Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

___

Sept. 2

The Florida Times Union on Climate Change:

We live in a world of stark extremes that are artificially created for partisan impact.

But life is rarely a matter of extremes, it usually involves choices that are not entirely clear.

Such is the case with climate change. A certain amount of warming is already baked into the earth’s atmosphere.

In a new book, “The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis,” the authors offer two futures: an era in which much of the earth is uninhabitable and a kind of Shangri-la of green behavior.

There is a clear danger. The authors Christiana Figueres and Tom-Rivett-Carnac note three dangerous tipping points have been passed.

Coral reefs are vanishing, turning white from a warming ocean. Half of the world’s reefs are dead.

Ice sheets in the Arctic are disappearing. There is no summer ice sheet. And there has been a heat wave this summer. If the western Antarctic ice sheet disappears, it would release a devastating amount of water in the oceans that would strike cities like Miami.

Extreme heat is a reality. For cities like Paris, summer temperatures regularly pass 100 degrees. A total of 2 billion people in the world live in areas where temperatures reach 140 degrees for 45 days per year.

A warmer earth creates instability — more drought, wildfires, floods and even cold waves in unusual places.

Diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks are likely to spread to previously more moderate climates.

The reality will be something in between those extremes. And there is good reason for some optimism. The cost of renewable energy has dropped so rapidly — 90 percent in the last decade — that there now are good economic reasons to do the right thing for the planet.

Electric utilities are finding that industrial-scale solar energy is increasingly the most economical source of new fuel, avoiding the pollution of coal plants. As the cost of battery backup continues to drop, the future is bright for solar.

An electric car battery, if connected to the electric grid, could be used as a backup source of electricity by an electric utility.

And there are relatively inexpensive things that we can do that will produce benefits in both the short-term and long-term.

Let’s start with trees. The authors explain that half of the world’s tropical forests have been cleared. Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, release oxygen, can produce food and can stabilize aquifers.

By planting massive numbers of trees, forests can be replenished and cities can be cooled. Massive numbers of trees can cool a city by 50 degrees. An area about the size of the United States is available worldwide for reforestation, the authors write.

“This ancient carbon-absorbing technology needs no high technology, is completely safe and is very cheap,” the authors write.

Vacant lots can be turned into groves of trees. Rooftops can be turned into floral gardens. Windowless buildings can be covered with vines.

Jacksonville has a strong tree canopy and broad public support has been present for tree protection for decades.

The future presumes more collaboration, less toxic competition.

“The evolution of humanity is a story of adaptive ingenuity to the challenges of the time,” the authors wrote.

There already are positive trends for the climate’s future. Let’s capitalize on it.

Online: https://www.jacksonville.com/

___

Sept. 1

The Miami Herald on Gov. Ron DeSantis firing Quest Diagnostics, the lab handling COVID-19 tests:

Floridians have never been able to trust the number of coronavirus cases reported by the DeSantis administration.

Not when it fired a data scientist who wouldn’t manipulate the figures.

Not when state health officials wouldn’t release real-time hospitalization figures.

Not when we couldn’t get solid answers about COVID’s rampage through nursing homes.

And not when, as the governor did on Monday, he embraced the guidance of the new White House’s coronavirus adviser, Scott Atlas.

Atlas recommends only testing people with coronavirus symptoms, despite experts’ warning that symptoms don’t have to be present in order for a person to be coronavirus positive — and contagious. (However, there is the added “benefit,” at least for this administration, of being able to boast of a declining number of cases, no matter the human cost.)

‘DUMP’ OF OLD TESTS

But on Tuesday, Gov. DeSantis appeared genuinely incensed that the state reported more than 7,500 additional COVID-19 cases, a huge increase over recent days. It turns out the daily number was inflated by what the governor called a “dump” of old tests from Quest Diagnostics, which had withheld test results from the state dating back as far back as April.

Unbelievable, even for Florida.

DeSantis was livid. So should every Floridian whose tax money paid for this shoddy service.

The governor fired the testing lab, a straightforward and solid decision.

Now he needs to show that he’s is committed to fighting, not hiding, COVID’s continued presence.

From the start, the number of coronavirus cases in Florida has been in dispute — spurred by DeSantis injecting President Trump’s preference for scoring political points at the expense of science-based policies. That’s why there’s no mask mandate. News reporters and the governor’s office have been going back and forth, and round and round, on the correct count for months, with the state suspected of underreporting cases.

Those suspicions are well-founded.

Tuesday, there was simply more evidence for concern. DeSantis immediately, and rightly, severed ties with Quest Diagnostics.

‘STALE’ DATA

It wasn’t the first time the lab was derelict. Last month, Quest, headquartered in New Jersey, reported a smaller dump of historical testing data from a lab in Miami Gardens that skewed that day’s numbers.

The law requires all COVID-19 results to be reported in a timely manner.

“To drop this much unusable and stale data is irresponsible,” DeSantis said. He’s absolutely correct. The governor added that, “Quest has abdicated their ability to perform a testing function in Florida that the people can be confident in.”

Quest’s failure significantly threw the numbers off and, with them, the solidity of every decision made by mayors in South Florida as to when to reopen — because they were relying on the numbers.

We commend the governor for firing Quest. Better still will be if his administration refuses to let bygones be bygones and doesn’t rehire Quest for a future gig.

The very recent example of the state bringing back on board Deloitte Consulting, the company that made a mess of the unemployment benefits website, should be enough of an embarrassment.

Online: https://www.miamiherald.com/

___

Aug. 29

The Sarasota Heard Tribune on visiting elder-care facilities:

People who have made the knotty, no-win decision to entrust their loved ones to elder-care facilities have already experienced more than their share of guilt, frustration and heartbreak. It’s a fundamental human obligation, to tend to our own, and admitting that doing so is not possible or practical most often feels like failure.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has required that frail elders and others with disabilities endure separation from their families, has only added to this stressful burden. Floridians with wives, husbands, parents and grandparents in long-term care facilities have spoken movingly about the hardship of being denied time together when every day of life is a limited resource. And they worry about the effects of extended isolation – and perhaps less than adequate attention – on residents’ mental and physical health.

Hearing the plaintive outcry, Gov. Ron DeSantis – who has earned praise for early, decisive steps to safeguard this fragile population – convened a task force to develop guidelines for what a potential visitation policy might look like. This week, that panel delivered its recommendations, which basically call for a resumption of visits along a hierarchy that allows in-room access for “essential” guests who can provide help with bathing, dressing, feeding or emotional support.

That last essential service – hugs and hand-holding – was added out of concern for visitors not strong enough themselves to render practical assistance. And it prompted a rare public display of discord in the DeSantis administration, with state Surgeon General Scott Rivkees objecting to such a loose interpretation of the Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew, the task force chair, countered his caution with compassion.

“Dr. Rivkees, we’ve got a lot of people in our nursing homes and assisted living facilities who are suffering from significant depression,” she said.

For a resident unlikely ever to leave an institution for home, mental and emotional well-being can logically be considered even more crucial than his or her physical condition. So this is a valid factor to weigh among so many others when deciding how and whether family visits should resume.

But the task force – composed of state officials, elder care industry trade group leaders and Jacksonville resident Mary Daniel, whose story of working as a dishwasher at a memory care facility to be near her husband generated national fame – seems to have skipped over the “whether” and gone straight to the “how.” And their blueprint, based on all-too-familiar precautions outlined by the CDC, is probably as good as it can be just now.

It is not, however, good enough.

Reintroducing folks from the outside world into the breeding-ground environment of long-term care, welcome as their masked faces might be, has too much potential to unravel the good effects of months spent stemming the spread of disease in these places. This is not just a concern for the residents themselves – who may gladly bear the risk of infection for a chance to be reunited with the ones they love – but for the health care professionals, aides, cooks and maintenance workers who have already sacrificed so much in this pandemic.

And it’s a concern for these employees’ families. And for the schools their children may attend. And for their spouses’ workplaces. This is how a short-sighted failure to contain a contagious disease operates.

AARP’s Florida State Director Jeff Johnson, who has been monitoring this contentious issue from the beginning, responded to the task force recommendations with the most pertinent question: Why open the doors to these facilities when they are so close to getting rapid-response tests that could screen visitors as well as staff?

Why not wait just a little longer and do this right, when we have, all of us, already endured so much?

Online: https://www.heraldtribune.com/