UAB to participate in global clinical trial for coronavirus treatment

UAB to participate in global clinical trial for coronavirus treatment

The University of Alabama at Birmingham announced that it will take part in an NIH-sponsored global clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of novel therapeutic agents in hospitalized adult patients diagnosed with COVID-19.

The drug remdesivir will be the first agent evaluated in the trial.

The UAB site was activated on Wednesday by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. That means it can begin enrollment as part of this phase three therapeutic clinical trial immediately.

UAB is one of several sites being activated for the trial. The study will be conducted in up to 75 sites globally. Dr. Paul Goepfert, professor of medicine in the UAB Division of Infectious Diseases, serves as the UAB principal investigator for this study.

“Remdesivir worked well in the test tube and animal models against a close relative of COVID-19,” Goepfert said. “We are very excited to have the opportunity to rapidly determine whether this drug will help treat hospitalized patients with COVID-19 here at UAB.”

UAB is home to the Antiviral Drug Discovery and Development Center, or AD3C, which focuses on developing treatments for four different virus families, including coronavirus.

AD3C research produced the investigational drug, remdesivir, that is now being used to treat a few select patients in China and the U.S. who have contracted COVID-19. Read about remdesivir.

RAPID SPREAD

COVID-19 can cause mild illness that can be overcome, but more severe cases can be life-threatening.

At least 466 cases of the disease have been confirmed in Alabama as of this morning, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. On death, in Jackson County, has been reported.

“COVID-19 is rapidly spreading throughout the world, and the U.S. now has the third-highest number of cases in the world, with more than 50,000 patients,” Goepfert said, “Although the first case of COVID-19 in Alabama was diagnosed just over a week ago, we now have more than 400 cases in our state.”

On Wednesday morning, UAB reported that more than 60 people with confirmed COVID-19 cases were hospitalized at its medical center, with half of them on ventilators.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

Alabama Trucking Association CEO: ‘If you see a trucker, thank a trucker’

With the coronavirus pandemic upending almost every aspect of American life, increased focus has been given to the trucking industry.

Almost every commercial good purchased by any consumer in Alabama was brought to that place of business, at least part of the way, by a trucker.

Yellowhammer News interviewed Alabama Trucking Association CEO Mark Colson to see how Alabama’s truckers were dealing with the crisis.

“Trucking is open for business, and its an essential business,” began Colson, noting that beyond trucking companies themselves, gas stations and auto-shops that service trucks have all been deemed essential buy the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“When store shelves became empty for a moment, they got filled right back up. The warehouses that hold those goods got filled back up,” pointed out Colson with regards to the necessity and efficiency of America’s truckers.

Multiple reports from across Alabama reported described truckers struggling to get meals while on the job because their vehicles could not fit under the drive-thru clearance and many fast food places do not normally allow walk-up orders.

Yellowhammer asked Colson about those issues.

“It’s been a little bit of a problem here and there … but there is no problem a trucker can’t solve. Just give us a little bit of time and good information and we can figure it out,” he replied.

He added, “Truck stops like Love’s, Flying Pilot J, even organizations like Mcdonald’s, they’re becoming innovative about how they allow people to walk through their drive-thru, or deliver the meals out.”

Colson said the coronavirus ordinances from all different types of government have led to all truckers keeping hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment like masks with them in their cab for use before, during, and after dropoffs.

“Governor Ivey has done a great job,” Colson commented about the Truckers’ relationship to government during the pandemic. “Everyone is in a problem-solving mode, that is a good thing.”

Governor Kay Ivey had previously raised the weight limit for trucks and increased the allowable hours of work for trucks and truckers carrying supplies of need during a State of Emergency, like medical equipment and food for grocery stores.

Colson said that if the coronavirus precautions are required to stay in place for a protracted period of time that the Trucking Association hopes to work with the state to resume some amount of CDL testing, which is currently paused out of social distancing concerns.

“They know about they’re aware of it,” Colson said of State Government. “Depending on how long this goes, we may need to get new drivers out there.”

Yellowhammer News asked Colson what the public could do if they wanted to support their truckers.

Colson responded that the first and most important thing people could do was, “when you’re on the highway, drive safely around trucks.”

He went on to say, “You know #thankatrucker, the president tweeted it, that’s a big deal, and it’s going to be a bigger deal as we get on into this.”

“The families of truckers, if you know them, just thank them, support them, make them feel loved,” Colson continued.

“If you know their family, take them a meal,” he concluded.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

Unity during uncertainty

There is no doubt that we are living in uncertain times, however, there is also no doubt that Alabama, and our nation as a whole, will get through this. And we’ll do it the same way we got through two world wars, September 11, and countless regional disasters – by coming together – and it starts with leadership.

Republicans and Democrats in the Alabama legislature are united in partnering with Governor Kay Ivey, state agencies, and the federal government in order to stop the coronavirus in its tracks. We’re working diligently to mitigate health risks for Alabamians and offering support for our citizens and our businesses to continue growing our economy.

We are seeing the number of cases in our state continue to rise. Governor Ivey has declared a state of emergency, is encouraging social distancing, and authorized the Alabama National Guard to help with coronavirus-related operations should we need their support.

Those are just some of the steps Alabama has taken to combat the spread of this virus. We’ve also: approved $5 million in supplemental appropriation funds; postponed the primary election runoff until July in order to allow safe voting; extended the state tax filing deadline; closed all public schools; modified the state’s unemployment compensation rules to allow workers to file a claim if, due to coronavirus, they are ill, quarantined, laid off, sent home without pay, or caring for an immediate family member (more information at www.labor.alabama.gov or 866-234-5382).

On the federal level, the Trump administration is suspending foreclosures and evictions until the end of April in order to help those affected by the virus. Additionally, the president declared a national emergency more than a week ago and is reserving the right to use the Defense Production Act that would compel manufacturers to shift production to help fight the virus. So far, that hasn’t been necessary.

The response to this pandemic isn’t only from local, state, and federal officials. I have been amazed and encouraged by Alabama citizens and private businesses stepping up and using their talents to contribute to helping those in need. All over the nation, people are putting their Christmas lights back up to spread cheer. For many, this is a declaration of their faith even in these trying times. For others, it is a literal light amid this figurative darkness.

In Alabama, the Birmingham Zoo is hosting Virtual Zoo Camp at 11:00 A.M. every weekday – which will surely help parents who now find themselves navigating distance learning. An anonymous donor has given the state protective healthcare items like gloves and masks. Churches are hosting services online to allow their congregations to worship safely. The YMCA is delivering meals to students to ensure they’re eating while schools are closed. People are ordering takeout to help local restaurants stay afloat. These are clear signs Alabamans are coming together, galvanized for the fight against coronavirus.

Generations of Alabamians have always answered the call when their country needed them, and this is no different. I strongly encourage everyone to follow the recommendations from Governor Ivey and healthcare experts. We are being asked to stay at home and limit our public interactions to slow the spread of this disease to our most vulnerable neighbors.

No one is fighting this battle harder than our healthcare workers. Every one of them deserves our thanks and our praise. And now, many insurance companies have expanded telehealth coverage so doctors and other healthcare providers can offer services over the phone.

In this time, we must do all we can to help and support our healthcare workers, first responders, and hospital employees, and limit the risk they are exposed to in an overwhelmed hospital. If you’re not feeling well, please contact your physician or call 888-264-2256 and determine next steps and if further testing is necessary. If we stay focused and continue to work together, we will win the victory over this virus.

Alabama Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed is a Republican from Jasper.

Dale Jackson: Ivey needs to pull the trigger on a shelter-in-place order and be done with it

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has become a worldwide disaster.

In Alabama, all businesses are impacted, schools are closed for the academic year and life is in disarray.

Friday, Governor Kay Ivey inched closer to the inevitable but, for whatever reason, didn’t quite get there.

She held a so-called “press conference” in which she read a statement, took pre-screened questions and then answered them by reading responses off of a piece of paper.

This isn’t reassuring.

The results?

No more than 10 can gather in one place and most businesses can’t be open to the public under these rules.

What is the purpose of this step-by-step piecemeal approach? We have seen a slow trickle of new rules put out every day.

There shouldn’t be public gatherings at all at this point — just stay home.

If you need something, go get it and then go back home.

Bars are still serving drinks in certain “entertainment districts,” with people still congregating outside these establishments. People are still visiting with each other and playing basketball in public parks.

Most are taking this pandemic seriously, but more need to.

The force of a statewide “shelter-in-place” order will drive that home.

Penalties for violations (equivalent to misdemeanors) will help.

Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and others have already issued local orders going further than the state. That’s fine, but it will not be enough for Alabama as a whole.

Ultimately, everyone agrees that this is crushing small and big businesses alike, which is why President Donald Trump wants the economy opened up as soon as possible. The best way to make that happen is to expedite a decline in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases. That number will spike as more testing is done and results are revealed.

Businesses want to stay open as long as they can, which is understandable — but they are getting crushed anyway, and dragging this out won’t help them. Rather, it is only delaying the inevitable.

We need to take our medicine, stomp our feet and get better.

If we shelter-in-place, the number of new confirmed cases will drop faster, and life can go back to normal quicker.

President Trump’s guidelines focus on local success; we don’t need New York to fix itself to go back to work in Alabama.

Dragging this out will not make businesses in the Yellowhammer State open up faster, it will actually prolong this ridiculousness.

We need this over as soon as possible.

Bipartisan leaders in the state agree.

Alabama’s House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels:

huntsville should shelter in place before lives are lost. That’s if we have not already lost lives. #onelifelostisonetoomany

— Anthony Daniels (@AnthonyDaniels) March 27, 2020

Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth:

Wake up Alabama. I said it earlier,
This is a serious situation and is becoming more and more threatening everyday. It WILL spread exponentially in the future and we must slow it down now. Everyone MUST follow the orders given and practice social distancing to protect lives. https://t.co/4FfXjuwTzR

— Will Ainsworth (@willainsworthAL) March 25, 2020

A review of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic shows that aggressive “non-pharmaceutical intervention” didn’t hurt the economy of communities that implemented them more than communities that didn’t. In fact, they recovered better afterwards.

Study of 1918 flu: Cities that imposed social distancing performed no worse economically than those that didn’t — and did better afterward https://t.co/QBgjJmuf4H pic.twitter.com/RbXtvTOf5q

— HotAir.com (@hotairblog) March 26, 2020

What is Governor Ivey waiting for?

We currently have 580 cases of coronavirus and four deaths. Is there a magic number that would trigger a broader order?

Can she tell us what that magic number is?

Three thousand cases? A hundred deaths?

This will get worse before it gets better.

We need to get it better faster. We need leadership, not delay tactics and hand-wringing.

The is incredibly simple. Governor Kay Ivey will issue a shelter-in-place order at some point in the near future. She might as well do it now and help us get this over with.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

Alabama attorney general partners with Facebook to combat price gouging during coronavirus pandemic

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Friday announced a partnership with Facebook to combat “unconscionable” online price gouging of Alabamians during the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Marshall last week announced that Alabama’s price gouging law is now in effect due to the issuance of a State Public Health Emergency by Governor Kay Ivey on March 13.

The Facebook partnership unveiled Friday is the first announcement by Marshall in a comprehensive new effort to enlist the nation’s largest technology companies to stem the tide of price gouging of consumers seeking to protect themselves from coronavirus.

“There is no question that unscrupulous operators are trying to take advantage of Alabamians looking to buy basic necessities to protect and sustain themselves and their families during the ongoing coronavirus epidemic,” Marshall stated.

“What’s more, much of that illegal activity is centered online because many consumers find it easier to purchase supplies on the internet due to lack of local availability or self-quarantining. As my office seeks ways to protect our consumers, I am pleased to announce that Facebook is one of several major e-commerce platforms to respond to my call to participate in a coordinated effort to identify and shutdown online price gouging,” he continued.

Facebook has reportedly pledged to work directly with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office to review and remove, as necessary, potential price gouging listings and advertisements from its site. The company has already committed to take proactive steps to fight price gouging and deception, including banning advertising or sale of medical masks, hand sanitizer, surface disinfecting wipes and COVID-19 testing kits, as well as prohibiting products that imply a cure or claim to prevent people from contracting the virus.

“Facebook truly appreciates Attorney General Marshall’s work to combat price gouging online,” said Will Castleberry, vice president of state and local public policy for Facebook. “Facebook is focused on preventing exploitation of this crisis for financial gain and will continue working closely with attorneys general to remove violating content.”

Although what constitutes an unconscionable price is not specifically set forth in Alabama state law, a price that is 25% or more above the average price charged in the same area within the last 30 days — unless the increase can be attributed to a reasonable cost in connection with the rental or sale of the commodity — is a prima facie case of unconscionable pricing, per Marshall’s office.

The penalty is a fine of up to $1,000 per violation, and those determined to have willfully and continuously violated this law may be prohibited from doing business in Alabama.

Alabamians who want to file an illegal price gouging report are encouraged to do so online here or by calling 1-800-392-5658 to receive a form by mail to complete and return.

Marshall expects to soon announce more partnerships with other technology companies who have also agreed to work with his office to combat price gouging in the Yellowhammer State.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

Alabama credit unions ‘remain open and ready to serve’ during coronavirus pandemic

Credit unions in Alabama continue to work diligently to meet the financial needs of the states’ families and businesses during the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Alabama Credit Union Association (ACUA), an affiliate of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions (LSCU), on Friday outlined in a release some important information on behalf of the member credit unions ACUA represents in Alabama.

“Alabama’s credit unions remain open and ready to serve their members during this difficult time,” stated Patrick La Pine, LSCU CEO. “Credit unions are integral parts of their communities – and they understand the challenges their members face. During this trying time, Alabama credit unions will continue to do what they’ve always done: help consumers, families, businesses and communities through their challenges. Credit unions are also doing everything possible to make sure their teams are safe while still offering personalized service.”

ACUA’s release emphasized that financial institutions are prepared and able to be a source of strength for the communities they serve.

Additionally, the release outlined that money is safe in National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insured financial institutions.

  • Not a penny of deposits insured by NCUA has ever been lost.
  • The safest place for our money is in an insured depository institution.
  • Up to $250,000 is the basic amount covered by federal insurance for single amounts at
    any insured institution. Additional coverage may be available depending on the account type and structure.
  • NCUA insurance coverage details are accessible here.

“The Alabama Credit Union Administration is continually communicating with credit unions to offer assistance during this pandemic,” said Greg McClellan, administrator of the Alabama Credit Union Administration. “Credit unions are insured by the NCUA up to $250,000. Credit unions we have been in contact with have been striving to provide excellent service to their members, and we continue to provide assistance to them.”

ACUA advised that consumers and businesses should know the following:

  • Credit unions are working proactively with borrowers experiencing challenges in the current
    environment.

    • Each credit union is eager to work with you for a solution customized to your situation
  • Financial institutions have responded positively to all Gov. Kay Ivey’s and President Donald Trump’s directives. Furthermore, business continuity plans were already in place and are being exercised.
  • Lobby access may be restricted at certain credit unions, but we’re open for business (check your financial institution’s webpage or LSCU’s list of credit union changes for more information.):
    • Drive-through service, when available at a branch, is open for transactions.
    • Individual appointments for in-person meeting are being scheduled.
    • Technology platforms give ready access to online services like bill pay, remote depositing of checks and ATMs for cash.
    • Take advantage of the United States’ world-class payments system and use mobile payment channels and debit cards or credit cards to make purchases.
  • Be on guard for scams. Resources are:

Elected officials from around Alabama praised the state’s credit unions for their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“With the threat of COVID-19 in Alabama, credit unions are doing all they can to put their members at ease and lessen the financial strain on Alabama’s families and businesses,” remarked Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth.

“The Alabama Credit Union Association and the League of Southeastern Credit Unions are being proactive during this public health emergency to find options that best serve their credit unions. I want to thank them for continuing to reassure consumers their money is safe,” he added.

“In these uncertain times, it is great to see the Alabama Credit Union Association and their member credit unions stepping up to ensure Alabamans that their money is safe and secure. I also want to thank all of Alabama’s credit unions for stepping up to help their members and communities as we adjust to the new normal in our great state,” commented State Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-Phenix City), who serves as chairman of the House Committee on Financial Institutions.

“As always, in Alabama, we pull together, we do the right things for the right reasons and we come out stronger at the end. Our credit unions are no exception. They understand what difficulties may lie ahead for their members, our constituents and they’re helping now, not later before it’s too late,” added State Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn).

The praise was not just bicameral but also bipartisan.

“Many people across the state of Alabama rely on credit unions to handle their financial needs, and they should continue to feel confident in investing their money in NCUA-insured and backed credit unions during the COVID-19 pandemic,” concluded State Rep. Jeremy Gray (D-Opelika). “Credit unions across the state are taking every proactive measure they can, in conjunction with the League of Southeastern Credit Unions and the Alabama Credit Union Association, to ensure they can meet the needs of all of their current and new members.”

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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