Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:


June 8

The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer on an increase in COVID-19 cases in the state:

North Carolina’s COVID-19 numbers have taken a troubling turn recently. Infections hit new daily highs on three consecutive days last week, and those can’t be explained away by an increase in testing. The percentage of positive tests also rose to 10% over the weekend, and COVID-19 hospitalizations have jumped to their highest levels. For now, N.C. hospitals have capacity to handle the coronavirus caseload, but given some new strains on systems in other states, there’s reason for at least a little concern here.

It’s too early to draw firm conclusions about how Phases 1 and 2 of reopening have contributed to our COVID-19 regression, but common sense and the timing of the rise give strong reason to believe that our freedom to shop, dine and congregate has contributed. What’s clear is that we’re moving in the wrong direction, and we’re still days and weeks away from learning whether packed George Floyd protests throughout the state might make things worse.

What can Gov. Roy Cooper do about it? Realistically, not much at the moment.

The governor certainly can continue to hold off on the parts of Phase 2 he paused last month - including reopening gyms and fitness centers - although he should address an inconsistency in his orders that allows breweries, but not bars, to safely seat customers outside. Republicans pounced on the discrepancy last week by passing a bill that would give bars that lifeline, but the bill also stripped Cooper of some power to issue future restrictions. The governor rightly issued a veto, but he said Monday he’s considering a “Phase 2.5” that opens more businesses. He also said, however: “I’d rather open schools than bars.”

What’s more certain right now is that governor won’t be issuing new restrictions on businesses or individuals. Cooper, like most governors, has used up his political capital with two months of stay-at-home limitations. Those restrictions did the job they were supposed to do - they changed behavior and flattened the curve, which helped avoid a hospital crunch and likely saved lives. But Cooper has faced growing resistance and some open defiance, not only from some Republican lawmakers looking for political gain, but also from businesses and individuals facing genuine financial distress. Closing businesses again is not a pragmatic option for Cooper unless a spike in infections threaten hospitals, as has begun to happen in a few states. “We want to avoid going backward,” Cooper said Monday.

The best the governor can do at this point is mitigation. Continue to build testing capacity and grow the roster of contract tracers far beyond the goal of 500. Be cautious about loosening restrictions on businesses and gatherings. Target geographic hotspots and precise outbreaks such as in long-term care facilities with action that includes mass testing and tracing to help contain spread. Encourage people to remain vigilant about their behavior.

It’s no mistake that the governor and Department of Health and Human Services secretary Mandy Cohen emphasized that behavior Monday at a COVID-19 briefing. The reality is that the burden of COVID-19 is not so much on governors now, but on a public that wants to make its own choices. And whether it’s for economic reasons or political leanings, Americans are more willing than in March to tolerate more risk and consequences. The result is that we’re flattening the curve in a different way; instead of the sharp downward slope we hoped for, we likely face a more sustained COVID-19 presence. Unless and until a vaccine comes to rescue us, we’re in for longer, harder ride together.

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June 6

The Fayetteville Observer on being kind during adverse times:

As a nation and as a community we have not faced this much uncertainty since immediately after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It can be unsettling to look two, three or four months into the future and not have a clear idea of where the country will be by then.

A deadly pandemic is still with us, though not nearly as much in the headlines. We are seeing unrest in our cities not seen since 1968, after Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day killed George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man. We are seeing double-digit unemployment and steadily hoping we can return much quicker than past downturns.

Many things remain completely out of our control. We are to be forgiven for feeling like we are on a roller coaster we cannot get off — an impossible coaster with too many sharp plunges and not enough rises.

But there is one thing we can control: How we treat each other.

We are speaking of right here in this community. We can choose to help our neighbor. We can choose to help someone who moments before had been a stranger to us.

We can choose to have a conversation with someone from a different background. Most importantly, we can listen.

We can choose to be #FayettevilleStrong and #CumberlandStrong. No catastrophe can take from us this personal, individual choice to help one other individual at a time — and then another individual, and then another one.


We have already seen this spirit of helping out. No one who has lived in this community for any amount of time is surprised. Remember that Fayetteville and Fort Bragg by definition have a higher-than-normal percentage of people who have made serving others their life’s work — namely serving their country.

One day after peaceful protests on behalf of Floyd turned into some of the worst riots the city has seen, more than 100 people were out in downtown the next day helping business owners board up their damaged properties. Lisette Rodriguez, a musician and Fayetteville native, was one of them. She was painting a “Fayetteville Strong” message on the boards of one Hay Street business. She said simply: “I just came here to help out.”

As with any period of adversity, we must take things day-by-day. Since that rough May 30, several other protests have taken place, peacefully and, unlike in some cities elsewhere, have concluded before a city-imposed curfew.

At a Monday protest, two individuals, protester Josh Wiley and Fayetteville Police Officer Benny Zacharias, were responsible for organizing an act of mutual respect that lowered the tension. The men knew each other and were texting back-and-forth — in other words, communicating. Both officers and protesters winded up kneeling in solidarity on Murchison Road.

Wiley and Zacharias were just two individuals — but look at the difference they made. Two days later Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins, who has said Floyd’s killing has upset her whole department, was marching along with the protesters.

This does not mean the justified anger over Floyd is over. It does not mean we won’t have more protests; we will. We cannot even guarantee that there will not be a return to bad behavior by some opportunists and criminals using the protests as cover. But the point is that the actions of good, well-intentioned individuals can make a difference and outweigh the bad.

We must all try to see remember to see people as individuals. Many unarmed black men would be alive today if they had been granted that benefit of the doubt, including Floyd, who was to be memorialized on Saturday in Hoke County.

We can make a choice to see people as individuals — it is entirely within our power. When we see people as individuals, we begin to easily discern our similarities. We can easily see we are all in this together. It makes us want to help, to do our part.


Again, we already see this at work as we join together to fight the coronavirus. Whether it’s NFL player Oli Udoh delivering 500 lunches to staff at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center; or the big response when the Second Harvest Food Bank held a food drive; or when Fayetteville Technical Community College delivered thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment to the hospital and to the N.C. State Veterans Home; or Cumberland County Schools continuing to offer meals to any child who wants one.

“We can’t do anything about yesterday,” Mark Whitsett said during his prayer for unity at a drive-in service last Sunday at Pleasant Grove Church of Christ. “We can’t change anything about yesterday. But we can change going forward.”

That’s right.

We can stand together or fall apart.

We are confident that the vast majority of folks here will chose the former option.





June 4

The Winston-Salem Journal on Democratic state Sen. Erica Smith accusing three other Democratic state senators of verbally abusing her:

A complaint made against three Democratic state senators — including Sen. Paul Lowe of Winston-Salem — has generated bad publicity, to say the least, especially since the person who filed the complaint is one of their colleagues, Democratic state Sen. Erica Smith. The allegations, though dismissed, mar the reputation of the legislature and could interfere with its workings as well. We hope every legislator will learn from this episode.

Smith says that she’s “endured being repeatedly yelled at, cursed out, bullied and badgered by both Republican and Democratic members of the NCGA since 2015.” It all seemed to culminate in an argument with Lowe in 2019 that got so heated, Sen. Sam Searcy, D-Wake, had to intervene.

“Senator Lowe initiated the argument by making a statement directed towards Senator Smith. Senator Smith did not like the comment made and responded to Senator Lowe. A hostile, verbal back (and) forth between the two senators ensued,” Searcy’s statement said. He said he feared the possibility of a physical assault.

“I have witnessed Senator Lowe use profane and hostile language to Senator Smith and others before,” he said.

That incident led to a police report in which the investigating officer concluded that while no physical contact took place, “a simple assault did occur” because “a reasonable person may have believed that an assault was about to take place.”

But that wasn’t the end of it. Smith filed a formal complaint with the legislative Ethics Committee in April, claiming that she’d been subject to abusive behavior and sexual harassment from Lowe and other legislators at the General Assembly.

She also claimed abuse from Toby Fitch, D-Wilson, Sens. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, and Mike Woodall, D-Durham. She also accused Tillman of bullying.

She quoted some filthy language allegedly aimed at her.

Fitch, Lowe and Worrell, members of the Ethics Committee, recused themselves from the committee’s investigation. The claims were dismissed on May 21. But that doesn’t mean that nothing happened.

For his part, Lowe said in a statement last week that he and Smith “routinely engaged in vigorous debate in the representation of our districts and the citizens of North Carolina. ... I wholeheartedly apologize if she felt disrespected or unsafe during those debates.

“I have always had and continue to have the utmost respect for Senator Erica Smith and all of the members of the General Assembly.”

That’s a step in the right direction — especially if Lowe is sincere.

Smith is in her third and final term as a senator representing Beaufort, Bertie, Martin, Northampton, Vance and Warren counties. During an online forum on Wednesday, she said she was considering filing a criminal complaint against Lowe and Fitch.

If found guilty, they deserve to be punished.

We know that in the rough-and-tumble of politics, nobody expects legislators to be choirboys, even those who, like both Lowe and Smith, are ministers. But even in politics, even in the 2000s, there are standards of decency and civility that should to be practiced by every grown-up on the legislative floor. This inability to get along harms the already questionable reputation of the state legislature and leaves a bad taste in everybody’s mouth.

We encourage Lowe and everyone else involved to learn to take a deep breath and count to 10.