Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:
The Daily Independent on the coronavirus pandemic during the holidays:
One of the late Yogi Berra’s famous phrases rings true these days: “It’s like deja vu all over again.”
Aside from dropping temperatures, earlier sundown times and emerging Christmas decorations, November feels eerily similar to April and May, when COVID-19 cases weren’t as numerous but the virus was just as furious. It’s gained unprecedented momentum, calling for familiar measures.
Whether or not you agree with him, Gov. Andy Beshear has proven he’s not simply out to collect votes. He won’t shy away from making an unpopular decision, but he genuinely seems to base his actions upon how many lives might be saved.
In typical Beshear fashion, he appears to have begun unveiling another set of day-by-day steps the Commonwealth must take in order to combat the coronavirus.
Every restriction will be painful to absorb, to at least some degree. Restaurants and bars took the biggest blow last week. Indoor dining can’t happen in Kentucky from Nov. 21-Dec. 13. Other restrictions will undoubtedly be in place for other types of businesses, too. With that, employees will be laid off, and these businesses will lose money. The local economy will suffer, but, ideally, fewer people will be infected with the virus - and fewer will die.
The local economy isn’t necessarily destined to meet a demise.
We must band together as a community once again, just as we did in April and May, and support local businesses. If it’s not currently in your routine to do so, make it part of your daily habits. Think local, eat local (carry-out) and shop local (with a mask).
Everybody seems to want to get 2020 behind us, but what if we make the most of this situation and are knitted closer than ever before?
The State-Journal on Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order during the coronavirus surge:
Many will complain that Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order placing new restrictions on in-person gatherings, restaurants, schools and event venues in the midst of the holiday season is unfair. But we firmly believe the governor is taking the steps necessary to slow an overwhelming increase in coronavirus cases and deaths in nearly every corner of Kentucky.
“It’s time to get control of this beast and I refuse to stand by and watch avoidable loss around us,” the governor said during a media briefing shortly before announcing that a record number of Kentuckians - 33 - lost their fight against the virus.
According to the state’s incidence rate map, only eight of Kentucky’s 120 counties aren’t considered red zone (25-plus COVID-19 cases per 100,000) and four of those orange zone counties are averaging 20-plus cases and closing in on being designated in the red zone.
At this point doing nothing is not an option. Unpopular or not, the new restrictions started at 5 p.m. Nov. 20 and run through 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 13.
Indoor dining at restaurants and bars is prohibited. Businesses are encouraged to offer socially distanced outdoor seating, carryout and delivery.
Private social gatherings - including Thanksgiving dinner - are limited to eight people from a maximum of two households.
Gyms, pools and other indoor recreation centers are limited to 33% capacity. Masks must be worn while exercising, and group classes, practices and competitions are prohibited.
Theaters and event spaces, including indoor weddings and funerals, are limited to 25 people per room.
Office-based businesses are limited to 33% of employees, and those who can work from home are urged to do so. All businesses that can close to the public must do so.
All private and public K-12 schools in the state are to cease in-person instruction. Elementary schools may reopen for in-person instruction on Dec. 7 if their county is not in the red zone. Middle and high schools will continue virtual instruction until at least Jan. 4.
During Wednesday’s COVID-19 press briefing, Kentucky Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack, while holding back tears, said officials “ran out of easy choices and decisions a long time ago.”
House Democratic leaders Joni Jenkins, Angie Hatton and Rep. Derrick Graham, of Frankfort, were pleased with the governor’s restrictions.
“We are supportive and urge Kentuckians to comply so we can get our state back in business,” they said in a statement.
But some elected leaders, including 6th District U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, spoke out against Beshear’s actions, saying the restrictions “will have a devastating and irreversible impact on Kentucky small businesses and their employees.”
What we have been asked to do during the last eight months - limiting our contacts, practicing social distancing and wearing face masks in public - is not difficult or political. Instead of creating division, we expect our leaders to work together toward the common goal of crushing the coronavirus.
Bowling Green Daily News on how local schools should address the coronavirus spike in Kentucky:
The decision facing area school superintendents in coming weeks is unquestionably weighty: As coronavirus cases spike around the nation, district leaders must determine how instruction will occur in the spring 2021 semester.
Both Rob Clayton, who leads Warren County Public Schools, and Gary Fields, his counterpart at the Bowling Green Independent School District, have said in recent days that they are targeting announcements in the first week of December. Numerous variables could influence that timing, but for now, both superintendents intend to give parents and students as much advance notice as possible about how the semester will begin.
We recognize the rising concern among local, state and national health officials about the COVID-19 pandemic that appears to be escalating to alarming levels. But we also heed the advice of educators and mental health experts who are nearly uniform in noting that many students are harmed socially and academically by a lack of in-person instruction. Not only that, but a recent study by the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, as described in a report in the Daily News, offers a new round of data illustrating the burdens that remote instruction places on many working families, such as difficulty scheduling child care and accessing reliable internet service.
The choices to be made by superintendents aren’t easy. District leaders are, of course, committed to protecting the health and safety of their students and employees. But educators also know that the most effective instruction occurs when teachers and pupils are together. That’s why we sincerely hope the circumstances of the pandemic will allow as many districts as possible to continue offering some form of in-person classroom time to as many students and families who want it.
There is reason to be optimistic this can and will happen. Even though virus cases are growing, there is little evidence that schools are significantly contributing to the problem. Locally, adherence to safety precautions such as masks, social distancing, hand washing and quarantining seems much more prevalent inside the school environment than among the population at large. Cases among school communities are predominantly traced to non-school exposures, rather than “in-house” transmissions.
That’s why – barring the onset of unforeseen circumstances beyond the superintendents’ control – we believe our local districts have earned the right to stay the courses they have charted to date. Since schools have been successful in limiting transmission within their walls, we see no reason to punish students and educators for situations unfolding outside those walls.
Of course, the calculus changes if and when it becomes clear that in-person school activity is responsible for increased spread of the virus, or when the overall COVID scenario reaches a point where it becomes impossible for educators to perform their duties adequately. Should either possibility become reality, we’re confident that district officials will make the appropriate calls.
But for now, we believe the appropriate path forward is to continue trusting school officials to do everything in their power to make classrooms and school buildings as safe as possible.
Some virus cases among staff and students are inevitable, but until it is definitively shown that the school environment itself is actively worsening the spread, we believe it is in any community’s best interest to maintain in-person teaching options for those who wish to use them.
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