Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Decatur Daily and The TimesDaily on the coronavirus pandemic:
There is no longer any doubt: Alabama, the United States and pretty much the entire world are now in the middle of the second wave of COVID-19, just as health experts feared.
The decline and stabilization in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations that Alabama saw after Gov. Kay Ivey instituted the statewide mask mandate in early July is over. Trends are bad and getting worse, even with the mandate — although they’d almost certainly be worse still without it.
Contrary to one high-profile prediction, COVID is very much still with us.
“ALL THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA WANTS TO TALK ABOUT IS COVID, COVID, COVID,” President Donald Trump tweeted, in all caps, on Oct. 27. “ON NOVEMBER 4th, YOU WON’T BE HEARING SO MUCH ABOUT IT ANYMORE. WE ARE ROUNDING THE TURN!!!”
It’s Nov. 15, and the president continues to wage fruitless legal challenges to the election result while ignoring the crisis around him, even as his own staff members continue to come down with the disease.
Those who have been infected include Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Trump campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski and adviser David Bossie, whom Trump had just named to head up his team litigating the election. In addition, the Washington Post reports another eight staffers at the Republican National Committee are sick, and more than 130 Secret Service agents assigned to the White House and the president have tested positive.
Secret Service agents are famously tasked with taking a bullet, if necessary, for the president of the United States. They should not, however, have to sacrifice their health and possibly their lives due to the administration’s callous indifference.
At the other extreme, New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who seems forever trying to make up for his early and disastrous blunder of ordering his state’s nursing homes to take COVID patients, is now forbidding gatherings that exceed 10 people in private homes — a measure clearly aimed at the Thanksgiving holiday. How such a prohibition would be enforced without draconian law enforcement measures, however, remains unexplained.
Public policy has a major role to play in the nation’s COVID response. We still, eight months after the pandemic began in earnest in the U.S., are woefully deficient in testing and tracking, the two things, along with a cultural habit of masking up so as not to spread illnesses, that have helped keep a lid on COVID in much of Asia. On Thursday, as California became the second state, after Texas, to pass 1 million COVID cases, cars lined up for hours at drive-thru testing sites at Dodger Stadium and other locations in the state. Such lines discourage many people who need to be tested from doing so.
Yet more than policy, the main thing when it comes to containing COVID is individual behavior — simply taking the virus seriously.
There seems little doubt “COVID fatigue” is setting in. Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association, blames COVID fatigue in part for the rise in virus infections that is now straining state and local medical facilities.
That, combined with an increase in indoor public gatherings, particularly as high school sports move indoors, threatens to make things worse.
“Things were outside, but if you went to any of the (football) games you saw that people were not consistently and appropriately wearing masks, and even if there were guards at the gates … once people got inside, it became personal responsibility, and folks just didn’t follow through like they could have,” said Judy Smith, Alabama Department of Public Health administrator for the Northern District.
No one wants another lockdown, such as New York State is now undertaking. Indeed state officials have eased up on existing restrictions even as COVID cases rise, while keeping the mask mandate. But it takes personal responsibility — and fighting COVID fatigue — to make that workable.
The Dothan Eagle on Alabama's remaining coronavirus relief funds:
The State of Alabama has spent about half of the $1.7 billion in coronavirus relief funds it received earlier this year. The remainder must be used before the end of the year; otherwise, it goes back to the federal government.
State officials must not leave that money on the table.
There are myriad ways in which those funds can be put to use.
Thousands of Alabamians are still suffering from work reduction and job loss, and there’s scant hope that Congress will pass another stimulus anytime soon.
Alabama businesses have suffered from coronavirus pandemic-fueled revenue losses.
Hospitals and clinics are stressed from increased patient loads due to the virus.
There is a need for more personal protective equipment, testing supplies, laboratory capacity.
Many agencies across the state have written the governor’s office with suggestions, reminding Gov. Kay Ivey that Alabama is one of the poorest states in the country, with 800,000 residents living in poverty “before this pandemic devastated the economy.
“If Alabama had no needs made worse by the pandemic and the resulting recession, then we would say, ‘Yeah, return the money to the feds.’ But Alabama has very real, immediate needs. We still have people unemployed. We have some of the lowest unemployment benefits in the nation,” said Carol Gundlach, a policy analyst with Alabama Arise.
To her credit, Ivey is working to get the federal funds where they’re needed.
“Gov. Ivey remains focused on getting this money in the hands of those who need it,” said Ivey spokesperson Gina Maiola.
That’s welcome news. Failing to do so is unconscionable.
The Decatur Daily and The TimesDaily on recent comments made by U.S. Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville:
Normally, anyone who reaches the U.S. Senate has an aura of dignity. That’s because a distinguished bearing is essential just to start building support for a Senate campaign.
Americans expect their senators to behave like statesmen because they are one of 100 members in the most select club on Earth.
Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby and former Sen. Jeff Sessions always have projected a dignified image.
We had hoped Alabama Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville would similarly rise to that level after his overwhelming victory in Tuesday’s general election. Instead, Tuberville made social media posts Thursday that resembled his antics as a football coach rather than projecting the serious responsibilities of a U.S. senator.
Tuberville wrote that “the election results are out of control” to echo the claims of President Donald Trump without offering any evidence of election fraud or mistakes. He was only trying to encourage ignorance among voters.
“It’s like the whistle has blown, the game is over, and the players have gone home, but the referees are suddenly adding touchdowns to the other team’s side of the scoreboard,” Tuberville wrote. “I’d challenge that as a coach, and President Trump is right to challenge that as a candidate.”
There’s a major problem with Tuberville’s logic. The “whistle” blew to end in-person balloting at 7 p.m. on Election Day in Alabama. At that time the score was 0-0 in every race because no vote totals had been released.
All of Tuberville’s impressive total of 1,375,796 votes as of Friday were accumulated after 7 p.m. Election Day. And Tuberville will add to his vote total this week when provisional ballots are tabulated well after the “whistle has blown.”
Anyone who thinks vote counting ends on Election Day should consider this: Military ballots had to be postmarked by Election Day to qualify in Alabama, but they had up to an additional week to arrive and be counted.
Similarly, the votes that election officials are counting in other states were cast before deadlines.
Tuberville’s ill-informed comments on vote counting follow his appalling response to a question about the Voting Rights Act, landmark legislation that prohibited discriminatory voting practices.
“The thing about the Voting Rights Act is, you know, there’s a lot of different things you can look at it as. Who is it going to help? What direction do we need to go with it? ... We keep an eye on it. It’s run by our government,” Tuberville said, according to a recording of his comments.
As a coach, Tuberville’s actions may have inflamed rivals, but they could be seen as part of the spirit of fun. For instance when Auburn beat bitter rival Alabama for the fourth straight time in November 2005, Tuberville ran to the Tigers’ student section and held four fingers high into the air. A month later, when Auburn arrived in Orlando, Florida, for the Capital One Bowl, his wife handed him a long-sleeved T-shirt with “Fear the Thumb” scrawled across the front.
Alabama fans weren’t amused, but Auburn fans were.
That was football. A coach can act goofy to delight fans and get attention from recruits.
The U.S. Senate is a more important pursuit. As Tuberville prepares to become a senator, we need him to be serious and thoughtful in his actions.