Coronavirus patients not coming to Alabama, lawmakers assure

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[Photo Credit: cdc.gov]

Plans to bring coronavirus patients to Alabama have been cancelled. That’s according to Gov. Kay Ivey, Sen. Richard Shelby and Rep. Mike Rogers.

The news follows a Saturday press release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) saying the FEMA Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Ala. would be used as a quarantine site for patients transferred from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that had been in Japan.

On Sunday morning, Ivey issued a statement explaining the entire situation, calling HHS’ press release “perhaps premature.”

“On Saturday, it appears that a press release from HHS was inadvertently, and perhaps prematurely, sent notifying the State of Alabama that these individuals were scheduled to begin transporting to Alabama as early as Wednesday,” Ivey said in her statement. “Obviously concerned, there were a number of conversations between HHS, the White House, my staff and me, as well as two rounds of conference calls including the senior staff of the Congressional Delegation to try to clarify HHS’ intent and reasoning for selecting Alabama. On one of the calls, they informed us that the CDP in Anniston is only being considered as a “back-up” plan, in case they run out of alternative locations. They assured us on both calls that no decision had been made to send anyone to Anniston.”

Ivey followed up her statement with a tweet explaining President Donald Trump called her and assured her that the patients who were aboard the Diamond Princess wouldn’t be transferred to Alabama. “@realDonaldTrump called to assure me that this plan will not move forward. I thanked him for his support of AL! We always want to help our fellow Americans, but this wasn’t fully vetted. Thank you @SenShelby @RepMikeRogersAL for advocating on our behalf! #alpolitics #teamwork”

Sen. Shelby made a similar tweet of his own: I just got off the phone with the President. He told me that his administration will not be sending any victims of the Coronavirus from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to Anniston, Alabama. Thank you, @POTUS, for working with us to ensure the safety of all Alabamians.

 Alabama 3rd District U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers later chimed in on Twitter as well: When @realDonaldTrump called me this afternoon with the great news that he cancelled the plan by HHS, I wholeheartedly thanked him on behalf of people of Alabama. Let’s all say THANK YOU to President Trump for his tremendous leadership!

 

Read Ivey’s full statement regarding the situation below:

“Late Friday night, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) informed me about their proposal to transport Americans who have tested positive with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to a FEMA Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston. Sensing the urgency, I quickly informed the offices of Senators Richard Shelby and Doug Jones and Congressman Mike Rogers, as well as Dr. Scott Harris with the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“On Saturday, it appears that a press release from HHS was inadvertently, and perhaps prematurely, sent notifying the State of Alabama that these individuals were scheduled to begin transporting to Alabama as early as Wednesday.

“Obviously concerned, there were a number of conversations between HHS, the White House, my staff and me, as well as two rounds of conference calls including the senior staff of the Congressional Delegation to try to clarify HHS’ intent and reasoning for selecting Alabama. On one of the calls, they informed us that the CDP in Anniston is only being considered as a “back-up” plan, in case they run out of alternative locations. They assured us on both calls that no decision had been made to send anyone to Anniston. “I made it abundantly clear that while the State of Alabama wants to work closely with the Trump Administration to assist fellow Americans who may have tested positive for the Coronavirus, there were some grave concerns about why the site in Anniston was chosen and how, logistically, this would play out in the event this back-up site were to be eventually activated.

“First and foremost, my priority is to protect the people of Alabama. While locating these folks in Alabama is currently a backup plan, this is a serious issue and we need to be fully aware of the facts regarding the potential of housing them in Anniston.

“I am grateful to Senator Shelby and his team for coordinating today’s effort to send officials from HHS to Alabama to provide further clarity to this situation. I also appreciate Congressman Rogers for speaking with the President and informing him of the concern of the people of Alabama. Through these coordinated efforts, we will begin a process that will be transparent, and hopefully find a solution of which we are united and comfortable with.”

Read the original HHS press release below:

“HHS is taking precautions to protect the health of all Americans from Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). To that end, HHS and FEMA agreed to use a federal facility, the FEMA Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Alabama, as a place for some of the American passengers from the Diamond Princess to stay. These are passengers whom the federal government evacuated back to the U.S. from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

“The passengers who will stay at the Center tested positive for COVID-19, although at this time they either do not have symptoms or have mild flu-like symptoms. Any of the evacuees who become seriously ill will be transported to pre-identified hospitals for medical care. Under the HHS-FEMA agreement, the Center for Domestic Preparedness will provide the housing, and HHS will provide basic medical care and all other support services for these returning passengers. Passengers will stay in a separate area from the Center’s training participants and will remain at the Center until they are medically cleared.

“The Center has unique facilities and routinely offers week-long, hands-on training for large groups of professionals from federal, state and local emergency management agencies, hospitals, public health agencies, and law enforcement agencies on disaster response.”