Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
The Greenwood Commonwealth on allowing the sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine cold and sinus medications without a prescription:
There are two ways, one correct and one not, to look at the Mississippi Legislature’s decision to resume allowing the sale of certain cold and sinus medications without a prescription.
A bill that won almost unanimous support in both the House and Senate will, assuming Gov. Tate Reeves signs the legislation, begin in 2022 a two-year period in which ephedrine and pseudoephedrine can be sold without a prescription in products such as Sudafed and Claritin-D. It won’t quite be an over-the-counter sale because a national computer system must first verify that the customer isn’t making excessive purchases. But it clearly will be less of a nuisance.
The cold and sinus products have had to use other ingredients to provide relief since 2010, when Mississippi, like most other states, required prescriptions for anything that included ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.
States made the change because people who were cooking crystal methamphetamine needed the two drugs for the manufacturing process, and the medications were easy to buy or steal.
The wrong way to look at the Legislature’s vote — the Senate approved the bill in February, while the House followed suit this past week — is to believe that crystal meth production and sales are under control, since it only took 11 years to get ephedrine and pseudoephedrine medications away from the prescription requirement.
More accurately, states have been moving the two drugs away from prescription requirements because of good old American ingenuity — however misplaced it is in this case.
Once the key ingredients of crystal meth became more difficult to obtain, illegal drug manufacturers managed to find replacement ingredients, which reportedly are less expensive and more widely available.
To put it another way, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are no longer essential to the production of illegal drugs. So the reason for requiring a prescription for them has diminished.
The bill wisely expires in just two years. The Legislature and law enforcement should get a decent idea of whether somebody figures out a new illegal use for the two drugs. That just might happen, although anyone who wrestles with sinus headaches and remembers how helpful the pseudoephedrine-based medication was can only hope that the narcotics chefs leave it alone.
The bill includes other safeguards designed to discourage ephedrine and pseudoephedrine seekers from stockpiling the drugs for illegal purposes. A pharmacy or other business selling the medication must keep it behind a counter or in an area where the public is not permitted.
Mississippi Today reported that anyone who buys medication that includes either of the drugs must be 18 years old. They must show their driver’s license or other state ID and sign a document recording the purchase. The bill limits the amount they can buy.
Before completing a sale, the business must enter information about the buyer into a national drug-tracking system, and the sale will be rejected if the system issues an alert.
Relaxing the prescription rule for these two drugs makes sense, but only because the manufacturers have moved on. Sadly, our society’s craving for drugs is as strong as ever.
The Vicksburg Post on the COVID-19 vaccine:
In a recent interview with The Vicksburg Post, local physician and now the chief medical officer for Mississippi, Dr. Dan Edney, said while testing and contact tracing remain key tools in mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it is the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine that has become job number one.
“Getting the vaccine out is the main job right now,” Edney said. “The vaccine is our way out of this.” And, based on recent results, it would appear we are much closer to being “out of this” than at any point in this now yearlong pandemic.
As of Thursday’s report from the Mississippi State Department of Health, nearly 14,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered to people who live within Warren County. That number consists of those who have received either one or both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and those who may have received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
What makes that number so remarkable is that it was not that long ago that Mayor George Flaggs Jr., Warren County Board of Supervisors President Dr. Jeff Holland and Warren County Emergency Management Agency Director John Elfer, and more, along with local medical officials, were lobbying for the state to place a drive-thru vaccination site within the county.
Their efforts paid off and since then, you would be hard-pressed to not only find a more well-run drive-thru vaccination site in the state but one that is more connected to the community in which it serves.
At the time it was launched, the site was called the only “hybrid” drive-thru site in the state. This meant that the site was managed by the Mississippi State Department of Health, but was staffed by volunteer medical officials and community volunteers. The Mississippi National Guard has supported its mission, but it has been driven by the men and women of Warren County and supported by community members and businesses
Lunches from local restaurants have been donated or purchased for those working the site and medical personnel — some of which have retired — have given of their personal time to make sure the site can accommodate the hundreds of appointments that are set each Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
This site, which had to be fought for, has shown what is possible — this community has once again proven what is possible.
Warren County’s rate of immunization, when compared to other neighboring counties such as Issaquena, Sharkey, Claiborne, Yazoo and Adams is far better and getting even better.
This county, led by public officials and volunteers, is again proving what those of us who are blessed to live here already know — that we are able to do great things when we all work together.
The Dispatch on academic achievement during the pandemic:
In times of crisis, it is important not to panic, but instead focus energy on a clear-eyed view of the circumstances with an emphasis on solutions.
Today the city of Columbus faces perhaps the greatest challenge in its history.
In the same year the city celebrated 200 years in public education - the founding of Franklin Academy in 1821, the state’s first public school -- data shared during Thursday’s school board meeting shows a free-fall in academic achievement in K-12 education.
The district’s mid-year assessment of reading and math scores for K-8 students show one in three students is two or more grade levels behind in at least one of these core subjects. At Columbus Middle School, more than half of the students are two or more grade levels behind at a pivotal point in their education. Barring a herculean achievement in getting those students back on track, the dropout rate is certain to spike while graduation rates will fall precipitously.
Dismiss it as panic if you like, but those numbers constitute a state of emergency that goes beyond the school district and reaches every corner of our city.
A student entering ninth grade who is performing at a 6th or 7th grade level faces a monumental challenge in completing high school. Today, a young person without at least a high school education faces a grim future, one likely to be dominated by poverty and all its associated ills, including crime, something that affects us all.
The quality of life in our city cannot be separated from the viability of our public schools. When our schools fail, it damages our city’s ability to attract new businesses and jobs, depresses home values, threatens public safety and does grievous harm to our collective psyche.
Even those whose children have never set foot in a Columbus public school have a real vested interest in the state of our public school system.
The tendency to ascribe blame in this crisis is a natural one and useful to a point. Knowing “how we got here” is important in finding the way forward.
It would be easy if we could point a finger at one person or one factor and say, “Ah, there’s the problem.” But in this case, so narrowly defining the problem will only exacerbate it.
We continue to have confidence in Cherie Labat as superintendent. She has proven herself competent since her arrival. The board would do well to support her recommendations.
Over the last decade our school district has struggled along with a “D” rating and a series of changes in leadership -- four superintendents during that span.
When COVID-19 arrived last spring, it presented grave challenges to a school system struggling to make progress. The lack of in-school instruction -- 2,405 CMSD students attend class two days a week and another 856 attend virtual classes only -- has been particularly damaging for a large number of students, who often lack the home environment required to keep up, something not uncommon in all schools during virtual learning.
When CMSD voted against moving to a modified calendar of the 2021-22 school year, something administrators believed would help student retain what they had learned by shortening the summer break while creating “real-time” intervention periods in both the fall and spring semesters for students who had fallen behind, it must be regarded as a missed opportunity for immediate action.
While this editorial is based on the numbers from one district, we suspect the move to virtual learning has resulted in most students falling behind.
As noted, this crisis does not belong exclusively to the school district. It is one that affects us all.
We call upon every elected official, every business, every citizen to stand ready to help the district find solutions.