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Fulford: No more warnings for illegal gatherings

Selma Police Department (SPD) Chief Kenta Fulford stated during a Tuesday teleconference hosted by the Selma-Dallas County Coronavirus Community Coalition, an informal collective of local health officials and community leaders, that gatherings of more than 10 people continue to be a problem in the city and, moving forward, the department will begin issuing citations.

Fulford stated that, previously, such gatherings received a warning from local officers – however, calls continue to come in with reports of illegal gatherings and Fulford said the department will begin responding by issuing citations to those violating health orders.

Elsewhere in the meeting, a representative from the Alabama League of Municipalities (ALOM) discussed the possibility of delaying municipal elections, which are slated for August, if the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into the summer.

According to ALOM Deputy Director Greg Cochran, the organization had considered delaying this year’s municipal elections until 2021, but opted to hold off on a final decision amid signs that the virus may be waning in Alabama.

Cochran said that it’s his hope that Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey will begin slowly and safely to open up and move the economy forward, adding that his organization would monitor the situation and, if all appears well by the middle of June, plan to move ahead with elections as scheduled.

If, however, there is a resurgence of the virus, Cochran said ALOM will ask the governor to intervene and delay the elections.

Cochran also noted that ALOM is continuing to work with Alabama’s Congressional Delegation to secure support for municipal and local governments across the state, noting that many will begin to see the impact of lost tax revenue as Summer approaches.

Selma City Councilwoman Angela Benjamin provided a report on behalf of Rural Health Medical Program (RHMP), which has now received COVID-19 testing kits from the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), but is still awaiting the arrival of previously-ordered personal protective equipment (PPE) – RHMP is now working with another vendor to secure the equipment.

Benjamin also offered thanks on behalf of RHMP for Vaughan Regional Medical Center (VRMC) CEO David McCormack for a recent donation of N95 face masks.

Elsewhere in the meeting, Liz Rutledge, a representative from the office of U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-AL, reported that the senator is working to ensure that an upcoming coronavirus relief package includes language that would provide access to healthcare to those currently not insures through Medicaid expansion, broader COBRA coverage and more.

Rutledge reinforced the senator’s call for the state to expand Medicaid in light of the pandemic, noting that doing so would extend healthcare coverage to more than 300,000 Alabamians and provide the state with “billions” in tax revenue.

Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sheryl Smedley reported that her office is continuing to search for additional funding for businesses, noting an upcoming grant opportunity for women entrepreneurs that begins May 1, as well as other opportunities for volunteer firefighters, restaurant workers and others.