The COVID-19 pandemic caused deaths to outpace births in Alabama for the first time in history

A COVID-19 patient's feet are visible in an Alabama ICU bed where they are being treated by two medics in masks, in December 2020.
Nurse Jesse Phelps, left, works on a COVID-19 patient as a family member looks on at East Alabama Medical Center in the intensive care unit Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in Opelika, Ala.

  • The death rate in Alabama surpassed the birth rate for the first time last year, the state’s top doctor said.
  • The state recorded its highest death toll of all time, according to records dating back to 1900.
  • A study conducted at the University of New Hampshire found 50 US states last year recorded more deaths than births compared to just five states the year prior.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The death rate in Alabama in 2020 was the highest ever recorded and for the first time surpassed the state’s birth rate, the state’s top doctor said, citing data dating back to 1900.

“This past year, for Alabama, the year 2020… we are going to have more deaths in the state of Alabama than we have ever had in the history of the state of Alabama, by a lot,” Alabama Health Director Scott Harris told AL.com.

Harris said Friday preliminary numbers showed Alabama had 64,714 deaths in 2020 compared to 57,641 births.

About 375,000 people in the US died last year due to COVID-19, according to preliminary data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in April. COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the US in 2020, behind heart disease and cancer, according to the data.

“We’re going to have around six or seven thousand more people who died in our state this past year than any year we have ever had, going back to the year 1900. That’s how far I’ve asked our staff to go back,” he added.

He said the additional deaths were due to the pandemic, with about 6,000 to 7,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the state last year, which match the additional deaths recorded in the state, per AL.com

A study conducted at the University of New Hampshire found that 50 US states last year recorded more deaths than births compared to just five states the year prior. The birth rate in the US shrunk last year for the sixth year in a row, according to CDC data.

“Our state literally shrunk this year for the first time in history, even going back to World War II, when people were serving overseas; going back to the Spanish Flu epidemic, when we had the flu in our state; going back to World War I. We’ve never seen that happen before in the state of Alabama until COVID this past year,” Harris said, according to AL.com.

According to the University of New Hampshire study, the “surplus of births over deaths added just 229,000 to the population” in the US last year, a 74% decline from 2019 data.

According to data released by the National Vital Statistics System in June this year, the birth rate in the US in December 2020 was 8% lower than in December 2019. The number of births declined each month last year compared to the same months in 2019, according to the data, with the largest declines occurring in the second half of the year.

According to CDC data, around 1.9 million – about 41% – people in Alabama have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. About 55% of the total US population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the CDC.

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Some companies in Florida and Alabama are still struggling to find staff months after the states cut enhanced COVID-19 unemployment benefits

A help wanted sign that reads "Now Hiring!" in the window of the PetSmart location along 5th Street Highway in Muhlenberg Twp. Thursday morning August 26, 2021.
Enhanced jobless benefits have been cut nationwide as of Monday.

  • Some companies are struggling to hire staff months after their states cut enhanced jobless benefits.
  • One Florida restaurant said it hired high school students and got staff to work more overtime.
  • Workers say they want higher pay, better benefits, and a different work environment.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Some companies in states that cut enhanced unemployment benefits months ago say they’re still struggling to find workers.

The Ledger reported that some companies in Polk County, central Florida, were struggling to find enough workers more than two months after the state cut the extra benefits. Insider has reported on a similar situation in Alabama, which cut enhanced benefits in mid-June.

The enhanced federal unemployment benefits, which were introduced in March last year at the outset of the pandemic, expire across the US on Monday. The added benefits include a $300 weekly supplemental payment to unemployed individuals through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program (FPUC).

Some states have already cut the enhanced benefits. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis cancelled FPUC on June 26, prompting a lawsuit from residents who said that without the benefits they couldn’t afford housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and childcare.

Some business owners hope that cutting the enhanced benefits will mark the beginning of the end for a crippling labor shortage that has caused companies to slash opening hours, limit operations, and raise prices.

It’s too early to see what impact the end of supplemental benefits has had on Florida’s employment rate, but business leaders and owners told The Ledger that the labor shortage continued to hurt them.

“Anywhere you go out into the community, you see help wanted signs and you see businesses doing all types of strategies to encourage people to apply and interview,” Cory Skeates, CEO of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, told the publication.

Ray Sykes, who owns the Italian restaurant Arabellas in Winter Haven, told The Ledger he was still struggling to find staff as more and more people want to dine out. Now the restaurant has cut the number of reservations it takes on weekends and service is slower, Sykes said. He said he had to hire workers still at high school who have little to no experience. Current staff are working overtime, and managers are having to work six days a week, he said.

In late August, at least three Chick-fil-A restaurants in Alabama closed their dining rooms because they didn’t have enough employees to keep them open, and two more started shutting early “due to extremely short staffing.” Some applicants didn’t show up to interviews, or accepted roles “only to resign within their first couple weeks,” one of the restaurants said.

Peter Ricci, head of Florida Atlantic University’s hospitality and tourism management program, previously told Insider that blaming the tight labor market on supplemental unemployment benefits was a short-term view.

He said that it actually stemmed from issues “that have been laying low for years.” Workers say that low pay, bad benefits, and a lack of flexible hours are causing them to quit their jobs in droves. One former bartender told Insider he pivoted to a career in tech so he could work more sociable hours and spend more time with his wife.

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Alabama football coach Nick Saban says Nancy Pelosi ‘probably has a more important job than me’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripping apart Trump's state of the union speech and University of Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban  standing under confetti (right).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and University of Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban (right).

  • Top college football coach Nick Saban said age is not a problem for him.
  • In an interview with The New York Times, Saban compared himself to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
  • “I don’t think of age as an issue,” Saban said. “I mean, how old’s Nancy Pelosi?”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

With six national championships under his belt, University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban gaveled in on the question of age during a recent New York Times interview.

“You’ve won more championships than anyone,” Times reporter Alan Blinder asked Saban in the interview published on Monday. “You’ll turn 70 on Halloween. You’ve got grandkids. But you just signed a contract extension. Why are you still doing this?”

Saban, a terse tactician who normally goes out of his way to remain apolitical, went in an unexpected direction.

“I enjoy what I do. I like the challenge. I’m not a sit around, do-nothing kind of guy. I like to be involved in things, I like challenges … And I don’t want to stay here beyond my years and ride the program down. So as long as I feel like I can make a contribution in a positive way, to continue to have a great program for the players and that that’s helping them be successful and we have an opportunity to be successful because of that, I don’t think of age as an issue,” Saban said. “I mean, how old’s Nancy Pelosi?”

“She’s older,” the reporter said of the 81-year-old Democratic house speaker.

“Yeah. Way older,” Saban replied. “Older than me, and probably has a more important job than me.”

Pelosi is in charge of ensuring bills pass the House with enough of her members in line to make a floor vote a guarantee, and she also plays a role in recruiting new candidates.

Saban also dedicates time to recruitment, but that’s about where the overlap ends.

At $9.3 million per year, Saban is the highest-paid public employee in Alabama, while Pelosi earns $223,500 annually as third-in-line to the US presidency.

“Anyway,” Saban continued, “as long as I feel like I can make a positive contribution in a positive way and do good things for the people in this organization, mainly the players, I enjoy doing this.”

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Jen Psaki says it’s a ‘good thing’ Trump urged his fans to get vaccinated, and their boos mean ‘we still have more work to do’

jen psaki
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds the daily press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC, June 28, 2021.

  • Psaki said it’s a “good thing” that Trump urged his supporters to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Trump was booed by his supporters for recommending the vaccine at an Alabama rally on Saturday.
  • Psaki said the Biden administration “will take anyone who has a big platform” to urge vaccination.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it’s a “good thing” that former President Donald Trump urged his supporters to get a COVID-19 vaccine during a Saturday rally in Alabama, which has the lowest rate of fully vaccinated residents in the country.

“We will take anyone who has a big platform out there who wants to encourage people to get vaccinated … that’s a good thing,” Psaki told reporters at a Monday press briefing. “We understand that some of the people who are not yet vaccinated are not people who may have Biden-Harris stickers on their cars, and that’s okay.”

Trump’s was booed for praising the vaccines at his rally.

“I believe totally in your freedoms, I do, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. But I recommend that you take the vaccines,” Trump said, as the crowd began to boo. “But I recommend: take the vaccines. I did it. It’s good. Take the vaccines.”

Psaki said the boos from Trump’s supporters are simply evidence that the administration has “more work to do” to educate and persuade those skeptical about the vaccines.

“It’s just a recognition, as we are very clear-eyed about, that there are still people who are skeptical out there in the country,” Psaki said. “There are still people who, whether because of misinformation or a range of factors, are not yet getting vaccinated, even though it could save their lives. It means we still have more work to do and we are committed to doing exactly that.”

Trump’s messaging on the vaccine has been mixed. He and former first lady Melania Trump were secretly vaccinated at the White House in January, and he’s done very little to publicly promote the shots. He told Fox Business last week he thinks the booster shots approved by the FDA are a way for pharmaceutical companies to make money, suggesting without evidence that the shots are medically unnecessary. But he’s consistently taken credit for the development of the vaccines under his administration.

The former president held his “Save America” rally, which was attended by about 30,000 largely maskless fans, in Cullman after the city declared a state of emergency last Thursday because of it’s sharp spike in COVID-19 cases.

On Monday, the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those 16 and older – a milestone that Psaki said the administration is hopeful will encourage more Americans to get vaccinated.

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A grocery chain says it’s receiving just 40% of the items it orders from suppliers, and is making its own version of Lunchables because it can’t get hold of the real thing

A grocery store worker bends down to pick up food items to stock shelves.
Labor shortages and shipping delays have contributed to a supply shortage for many grocery stores during summer 2021.

  • Rouses Markets, a grocery chain, has struggled to stock its shelves in recent weeks, it told the WSJ.
  • CEO Donny Rouse said that it sometimes received just 40% of its orders from suppliers.
  • It has created its own version of the Lunchables snack because they have been hard to get, he said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The CEO of a Southern supermarket chain says he’s struggling to keep shelves full during a supply shortage, and that his company has resorted to creating its own version of Lunchables, Kraft Heinz’s miniature cracker, cheese, and meat selection.

Donny Rouse, who runs Rouses Markets, told The Wall Street Journal that sometimes the chain receives about 40% of the items it orders from suppliers, compared to more than 90% before the pandemic.

“It is difficult for customers to get everything they want to get,” Rouse told The Journal.

The chain – which has 65 stores across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama – has found new ways to plug gaps in its inventory. Jason Martinolich, Rouses’ vice president of center store, told The Journal that the chain had sourced items from different brands and bought more private-label products.

Rouse told The Journal that he and his team had visited rival grocery stores to see what they were selling, and asked manufacturers why his competitors were able to get products that his company could not. He did not say whether he’d received answers.

Read more: The surging Delta variant is tanking air freight capacity out of China, and it’s already a huge problem for holiday retail

The 7,000-employee supermarket chain has also struggled to get Lunchables – Kraft Heinz’s miniature cracker, cheese, and meat selection – and has instead started to create its own version of the popular snack with crackers, cheese, grapes, and meat, The Journal reported.

Kraft Heinz told The Journal there was record demand for Lunchables, that it was managing the supply chain, and that it was getting more products to customers.

Grocery stores have faced supply shortages in recent weeks, in part because of the labor shortage and high shipping costs.

Some retailers have stockpiled goods to keep their shelves full. Paul McLean, the chief merchandising officer of Stew Leonard’s, a Connecticut supermarket chain, previously told Insider that the company had purchased 50% more items than usual, including pasta and olive oil.

Some evidence suggests that shoppers are also stockpiling goods as the Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads throughout the country, as they did in the early days of the pandemic.

Rouses and Kraft Heinz did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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Anti-mask Rep. Barry Moore of Alabama tests positive for COVID-19

Alabama Rep. Barry Moore.
Alabama Rep. Barry Moore.

  • Rep. Barry Moore of Alabama tweeted Friday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • He wouldn’t tell a Daily Beast reporter whether he had been vaccinated or not.
  • Last month, Moore called Nancy Pelosi a “tyrant” for mandating masks in the House.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Rep. Barry Moore of Alabama, a Republican who has resisted mask and vaccine mandates, has tested positive for COVID-19.

Moore, 50, broke the news on Twitter on Friday, saying he and his wife tested positive for the virus.

He refused to say whether he had been vaccinated against the coronavirus when asked by a Daily Beast reporter on Saturday.

In his Twitter announcement, Moore said he believes “every American has the freedom to make their own health-related decisions” but said he encourages “talking with your doctor about the different vaccines and therapies available and making an informed decision about the prevention and treatment that is best for you.”

“Now is the time to act – don’t wait until you or someone you love is sick.”

Moore told The Daily Beast he’d experienced a fever, sore throat, and exhaustion. He was also upset that he had to miss former President Donald Trump’s rally in Cullman, Alabama, on Saturday.

The freshman Republican has been outspoken against mask and vaccination mandates.

After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reinstituted a mask mandate in the House last month over the spread of the Delta variant, Moore called her a “tyrant” in a Twitter video filmed inside the Capitol Building, while he wasn’t wearing a mask.

He has also been against the vaccine mandate for military members, calling it a “reckless” decision, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

Alabama is one of the least vaccinated states in the country, with just 35.2% of its population fully vaccinated, according to August 13 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state is in the midst of a serious surge of cases. Last week, a hospitals official said the state had run out of intensive care unit beds.

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Donald Trump heaps praise on ‘incredible’ Marjorie Taylor Greene at Alabama rally and calls her one of his ‘favorite people’

Former President Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene
Former President Donald Trump described Marjorie Taylor Greene as an “incredible woman.”

  • During a “Save America” rally in Alabama, Donald Trump repeatedly praised Marjorie Taylor Greene.
  • The former president referred to Greene as an “incredible” woman and one of his “favorite” people.
  • The controversial lawmaker had her committee roles stripped in February 2021 for making violent comments about Democrats.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

During a “Save America” rally in Cullman, Alabama, former President Donald Trump heaped praise on controversial Georgia lawmaker Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Trump called Greene one of his “favorite people” while speaking at the “potential superspreader” event on Saturday night, eliciting cheers from his crowd of supporters.

In a video shared by Vox reporter Aaron Rupar, the former president can also be heard describing the so-called QAnon Congresswoman as “so smart,” “brilliant,” and an “incredible” woman.

“She’s a brilliant woman, she’s doesn’t get credit for it,” he said. “But we all know about that stuff.”

Trump also referred to Greene, a supporter of the former president’s efforts to overturn his loss to President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, as a “warrior.”

“Everything I said about Georgia is true,” he continued.

Trump repeatedly claimed victory in Georgia following the 2020 presidential election, a false statement that belies President Joe Biden’s nearly 13,000-vote win there. He also tried to pressure Georgia officials to overturn the results, Insider previously reported.

Greene, a fiercely loyal ally to the former president, also promoted baseless conspiracy of voter fraud in her home state and called for the results of the presidential election in Georgia to be decertified.

The House of Representatives voted to remove Greene from all committee roles in February 2021 in response to violent and incendiary remarks made about prominent Democrats.

She has promoted numerous far-right conspiracy theories and controversial viewpoints, including QAnon, Pizzagate, and comparing COVID-19 safety protocols to the persecution of Jews under the Nazis.

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Donald Trump booed at Alabama rally after encouraging his supporters to get vaccinated against COVID-19, video shows

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the "Save America" rally in Cullman, Alabama
Former President Donald Trump addresses supporters during a “Save America” rally at York Family Farms on August 21, 2021 in Cullman, Alabama.

  • Former President Donald Trump told the crowd at an Alabama rally to “take the vaccines.”
  • This suggestion was met with boos from some of his supporters, a video shows.
  • Trump was vaccinated against COVID-19 in January 2021, but the US public didn’t learn about it until March.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Former President Donald Trump was booed by some of his supporters at a “Save America” rally in Cullman, Alabama, on Saturday night after he suggested that they get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I believe totally in your freedoms, I do, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” Trump said to the crowd. “But I recommend that you take the vaccines.”

The former president then told his supporters that the vaccines are “good” and once again encouraged them to get a shot.

This suggestion was met with boos, as can be heard in a video shared by Vox journalist Aaron Rupar.

“You’ve got your freedoms,” Trump responded to the jeers. “But I happened to take the vaccine.”

Once the booing died down, the former president joked that the crowd would be the “first to know” if the COVID-19 vaccines didn’t work.

Read more: Trump boasts that he ‘single-handedly’ selected Alabama as the new location for Space Command, frustrating Colorado politicians who previously criticized the relocation

Trump’s speech follows the news that his allies were trying to get him to run a pro-vaccination campaign, the Daily Beast reported.

According to the media outlet, Trump was initially reluctant and worried that promoting vaccines would be unpopular with his supporters and help President Joe Biden.

Trump has previously praised the vaccines, saying that they were “saving the world,” but has repeatedly said that people should be able to exercise their “freedoms,” Forbes reported.

The former president got vaccinated at the White House in January 2021, though the American public didn’t learn about it until March.

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Mo Brooks was booed by Trump rally attendees after he told them to move on from 2020 ‘election theft’

Former U.S. President Donald Trump (R) welcomes candidate for U.S. Senate and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) to the stage during a "Save America" rally at York Family Farms on August 21, 2021 in Cullman, Alabama.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump (R) welcomes candidate for U.S. Senate and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) to the stage during a “Save America” rally at York Family Farms on August 21, 2021 in Cullman, Alabama. With the number of coronavirus cases rising rapidly and no more ICU beds available in Alabama, the host city of Cullman declared a COVID-19-related state of emergency two days before the Trump rally. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, 67.5% of the state’s population has not been fully vaccinated.

  • Brooks introduced former President Donald Trump on Saturday at an Alabama rally.
  • Trump has endorsed Brooks’ 2022 campaign for a US Senate seat.
  • Brooks is campaigning for the seat of US Sen. Richard Shelby, who is retiring.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) was booed by attendees of the “Save America” rally on Saturday in Cullman, Alabama, during his introduction for former President Donald Trump.

“Now, our choices are very simple. There are some people who are despondent about the voter fraud and election theft in 2020. Folks, put that behind you. Put that behind you,” Brooks said.

As the crowd responded with boos and other shouts, he urged attendees to look forward to the upcoming midterm and general elections. When attendees continued to shout, Brooks threw his hands up and said, “Alright, well look back at it, but go forward and take advantage of it!”

Brooks, who currently represents Alabama’s 5th Congressional District, is running for a Senate seat in 2022 belonging to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who is retiring. Trump formally endorsed Brooks’ campaign on April 7.

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Trump holds potential superspreader rally in Cullman, Alabama, two days after the city declared a COVID-19 state of emergency

Thousands of supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump wait in line to attend a "Save America" rally at York Family Farms on August 21, 2021 in Cullman, Alabama.
Thousands of supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump wait in line to attend a “Save America” rally at York Family Farms on August 21, 2021 in Cullman, Alabama. With the number of coronavirus cases rising rapidly and no more ICU beds available in Alabama, the host city of Cullman declared a COVID-19-related state of emergency two days before the Trump rally. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, 67.5% of the state’s population has not been fully vaccinated.

A state of local emergency was declared on Thursday in Cullman, Alabama, as hospital and emergency room overcrowding, bed and labor shortages, and an ambulance crisis strained its health care system.

Two days later, former President Donald Trump held a “Save America” rally that drew thousands of maskless attendees to the city.

Supporters attend former U.S. President Donald Trump's "Save America" rally at York Family Farms on August 21, 2021 in Cullman, Alabama.
Supporters attend former U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Save America” rally at York Family Farms on August 21, 2021 in Cullman, Alabama. With the number of coronavirus cases rising rapidly and no more ICU beds available in Alabama, the host city of Cullman declared a COVID-19-related state of emergency two days before the Trump rally. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, 67.5% of the state’s population has not been fully vaccinated.

After being introduced by George C. Scott’s famous “Patton” speech and “God Bless the U.S.A,” Trump spoke to a crowd of thousands at York Family Farms about usual stump topics like Russia, immigration, the “radical left,” and COVID-19, which he continues to call the “China virus.”

Attendees, many of whom donned Trump memorabilia or red, white, and blue, chanted “USA!” and “We want Trump!”

Former U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up as he finishes addressing a "Save America" rally at York Family Farms on August 21, 2021 in Cullman, Alabama.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up as he finishes addressing a “Save America” rally at York Family Farms on August 21, 2021 in Cullman, Alabama.

Cases in Cullman County, which includes the city of Cullman, are extremely high, with a 218% increase in hospitalizations over the last two weeks, according to data from The New York Times.

Nesha Donaldson, chief operating officer of Cullman Regional Medical Center, asked the city to provide additional resources, such as EMT services, at the rally to reduce the potential further strain on the hospital.

An August 18 update from Cullman Regional said that it is currently treating 53 patients for COVID, 12 of whom are on ventilators.

Alabama Hospital Association President Donald Williamson said in an interview with WSFA 12 News on Tuesday that the state has run out of intensive care unit beds.

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