Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Post and Courier on the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations in the U.K.:
Tuesday’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations in Britain and the anticipated regulatory clearance for a vaccine in the United States as early as Thursday are welcome signs that our lives eventually will return to pre-pandemic form.
The rapid development process for the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is a triumph of modern science.
The vaccine comes as the resurgent virus sets off new daily alarms across the globe. In the United States, states have begun rolling back their reopening plans and reinstituting stricter measures in response to soaring infection numbers. In South Carolina, the number of confirmed cases began rising sharply on Friday and has continued at a record pace. The state has recorded more than 220,000 cases and 4,200 deaths.
An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 vaccinations are expected to arrive this month in South Carolina — a state with a population of more than 5 million — and the first limited shipment could get here as early as next week, The Post and Courier’s Mary Katherine Wildeman reports. Front-line health care workers and the staffs and residents of nursing facilities rightly will be at the head of the line for the vaccinations, which require two shots.
The imminent arrival of a vaccine is promising in a country that has been put through a stress test in myriad areas — public health, the economy, politics, our daily lives. The worst pandemic in a century also has revealed weaknesses in the nation’s approach to dealing with pandemics.
China was slow to release information about the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, slowing the response in other nations and endangering people throughout our interconnected world.
Here at home, both President Donald Trump and the federal agencies responsible for protecting the health of Americans, agencies that have prided themselves on setting the international standard for professionalism and effectiveness, have faced criticism for their handling of the pandemic, particularly in its earliest days. Congress also has earned the ire of Americans for its performance in an effort that was politicized from the start.
The legislative, administrative and commonsense flaws in the response to COVID-19 deserve our full attention. We must be better prepared to launch a robust effort against the next deadly virus.
One major success by the Trump administration has been Operation Warp Speed, which encouraged pharmaceutical companies to spend the huge sums necessary to develop a vaccine quickly by providing a financial backstop in the form of early orders of huge quantities of the leading candidates. The effort to cut red tape and speed development has been mostly successful.
This is a milestone week in the global effort against COVID-19, but we still have a long way to go, so remain vigilant. Wear your mask, keep your distance from other people, and wash your hands compulsively. These simple precautions will give us a better chance to enjoy the holidays together next year and get our economy back on track.
The Post and Courier on the need for South Carolina to address problems that sparked a deadly prison riot:
We can never look the other way when violence leads to deaths, even if the people killed also committed serious crimes. So we welcome news last week that 29 inmates were charged in the 2018 prison riot that left seven inmates dead and injured 22.
It’s taken a long time to get to this point after officials lost control and the Lee Correctional Institution erupted in nearly eight hours of violence; we hope S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson has put together solid cases and that convictions or plea agreements will follow quickly.
But holding the guilty accountable is only part of the necessary response to the nation’s most deadly prison riot in nearly a quarter century. The bigger, more important task is addressing the problems that allowed a deadly gang fight to spread through a state prison, so another riot doesn’t result in the deaths of more prisoners or, worse, correctional officers or members of the public.
A Post and Courier investigation found that the riot was sparked when one inmate was able to stab another to death; that gang members were able to kill the killer; that the retaliation escalated and spread to other dorms due to a lack of correctional officers to enforce even basic security; that gangs were allowed to operate with virtual impunity; that a mass transfer of dangerous rival gang members into the prison occurred just months before the violence; and that cell door locks didn’t work.
State officials continued last week to blame illegal cellphones. Although we agree that the Congress should allow states to scramble phone signals on prison property, that doesn’t come near explaining what happened at Lee: All the illegal cellphones in the world couldn’t have allowed a prisoner to walk into a cell and stab another inmate if the cell door had been locked and if the killer hadn’t had the run of the place. They wouldn’t have allowed gang members to spread the word to escalate the violence if gang activity were in check.
The Corrections Department has replaced upper management at Lee, presumably as a result of bad decisions that contributed to the riot, and the department improved a prisoner classification system that resulted in too many nonviolent inmates being housed with violent inmates. Those are positive steps.
The department also has purchased new security equipment, including a new locking system in a dorm where inmates used force to overpower the doors. Good too, but it still needs security upgrades throughout the system. It still needs more corrections officers to guard the prisoners, which we won’t have until the Legislature provides funding for more positions, and better pay for to attract and keep people on the job. On top of guards, the department still needs more people to provide rehabilitation programs, both to reduce behavior problems while inmates are in prison and to help them get jobs and lead productive lives once they are released, as the vast majority of prisoners eventually will be. And all of that costs money.
Legislators had hoped to provide additional funding this year until COVID-19 drove us into a recession.
But even the funding that Gov. Henry McMaster had asked for and that legislative leaders had hoped to provide won’t be enough to do the job.
Our prisons struggled with inadequate staff, inadequate equipment and inadequate rehabilitation programs long before the Lee prison riot.
It’s understandable that the Legislature would rather spend money on schools and roads and tax cuts than on prisons. We would, too. But the fact is that when we lock people behind bars, we have a responsibility to ensure their safety and the safety of those who work around them. That means we have to either spend significantly more on our prison system or else lock significantly fewer people behind bars.
Despite major changes to our sentencing laws in recent years, our state still sends too many nonviolent offenders to prison because the Legislature hasn’t approved sufficient alternative punishments. We don’t need to punish ourselves by taking on the responsibility for housing, clothing, feeding, providing medical care for and ensuring the safety of most nonviolent criminals. But when we do take on that responsibility, we have to meet it.
The Times and Democrat on remembering the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941:
Today’s anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor comes as many Americans of subsequent generations are more familiar with another surprise attack.
It’s been more than 19 years since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Many are the parallels between the events of that Day of Infamy 79 years ago and the modern-day infamy of Sept. 11, 2001. Most notable is the unity sparked in a nation under attack.
When Japanese forces attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, 2,390 Americans died.
The attacks of Sept. 11 in Washington and New York took twice the number of lives. The attacks took generations unaccustomed to war and opened the eyes of a nation. Our president, like Franklin Roosevelt in 1941, promised a war to save our way of life. President George W. Bush said it would be a long, protracted war against terrorism. He was right.
With U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, some doubt American resolve and unity. The wars sparked divisions, but remember, we are Americans, a people committed to preserving freedom and our way of life in the face of enemies that would destroy both.
Looking at photographs and film of Sept. 11 should be enough to convince doubters of American resolve.
And remembering the sacrifices of those who gave their lives on the Day of Infamy on Dec. 7, 1941, and in the years of war that followed is another reason for Americans to say a collective “thank you” to those who served then and those who serve now.