demopolis, to help you,” she said. Mayor Raymond Steele said the City Hall would be open to provide essential services to the city residents. “We closed the Carver School Gym and programs, use of the National Guard Armory but City Hall will be open and our staff will be ready to main the water, sewer and other essential services,” said Steele. Iris Sermon with Greene County 911 urged people not to panic and work on maintaining social distance of at least 6 feet from other people to prevent spreading the virus. She also gave a toll free phone number: 1-888-264-2256, to get information on testing and testing sites. Anita Lewis, Director of the Greene County Housing Authority, said she was keeping her office open to serve the residents of Branch Heights and King Village. “My greatest concern is for the welfare of the 344 children who live in these housing developments, making sure they are safe, getting nutritious food and engaging in meaningful learning activities, without congregating in large groups to fuel spreading the virus. Lorenzo French, Chair of the Board of the City of Eutaw Housing Authority asked for help in securing hand sanitizer, wipes and other necessary supplies for residents. Attending this meeting it was clear that although there are currently no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Greene County and 39 confirmed cases statewide that this is a growing problem that Greene County residents must be aware of and make plans to combat.