Detroit News. Dec. 17, 2020.

Editorial: Allow businesses to prove they can safely reopen

Sunday marks the expiration of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s second partial shutdown of Michigan’s economy, and there’s no reason to doubt it will be extended again.

The ban on indoor dining and drinking has been in place nearly five weeks in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Whether it has worked is hard to say, due to the lag in reporting and the daily fluctuations in cases.

What’s certain is that it has placed many of the businesses selected for closure in extreme jeopardy.

The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association issued an update this week on the devastation caused by the closures.

Sunday marks the expiration of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s second partial shutdown of Michigan’s economy, and there’s no reason to doubt it will be extended again.

“The pandemic is decimating the hospitality industry in this state to a degree never seen or even imagined,” Justin Winslow, the organization’s head, said in a statement. ”...(W)e have not yet reached the bottom.”

The hospitality group reports that 5,600, or 33%, of state restaurants expect to be out of business in six months and half of hotels say they are in danger of foreclosure.

Those are dire statistics, and behind them are hundreds of thousands of desperate waiters, bartenders, cooks, housekeepers and others who have been thrown out of their jobs.

Operators of businesses hit by the restrictions complain about the unfair nature of the latest shutdown — bars and restaurants can’t open for indoor service, but gyms, stores and hair salons can.

If the mandated closures continue as expected the governor should base them on the safety of individual businesses, rather than by industry. The risk is not the same across the board.

Many restaurants, for example, have taken extensive measures to make their establishments safer, including installing new ventilation systems and plexiglass dividers to shield customers. They’ve also trained their staffs in protective protocols.

Their diligence and investment should be rewarded. Local health departments should be able to certify those restaurants and bars that demonstrate they can operate safely.

This would get at least some of the establishments fully open, and their employees back to work.

These businesses are on the edge of ruin, without any certainty that state or federal assistance will be enough to keep them afloat. They should be given a chance to prove they can operate safely.


Alpena News. Dec. 17, 2020.

Editorial: School closures right way to go

The social interaction kids get in the classroom with their peers is as important to their learning and development as arithmetic and biology.

Many kids just don’t learn well in the kind of environment offered by online courses.

And many parents struggle to balance watching their kids at home with the mandates of their job.

We understand all of those concerns, but we still think the Northeast Michigan schools who decided to keep kids learning at home through winter break — including Alpena Public Schools — made the right call.

Kids need consistency. Parents need predictability.

With the virus still raging in our communities, the risk that schools might bring kids back only to have to send them home again because of a virus scare was just too great.

While health experts say there’s little evidence the virus is spreading among students at schools, organized sports and other school-related activities are making people sick. And the biggest issues schools have faced are staff shortages: With teachers and other employees either infected and quarantining or exposed to an infected person and quarantining, many schools just haven’t had enough people to bring kids into the schools.

It’s just not worth the risk to try to force normalcy right now.

School leaders’ decision to keep kids home was likely unpopular, but we congratulate area school leaders on making the tough decision. Their reasoning is sound.


Editorial: Detroit Free Press. Dec. 20, 2020.

Napoleon’s legacy: Duty, accountability and candor

Two months ago, as a second tsunami of COVID-19 swept across his exhausted hometown, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon confessed to a Free Press interviewer that he just didn’t understand Michiganders who bridled at government directives to wear masks and avoid gathering in groups. A lifetime of public service had convinced him that individuals — and especially elected leaders — must sometimes subordinate their own comfort and convenience to the community’s welfare.

Napoleon energetically supported restrictions designed to limit the spread of the virus, but his job didn’t allow him the luxury of burrowing with his family. So he took what precautions he could, and accepted the increased risk he and other law enforcement professionals incurred as a corollary of their oath to protect and serve.

The virus that took Napoleon’s life Thursday was more subtle and insidious than any fleeing suspect’s deadly weapon, but make no mistake: Wayne’s top cop died in the line of duty.

But no one should be remembered only for the circumstances of his death, and in Napoleon’s case, that would a special injustice. His 45-year career was distinguished and multifaceted. He zealously defended the integrity and decency of his fellow police officers, but never shirked his responsibility to hold them accountable, or to be accountable himself.

Free Press News Director Jim Schaefer, who covered the city and its police department as a reporter for more than a decade, remembers then-Inspector Napoleon as one of just a handful of DPD officers who made themselves accessible even when Mayor Coleman Young sought to muzzle the department. “Benny was a leader,” Schaefer explains. “Leaders answer questions.”

It was also Napoleon who acknowledged DPD’s practice of pressuring reluctant witnesses by conducting mass arrests, a constitutional violation that triggered the wrath of the U.S. Justice Department and, eventually, a costly consent decree.

The admission was in keeping with the sheriff’s lifelong habit of candor. We’ll miss that. We join Napoleon’s many constituents in extending our sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues, and we hope his successors will live up to the standards he set.