Janesville Gazette, Janesville, Oct. 9

No presidential endorsement this time

The Gazette Editorial Board is not endorsing in the presidential election.

There’s nothing new we could say about Donald Trump or Joe Biden that hasn’t been said, no points we could illuminate that haven’t already been under blazing scrutiny, no fresh information we’ve gathered to enlighten our readers.

That’s different from the local elections we’ve written about.

For all the other races and referendums about which we’ve written endorsements this election season, The Gazette Editorial Board, which represents a cross section of the company, first interviewed the candidates for 30 minutes, asked them the same questions and debated their responses before deciding on a position.

We can’t bring that to the presidential race. We didn’t meet with the candidates. We don’t have fresh information about either of the candidates that would let us provide context for an endorsement.

It’s not the first time The Gazette hasn’t endorsed in the presidential election. The first time was in 2016, when we could stomach neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton.

On Nov. 5, 2016, we wrote, in part: “The Gazette Editorial Board shares the tortured feelings of many voters about the two candidates, but we tried, in the name of longstanding tradition, to get behind one of them.

“We ventured into this electoral morass in search of a path to an endorsement.

“We never found it.

“These two candidates are worse than a disappointment. They are an embarrassment to this nation, and we can only imagine how people around the world are shaking their heads that one of these two will end up leading America.”

And now, four years later, the political teapot is not just boiling, it has boiled dry and is beginning to melt. The country is polarized like never before.

Families are divided. Neighbors are opposed.

There’s no more talking about this race. There’s only screaming.

Part of the role of the Opinion Page is to encourage conversation, but we don’t want to add to unhealthy conflict playing out across the nation.

Will we endorse in a presidential election in the future? Perhaps. Maybe someday we’ll have a local candidate running for president.

This time, though, all we can do is encourage people to vote. Just about everybody has made up their minds, so exercise your duty as American citizens and cast your ballots.

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Journal Times, Racine, Oct. 11

Planning should start now for virus vaccine

Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave said recently the county is “sharpening our pencils” for some advance planning on how to disseminate COVID-19 vaccinations once they become available.

That date is still up in the air with testing still being done and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimating it may come in January, but it’s good that local officials are starting to plan now.

By Delagrave’s early estimate, Racine County will need 60,000 vaccinations and will require 20 to 30 people to safely and effectively administer them over a period of 7 to 10 days.

Our first blush reaction to that number — 60,000 vaccines — was that it would not be nearly enough since Racine County has a population approaching 200,000 residents.

But a combination of vaccines and exposure from those who have already contracted COVID-19 might reach the level of herd immunity that is required to blunt the disease that has ravaged the country with more than 211,000 deaths, according to health officials.

Here in Racine County, the death toll stood at 99 deaths as of Friday; in Wisconsin, which has seen a recent surge in cases, deaths totaled 1,440 and the number of current hospitalizations was 894.

So Delagrave is right — now is the time to do the planning for the hoped-for vaccine that could put an end to this scourge.

A good place to start is to look at the statistics and see who has been most severely impacted by the coronavirus — and that seems to indicate that elderly people should be first in line for those vaccinations when they become available.

Looking at state Department of Health Services numbers, 1,252 of the state’s 1,440 deaths, more than 85 percent, have been among Badger State residents over the age of 60.

And when we look at the number of hospitalizations, we see an echo of that, with the vast majority coming among state residents over the age of 50.

That doesn’t mean young people don’t contract COVID. In fact, according to DHS statistics, the largest age group which has contracted the coronavirus is ages 20-29, with 24 percent of the cases. That’s followed closely by those ages 30-39 with 15 percent of total cases. Those ages 10-19 account for 12 percent of confirmed cases and those under age 10 account for just 3 percent.

Those numbers tell us that younger people are more resilient in dealing with the COVID impact when they contract it, and that the elderly suffer more severe consequences in terms of requiring hospitalizations and facing the risk of death.

Those trends need to be part of the equation when Delagrave sorts out the tough question of who gets those first vaccinations. Nursing homes and other elder-care facilities should be high on the list.

We don’t know if there will be a run on a COVID-19 vaccine when it finally is developed — and we suspect there may those who are leery of getting the first round of shots or doses until they have been proven effective, without any side effects.

Other institutions, such as schools and businesses, should also be looking down the road and doing some planning on how they will handle the advent of vaccines. Will schools require them for all students as they do now with other infectious diseases? Will businesses intent on protecting their workplaces and forestalling any shutdowns require employees to get vaccinated as a condition of employment?

Those are contentious questions and ones that should be addressed — by school boards, businesses and other institutions — now in open discussion and debate while we have the “luxury” of time since a COVID-19 vaccine is not yet ready for market.

We need to be ready for it and do it without a last-minute furor.

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Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Oct. 6

A double whammy for the homeless

The pandemic has only exacerbated homelessness across Wisconsin. More people are living in tent encampments in Madison, Milwaukee, Wausau, Green Bay and La Crosse, according to the Wisconsin Coalition Against Homelessness.

“That’s a hard thing to quantify,” said Joe Volk, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group. “But clearly it’s there.”

Shelters can’t accept as many people because of social distancing rules. Churches can’t line the floors of their basements with mattresses anymore. And with winter approaching, advocates for the homeless fear people in need — including single mothers with children — may be forced to risk exposure to the novel coronavirus to stay warm.

The dilemma demands more attention and action as World Homeless Day was marked earlier this month. Please help if you can. Donate to a local shelter or the WCAH. Tell public officials — those who want your vote this fall — to prioritize desperate people with nowhere to go. Praising the good work done so far is important, too.

Gov. Tony Evers has steered $30 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to emergency rent assistance for lower-income people. That’s kept evictions fairly stable, Volk said, despite higher unemployment. President Donald Trump’s executive order halting many evictions through the end of the year also has helped, though some Wisconsin counties are being more strict about the rule than others. A potential eviction must be related to the novel virus for the moratorium to apply. Congress and the White House should compromise on another relief bill as efforts to develop a vaccine continue.

The pandemic has exposed the folly of the state Senate failing to act on a $7.5 million package of bipartisan homeless bills earlier this year. The Republican-run Assembly wisely and overwhelming approved eight bills, which included short-term housing grants, help finding apartments and assistance for landlords to repair low-cost units. But the GOP-led Senate stubbornly ignored all but one proposal, which expanded some shelter beds.

“In hindsight,” Volk said, “that was foolish when you look at where we are now with the economic pain being felt around the state.”

He’s right.

Yet helping tens of thousands of homeless people across Wisconsin requires more than money. It demands all of us to recognize and support the dire need for affordable workforce housing — including in our neighborhoods. As a special report, “Homelessness in Wisconsin: State at the crossroads,” by the Wisconsin State Journal and other newspapers showed last year, many people can’t afford a place to live even though they have jobs.

Communities large and small need more affordable units for low-wage workers. Local economies and employers depend on it. In Madison, momentum to fund and find a suitable location for a modern men’s shelter absolutely must continue. The goal is to provide more than a roof over people’s heads. It’s to steer them to employment opportunities and better lives.

Failing to ease the plight of the homeless across Wisconsin will cost taxpayers more over time than dealing with the challenge now. That’s because desperate people often wind up requiring expensive social services, emergency health care, police attention or even jail if they don’t get help.

This morally distressing problem can’t be ignored — especially now, with the coronavirus complicating relief efforts and risking innocent lives.