Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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March 7

The Decatur Daily on Gov. Kay Ivey extending the mask mandate:

Gov. Kay Ivey did the right thing in extending the state’s mandatory mask order for another five weeks. It could not have been an easy decision.

Some, including the lieutenant governor, have been against the order from the outset, and the pressure on Ivey to let the order expire this past Friday was considerable.

“I urge Gov. Kay Ivey to immediately lift the statewide mask mandate and allow citizens and local officials the liberty to make the decisions that best fit their circumstances,” Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth said in the statement last week. “Since its implementation last July, I have held the position that a statewide mask mandate is an overstep that infringes upon the property rights of business owners and the ability of individuals to make their own health decisions.”

Of course, we infringe on the property rights of business owners all the time in other contexts. For example, businesses must comply with fire codes, including having a minimum number of exits. And what the mask mandate has done is give businesses cover: They can always blame the government if their customers complain about the mask order.

It’s all well and good to talk about individual responsibility, but we are dealing with a highly infectious disease that has killed more than 10,000 Alabamians to date, and clearly there is a persistent minority that will resist wearing masks in public even with the order in place.

They will do so even if business owners insist. The people who take individual responsibility are at the mercy of those who don’t. And the people who shout loudest about their rights have the least regard for the rights of others.

What does more than 10,000 deaths look like? Imagine the cities of Russellville or Tuscumbia or Arab or Guntersville simply vanishing over the course of a year, and then some.

Ivey’s decision to keep the mask order through Easter is not only wise, it is brave. She listened to the hospital officials and medical experts who pleaded with her to keep the mandate in place, even as she lifted some other restrictions on businesses and gatherings that have probably run their course. It couldn’t have been an easy decision, especially with the governors of Texas and Mississippi proudly announcing the end to their mask orders.

It goes without saying that the leaders of Texas and Mississippi have not exactly distinguished themselves lately in the realm of crisis management.

The good news is we are making progress, especially as more Alabamians are vaccinated against COVID-19. The bad news is that even with the decline in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths, we are still above the levels that made the mask mandate necessary in the first place.

As the state reopens in other ways, wearing a mask in public when unable to maintain social distancing is a small sacrifice. It’s just one more piece of fabric on top of the ones we already have to wear, lest we get arrested for indecent exposure.

“The bottom line is we have kept the mask mandate in place for more than a generous period of time because it has helped,” Ivey said Thursday during the news conference where she announced that she was extending the mandate.

Ivey says this will be the last extension. It is now up to the state to get vaccines to as many people as possible.

Alabama’s vaccine rollout has been among the worst in the nation, but now officials must rise to the challenge and make sure that when the current mask order expires, enough people have been vaccinated for public safety not to be compromised.

Online: https://www.decaturdaily.com/

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March 6

The Dothan Eagle on a bill that would allow the state health officer position to be filled by political appointment:

In the future, when history looks back upon the era of COVID-19’s ravaging of America, the cold light of objectivity will likely reveal that our inability to separate health policy from the entanglements of rancorous political divisions contributed to the struggle to adequately address the spread of the coronavirus.

The United States is home to some of the world’s brightest minds, many of which are applied in the fields of medicine and public health. The American public puts its welfare in the hands of these physicians and scientists whose only goals should be ensuring the health and well-being of the public by identifying, preventing, treating, and, ultimately, eradicating disease.

Inserting politics in such an initiative invites problems.

We’ve seen different factions at play. Some would have everything shut down, restricting people to their homes in an effort to arrest the spread of coronavirus. To do so would decimate the economy; already many small businesses have been crippled or shuttered by the drastic fall-off in business.

Others refuse to acknowledge the existence of the threat. They refuse to follow social distancing protocols or wear face masks, and many claim the whole crisis is a hoax.

There will always be naysayers. There are still those who believe AIDS is simply divine retribution for sinful lifestyles, and people who believe the astronauts on the moon was a ruse played out on a hidden soundstage somewhere.

However, common sense should dictate that every challenge is met by the best qualified minds available. That logic seems lost on Alabama lawmakers.

Last week, the state Senate Health Committee advanced a bill that would eliminate a practice of having a state public health committee select the state health officer. Instead, the bill would have the position filled by political appointment.

That’s a terrible idea. And to their credit, two lawmakers on the committee, physicians by profession, raise objections.

Bill sponsor Sen. Jim McClendon argued that the state health officer is selected by “a private club,” and that the officer has no accountability to the executive or legislative branches.

Public health decisions should not be influenced by politics. McClendon’s bill should be soundly defeated or, better yet, left to die from inaction.

Online: https://dothaneagle.com/

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March 3

The Cullman Times on legalizing marijuana:

Last week, the Alabama Senate passed a bill legalizing limited medical use of marijuana. It’s not the first time the Senate has done so. Twice now, Senators have given their approval to a medical marijuana bill, and twice it’s died in the House. It’s time for the House to pass the bill.

SB46 bill, informally titled the “Compassion Act,” would “provide civil and criminal protections to certain patients with a qualifying medical condition who have a valid medical cannabis card for the medical use of cannabis.” The bill also calls for the creation of a new state medical cannabis commission to oversee policy concerning the new cards, the creation of a patient registry, and the licensing and regulation of private businesses involved in the medical cannabis supply chain in Alabama.

The bill also describes which marijuana-derived consumables would be protected under the law, as well as those that wouldn’t. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence), describes “medical cannabis” as “a medical grade product in the form of…(o)ral tablet, capsule, or tincture,” “(n)on-sugarcoated gelatinous cube, gelatinous rectangular cuboid, or lozenge in a cube or rectangular cuboid shape,” “(g)el, oil, cream, or other topical preparation,” as well as “Suppository,” “Transdermal patch,” “Nebulizer.,” and “Liquid or oil for administration using an inhaler.”

This is not your “gateway drug” demonized in the war on drugs.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the use of marijuana for two rare, severe forms of epilepsy. But researchers are also examining its effectiveness in treating nausea, pain, inflammation, cancer, seizures, eating disorders, anxiety and other mental health conditions.

Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) was among the senators who recognize the impact medical marijuana could have on patients. “If you had been in our committee meetings, and seen the transformation these medications can bring about in little boys and girls as well as adults — people who were having seizures and were dramatically helped after receiving it — it’s really eye-opening,” he said.

The bill is a long way away from legalizing pot for recreational use, as opponents fear. Even among those who get a prescription for medical marijuana, smoking the plant would still be illegal.

For the sake of patients who can be helped by this drug, it’s time House members opened their eyes to how medical marijuana may help them. When it comes to SB46, we say: Pass it.

Online: https://www.cullmantimes.com/