Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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July 8

The Courier Journal on the need for a mask mandate in Kentucky:

Stop wagging your finger at the commonwealth, Gov. Beshear, urging all of us across Kentucky to please, pretty please, voluntarily wear a mask in public places.

It’s time to make it mandatory.

It’s time to acknowledge that we’re living in a COVID-19 pandemic with no immediate promise of a vaccine; no signs of a swift end to its devastating course.

It’s time, Governor, to do the courageous thing — for ourselves and for our fellow citizens.

Order us to put on the mask. It can no longer be a “but-only-if-you-want-to” scenario.

It’s incredibly rare for The Courier Journal to publish a Page One editorial. Typically and traditionally, the missives from our editorial board are reserved for our Opinion section.

But we’re fooling ourselves if we believe we’re living in typical times. Kentuckians are dying. And across our country, the coronavirus health crisis has claimed more than 131,000 American lives.

With about 4% of the world’s population, the United States has nearly 25% of the reported COVID-19 fatalities.

Ignore the White House and President Trump’s assertions that the virus is “dying out” and “fading away.” (The bury-your-head-in-the-sand approach that has led to tragic deaths and a runaway pandemic will be fodder for a future editorial.)

We are, as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infection disease specialist, said Monday, “still knee-deep in the first wave of this. We’re surging back up.”

It’s a serious situation that must be addressed immediately, Fauci said.

We need to heed this warning, Gov. Beshear.

Last week, you acknowledged that “a mask is the best way to show you care about other people.”

But you stopped short of making it mandatory.

On Tuesday, you announced 371 new cases of COVID-19. It’s the second-highest single-day increase. Tuesday’s number of new cases is the second-largest daily increase since the outbreak began here in early March.

As a state, we’ve now seen at least 17,519 cases. Our death toll has reached 602.

What more evidence must you be shown that it’s time for an executive order to make wearing a mask in public places a requirement?

You have pointed to the fact that Kentucky remains on a “plateau,” with new COVID-19 cases ranging from around 100 to 300 a day. Tuesday’s update reveals we’re now closer to 400 cases than 300.

We cannot wait until coronavirus cases are spiraling out of control as they are in some states.

Look around, Governor. Kentucky is basically surrounded by states that are seeing red-hot increases in coronavirus cases.

Neighboring West Virginia and Tennessee hit new seven-day highs in COVID-19 cases this month. And Tennessee has seen a whopping 134% increase over two weeks.

And on Tuesday, Mike DeWine, Ohio’s Republican governor, announced his state will require masks in seven counties where the virus is spreading most rapidly. It includes Hamilton (Cincinnati), Franklin (Columbus), Cuyahoga (Cleveland), Montgomery (Dayton) and Trumbull (near Youngstown).

Other governors — at least 19 of them — are not taking chances and making face coverings mandatory.

“We are seeing a serious situation,” DeWine said. “We have to take action.”

This virus is in every Kentucky county. And if we are not vigilant, this ugly, unpredictable scourge could turn quickly and put us in the danger zone as it has in other parts of the nation.

We don’t want to become a Texas, Arizona, California or Florida, where cases are soaring, hospitalizations are rising rapidly and shutdown orders are reimposed.

The last thing Kentuckians can endure is another shutdown.

We don’t want to see businesses and day cares and restaurants close. We don’t want our schools and college campuses shuttered in the fall.

That’s why, Gov. Beshear, you must mandate face masks now.

Research has shown that wearing a mask helps prevent the spread of respiratory droplets that carry the virus through the air when an infected person speaks, sneezes or laughs. And now, hundreds of scientists say the virus is airborne, meaning it can spread easily through particles that linger in the air.

That means wearing a mask is even more essential — and it’s the best way to protect people who may be at a higher risk of getting horribly ill or dying.

Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky’s public health commissioner, is pulling no punches: “The single-most powerful thing you can do and the cheapest is to wear a mask.”

But simply urging Kentuckians to wear face coverings is not enough. And it’s not working.

Look around.

It’s shocking how many people aren’t wearing masks. They aren’t wearing them in grocery stores or shopping malls or other public places.

It’s scary to think that they could have the virus and not even know it and infect someone else who could end up dying from the disease.

The truth is, relying on Kentuckians to use their good judgment could be deadly.

Too many people are putting their neighbors at risk.

Kentuckians also are traveling this summer to coronavirus “hot spots” like Florida and South Carolina and returning home with the virus. The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department said it is seeing such cases. And Lexington reported 62 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday — a single-day high for the city.

Also on Tuesday, the University of Louisville men’s basketball team suspended operations for two weeks after two members of the program tested positive for the coronavirus.

It is an unrelenting, horrific illness.

And with cases rising in at least 40 states, Kentucky must take action before it’s too late.

Governors in nearly half of the country are requiring residents to wear face masks in public spaces where social distancing isn’t possible.

Kentucky needs to join them.

Gov. Beshear, you’re right: “This thing is killing us.”

It’s time to do the right thing: Require face masks in public.

It’s the best way to ensure that we get through this together.

Online: https://www.courier-journal.com

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July 7

The State Journal on rezoning processes in a Kentucky community:

After a months-long community debate over whether the old Blanton-Crutcher Farm on Duncan Road should be rezoned from agricultural to industrial, historic preservationists and neighbors of the old Blanton-Crutcher Farm proclaimed victory last week when the Franklin County Fiscal Court denied the zoning change in a slim 4-3 vote.

We see it as a more of a victory for narrow special interests than for our broader community, which is navigating its worst economic crisis in nearly a century. The zoning flap could prove to be valuable, however, to the extent that future decisions about land use are made in the context of thoroughly updating the community’s comprehensive plan — and not piecemeal emotional responses to plans for individual tracts.

Winchester developer Ron Tierney said he relied on the current comprehensive plan when deciding to purchase the 85-acre tract near Interstate 64 at Versailles Road and abutting Industrial Park #3 about a year ago. That plan shows the land as a “future employment center.” Following a five-hour public hearing in February, the Frankfort-Franklin County Planning Commission recommended the rezoning by a 5-2 vote.

Two months later Tierney, who angered neighbors and preservationists by tearing down an old home on the property, was issued a notice of violation from the Division for Air Quality after an illegal burn of debris on the property. Tierney, who has facilitated much job creation in the community in recent years, did himself no favors on the Duncan Road project, giving opponents of the rezoning much ammunition.

Magistrate J.W. Blackburn, whose district includes Tierney’s land, successfully called for the fiscal court to hold a public hearing in between the first and second reading of the rezoning ordinance. That hearing lasted a record seven-plus hours, and opponents were persuasive. Blackburn and Magistrates Michael Mueller, Scotty Tracy and Marti Booth voted last week to buck the advice of the Frankfort-Franklin County Planning Commission and reject the rezoning to the chagrin of economic developers and supporters of economic growth in the community.

If magistrates wanted to punish Tierney for bad behavior, that’s one thing. They should have said so — and taken their chances in court that his actions were proper grounds for denying the zone change. Unfortunately, magistrates went much further and decided that the only land currently available for industrial park expansion in this community should remain agricultural at a time when new jobs are desperately needed.

The Duncan Road case exposed flaws in the way our community plans and governs land use. The good news is that those flaws can be corrected.

We recognize that any kind of development anywhere in the county is likely to raise concerns from neighbors, whose voices deserve to be heard by the leaders who represent them. But a healthier approach to planning and zoning is to determine which areas are proper growth corridors, put them in the comprehensive plan and stop debating zoning changes tract by tract. Using Duncan Road as an example, the debate should have occurred at the time the land was designated an employment center but left with an agricultural designation.

Could the debate have been avoided had the county been more proactive in engaging neighbors and other stakeholders in the update of the comprehensive plan? Probably not entirely, but it would have been less contentious. Another needed improvement is labeling all properties on the National Register of Historic Places — a relatively short list in this community — on city and county planning maps. If a change in land use for those properties is contemplated in the comprehensive plan, officials should automatically schedule a public hearing and allow those concerned about individual properties to have their say.

Online: https://www.state-journal.com

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June 26

The Daily Independent on the effects of coronavirus restrictions on nursing homes residents:

Let’s not forget about the mental toll that accompanies the novel coronavirus, especially in a nursing home.

Throughout the last three-plus months, nursing home residents have been even more cooped up than usual. We at The Daily Independent know there are several high-quality nursing homes in our area complete with good employees, but that only goes so far.

These elderly folks love to see their families, and COVID-19 has been such an impenetrable obstacle. Many of them have seen their loved ones, but just through windows. It’s not the same.

As detrimental as the actual coronavirus has been — especially regarding the same demographic associated with nursing homes — the mental and emotional anguish that tags along with it has been even more devastating at times.

Although Kentucky has seen a few days in recent weeks consisting of alarming jumps in the number of cases, there is good news on the horizon for nursing home residents and their families.

Eric Friedlander, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ secretary, said the state will resume visitation at assisted living and personal care homes, group activities of 10 or fewer in facilities, communal dining and off-site appointments, according to Kentucky Today.

Over the last three months, much has been learned about this invisible nuisance, but plenty of mystery remains.

Let’s hope we don’t see any tragic outbreaks at nursing homes going forward, but let’s also hope these people can enjoy the latter stages of their lives as unencumbered as possible.

Online: https://www.dailyindependent.com