Recent editorials of regional and national interest from New England’s newspapers:
The CIAC needs to drop its defiant arrogance, listen to the experts and put high school football on hold
What’s wrong with this picture?
Schools are preparing to reopen in a matter of days in a world knocked asunder by the deadly and highly contagious coronavirus, and teachers, administrators, parents and students are going to extremes to protect the health and safety of everyone involved.
Parents are worried about their children’s safety. Teachers fear for their health.
But in the midst of the careful planning, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference continues along a path of defiant arrogance, resisting good advice from experts in infectious diseases that engaging in a high-risk, close contact activity such as football is a bad idea.
The state Department of Public Health late Sunday gave some foggy compromise guidance to Connecticut high school sports officials, suggesting that football might start with smaller teams of seven to a side with no hard contact and that girls volleyball could be played outside.
It had recently offered guidance that football and volleyball should be postponed until the spring completely. It’s good of the DPH to seek a way to let play go on safely, but the agency shouldn’t have conceded to what could easily become a public health risk. Its job is to protect public health, not pacify the CIAC.
The CIAC said it would take the advice of experts under advisement. Then, just when you thought it couldn’t get more absurd, CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini on Monday drew a poor analogy to non-scholastic volleyball and basketball, suggesting that football falls into the same category and should be allowed as well.
“Our position is if high-risk competition is still allowable under the governor’s sports plan, then that is the opportunity we would like to offer our kids,” he said.
What is this, third grade? The CIAC’s whole “if you can do it, so can we” approach is a smokescreen to deflect attention from their continued disregard of sound medical advice.
Several things are wrong with that. First, football is a different sport. It involves extremely close athletic contact — players routinely grabbing, holding and tackling, breathing, spitting and sweating — a coronavirus free-for-all. Second, the attitude of “if they can play, why can’t we” ignores the question of public health.
But most significantly, the CIAC seems willing to put a safe and successful start to the school year at risk, not to mention the resumption of other sports for the sake of football.
The delay on this decision is unacceptable. It’s not as if some more palatable solution is right around the corner. A vaccine will not magically appear in a week, and full-contact football will not suddenly become less risky. The DPH initially gave good advice, based in science, and sports officials should take it — not look for ways to run around it. And, again, if the CIAC refuses to act responsibly, Gov. Ned Lamont needs to step up. He has allowed this to go on too long.
The risk is enormous, and not just to the players. Just look at Danbury, where a spike in cases has been blamed, in part, on youth sports. Young adults, not known for their strict adherence to social-distancing guidelines, will bring the virus home to parents and caregivers. They will pass it along to their friends.
Of course it would be devastating for high school athletes to lose their season. Speaking about the prospect of seven-on-seven teams, Stafford football coach Brian Mazzone said, “It’s not fair to those kids.”
No. It’s not. Coronavirus really isn’t fair to anyone — not to the teachers who have to reconfigure the way they teach, not to the students who won’t be able to see their friends in school, not to the kids in band or theater whose extracurricular activities were summarily dropped. Nor is it fair to the thousands and thousands of people who have died in Connecticut alone, or to those stuck in nursing homes without contact, or to their families.
The coronavirus pandemic is far from fair. But it’s the world we live in, and we must live in it responsibly.
Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse is best bet to bring change to Washington
Daily Hampshire Gazette
Bernie Sanders may never be president, but the Vermont senator’s progressive base has been making their voices heard by electing younger, more diverse, grassroots candidates in congressional primary races across the country, from Missouri to New York.
Meanwhile, closer to home in a race now in the national spotlight, 31-year-old Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse is determined to unseat 71-year-old incumbent Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, for control of the 1st Congressional District. After Missouri progressive activist Cori Bush ousted Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr. earlier this month, Morse’s campaign email-blasted a memo with the subject line “Why Richard Neal Is Next.”
A lot has happened since then — most notably, a political scandal that the openly gay mayor has called a “backroom, coordinated smear” against him by Neal supporters. (Neal has denied any involvement.) On Aug. 7, the University of Massachusetts Amherst student newspaper Daily Collegian reported that a group of college Democratic groups disinvited Morse from their events after alleging he used his “position of power for romantic or sexual gain, specifically toward young students” at UMass, where he has taught as a lecturer.
We could debate the ethics of college professors having sexual relationships with students (Morse insists those relationships were consensual and not with students he was teaching), and we will follow the investigations into those allegations underway at UMass and within the state Democratic Party. But with the primary fast approaching this Tuesday, we must put aside questions that are currently unanswerable and focus on the urgent one at hand: Who is the candidate most likely to bring change to Washington?
For this editorial board, the answer has become evident after meeting with Morse (Neal never made himself available, even after multiple requests), watching the tense televised debates between the two candidates and reporting on their respective campaigns and careers.
Echoing common criticisms of Neal, Morse has called out the congressman’s absenteeism from parts of the district, decried his ties to big business as the top recipient of corporate PAC money in the House and denounced his refusal to support Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, the landmark proposal to tackle climate change and economic inequality. Neal is the only member of the state’s congressional delegation who hasn’t signed on. The congressman instead supports protecting and improving the Affordable Care Act, which he helped create, and backs the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now (GREEN) Act, which builds on tax incentives promoting green energy and aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Neal, meanwhile, has painted Morse as an all-talk, amateur politician who confuses attending press conferences and demonstrations with taking decisive legislative action. In their first debate, he called out Morse’s poor attendance record at School Committee, Pioneer Valley Transit Authority and other city meetings and criticized the mayor over his opposition to parts of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, which the congressman helped write. Morse retorted that federal stimulus checks of $1,200 aren’t nearly enough to pull people out of poverty, especially when “Congressman Neal helped craft legislation that created a $500 billion slush fund for corporations.”
“Do we want a member of Congress that is bought and paid for by corporations, by big pharma, by the fossil fuel industry, by the big health care lobby?” Morse pressed. “Or do we want a member of Congress that is unbought and going to Washington to fight for everyday people?”
Neal hasn’t had to fight like this since the early 1990s; he easily beat his 2018 primary opponent, Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, with a 70% majority of the vote. But 2020 is different. Climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter, a financial crisis, broken health care and criminal justice systems and corruption at the highest levels of government are threatening our very survival as a nation and giving urgency to the current moment — one that must usher in structural and systemic change.
Morse has become a poster boy for the progressive cause in recent weeks, but he must also face the damage done by his city’s police department early in his tenure as mayor. The city recently settled a $65,000 civil rights lawsuit that accused police of beating a 12-year-old Latino boy unconscious in 2014 after he tried to stop a neighbor from taking his life. Following reports about the case in the Gazette, Haydenville journalist and author David Daley wrote about it in a Boston Globe opinion piece titled, “What did Mayor Alex Morse do when Holyoke police beat a 12-year-old boy?” The answer: not nearly enough. “According to court documents, officers faced no discipline at all,” Daley writes, noting that “police flouted regulations, failed to file mandated use-of-force reports, and spun a narrative debunked by medical records … in his own deposition, the chief said that he never delivered a report to Morse about officers’ use of force because the mayor never asked for one.”
Questioned about the case during his meeting with the Gazette, Morse said, “I want to be honest, I wish it never happened.” But it did happen — and on his watch.
Morse instead emphasized his record of “demilitarizing the police department” and diversifying the force to look more like the communities it’s meant to serve, noting that no officer has fired a shot during his time as mayor.
“We should all strive to be police abolitionists and imagine a world where police departments, as we know it, aren’t needed,” he said. “We’re not there yet, and we should work for that over time, but that requires investments in things that actually lift people up and give people opportunities.”
Morse is far from a perfect candidate, but he shows a willingness to learn from his mistakes — and to admit them — a quality we’d like to see more of in Washington. “Like the people of this district, I’m human,” he told the Gazette soon after the anonymous allegations against him emerged. “This campaign and these attacks are more than just about me … This campaign is bigger than me, this campaign is bigger than Congressman Neal.”
This Tuesday, we urge residents of the 1st Congressional District to vote not just for a man but for a movement. Western Mass is ready to send a message to the capital that we’re done with the status quo — and only one of these candidates can deliver it.
That candidate is Alex Morse.
The Republican endorses Rep. Richard E. Neal for Massachusetts’ 1st Congressional District
The Republican of Springfield
Where was U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal on Saturday afternoon?
He was in Washington, D.C., for the special House session convened by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to help save the U.S. Postal Service from dismantling by President Donald J. Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
It’s right where Neal should have been, delivering an impassioned speech on the floor of the House in which he shared the damage being done to the lives of veterans and seniors, of businesses and municipalities, from Springfield to North Adams, from Easthampton to Great Barrington.
It’s also where we firmly believe he should be for the next two years.
At a time like this when the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage our nation, taking a toll not only on human life but also on our economy, our educational system, housing, health care and more, it’s especially critical in this election to reelect Neal as congressman for Massachusetts’ 1st Congressional District.
Now is not a time for rhetoric to rule, but rather reality.
Neal continues to exhibit strong and caring leadership in developing a plan to get people the help they need amid this pandemic and moving forward. Even now, in the thick of a campaign, he is working in Congress to negotiate additional coronavirus funding.
Neal was among the architects of the CARES Act – a measure his opponent, Holyoke Mayor Alex B. Morse, says he would have voted against. Such action would have placed Morse among only a half-dozen House members to oppose the $2 trillion bill that provided assistance to American workers, families and businesses as the pandemic ravaged our economy and left millions of citizens unemployed.
While progressive Democrats, including Morse, push Medicare-For-All – a program that has been widely criticized for costs of upwards of $30 trillion over a 10-year span, Neal continues to be a staunch supporter of Universal Health Care. During his campaign, the mayor has failed to put forth any realistic path forward to fund Medicare-for-All. Neal stays committed to working to improve and expand the Affordable Care Act, a measure he helped to write. We believe this is the most realistic position to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health insurance.
Neal also has a proven track record in bringing congressional attention and funding to Western Massachusetts, a track record which will continue, especially if there is a Biden-Harris White House in 2021. In the past six months alone, through the U.S. Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program, the 1st District received 10,460 loans totaling $1,777,312,235.
The mayor opines Neal “dropped the ball” in the effort to force President Trump to reveal his tax returns. Make no mistake, Congressman Neal is among those who most fervently want to hold the president accountable. We stand with him, his fellow congressional leaders and legal scholars who recommended the measured, well-charted procedures undertaken by Neal. It may not be as fast as the mayor and his supporters might like, but we suspect it will withstand potential legal challenges.
This campaign took an ugly turn on Aug. 7 when the College Democrats of Massachusetts disinvited Morse from attending its events, citing inappropriate conduct by the mayor in which the organization said he had used “his position of power for romantic or sexual gain.”
The mayor initially issued a sensitive response, in which he said, “I also recognize that I have to be cognizant of my position of power.” He offered to meet with the group and anyone else to answer questions and address concerns and added, “As I’ve become more comfortable with myself and my sexuality, like any young, single, openly gay man, I have had consensual adult relationships, including some with college students. Navigating life as both a young gay man and an elected official can be difficult, but that doesn’t excuse poor judgment.”
Forty-eight hours and no doubt many campaign strategy meetings later, the mayor began refocusing the narrative in a manner which managed to accuse not only the students who voiced concerns about his conduct but also most media organizations reporting them of being homophobic.
The Republican has for decades, long before Mayor Morse came out as a gay teenager at Holyoke High School, editorialized strongly on matters related to equal rights for all, for same-sex marriage and for other issues pertaining to the LBGTQ community. We will never stray from that position, and we are disappointed claims of homophobia are now being cast about indiscriminately.
The University of Massachusetts appropriately launched an investigation into these allegations, and we trust chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy to have a fair and thorough investigation completed. Until then, we make no judgments about the young people involved. We believe all should be heard, including the mayor, who from the time he was a teenager creating the first gay-straight alliance at Holyoke High School has seen his work on LBGTQ rights admired and celebrated on the pages of The Republican.
Our endorsement of Richard E. Neal as he seeks reelection as 1st District congressman is based solely on the issues of the day, the needs of the district and the candidates’ track records.
For the past three decades, Neal has provided a strong and able voice in Congress on matters that concern Main Street and the world. He is willing to reach across the aisle and negotiate important legislation that impacts the lives of the citizenry.
As the Democratic Party has increasingly produced voices that may not be open to alternative points of view, Neal offers a more moderate tone, willing to listen and consider all perspectives. As Congress has often of late toiled to move past gridlock and iron out differences, Neal represents a voice of reason and respect.
His is the voice we need in Congress to get us through the challenges ahead. The Republican recommends a vote for Richard E. Neal in the Democratic primary that will decide the Massachusetts 1st Congressional District seat for the next two years.
Make a vow to take COVID-19 seriously and to follow safety requirements
Bangor Daily News
While many details have yet to be clarified, what we do know about the spread of COVID-19 that originated at a wedding reception earlier this month at Millinocket Lake offers a vivid reminder that coronavirus should be taken seriously and that safety requirements, such as limiting the number of people in indoor spaces, must be heeded to protect the health and lives of people we don’t even know.
According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 85 people have tested positive for coronavirus as a result of the Aug. 7 wedding reception. That number has been increasing for days.
On Tuesday, Nirav Shah, the head of the Maine CDC, said that outbreaks at a nursing home in Madison and the York County Jail are tied to the wedding.
One woman, who did not attend the wedding or reception, has died after contracting coronavirus from someone who did attend, the CDC has said.
Thirty-two of those who have tested positive attended the reception or wedding. Another 33 are secondary, which means they came in contact with attendees, and 20 are tertiary, who are contacts of the secondary cases.
Those infected range in age from 4 to 98.
A guest of the wedding works at the York County Jail. Eighteen people at the jail building — seven inmates, nine staff members and two York County government employees — have now tested positive, Shah said.
Another guest of the wedding reportedly passed the virus to a parent, who then passed it on to one of their other children who works at Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center in Madison. Four residents and one other employee of the center have now been infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, Shah said Tuesday.
We can’t say all of this was avoidable, but safety precautions — such as following indoor gathering limits and wearing masks — could have significantly reduced the chances of sparking such an outbreak. Weddings, and other milestone events, are no doubt important. But reimagining or rescheduling them with safety in mind, as many families around the world have done, is another way to protect the health and wellbeing of family members, and complete strangers.
“COVID-19 can be the uninvited guest at every single wedding, party or event in Maine,” Shah said during a Tuesday news conference. “These recent examples show how aggressive and how opportunistic this virus is and how quickly it can move from one community to another.”
About 65 people attend the wedding reception at the Big Moose Inn, according to the CDC. The reception was held indoors and masks were not widely worn by attendees. The state limit for indoor gatherings is 50 people. The inn has been cited for an “imminent health hazard,” which carries no fine but can bring harsher penalties if state officials determine the venue again violated health rules in the future.
It is unclear how many people attended the indoor wedding ceremony at Tri Town Baptist Church in East Millinocket and whether it will be cited by state health officials.
The growing outbreak has caused frustration and confusion among Katahdin-area residents.
Because of the pandemic, Linda Cram of East Millinocket has given up many of the hobbies she enjoyed with fellow seniors who live at Oak Park Manor in East Millinocket. They no longer play bingo or attend local dance events.
Cram, 72, told the BDN last week that she didn’t understand why others haven’t made more sacrifices of their own during the coronavirus pandemic. “People still don’t believe it’s here,” she said. “They think it’s out there in the cities and we’re not going to get it. Now everybody’s at risk.”
Cram brings up two important points. First, because there are fewer cases of coronavirus in Maine than in many other states and Maine’s cases are clustered in its most populous counties, many people feel there is little danger from the virus, especially in rural areas. This is a dangerous assumption.
And, as the situation in the Katahdin region shows, once people have been exposed, the virus can spread very quickly to dozens of people with no connection to the original outbreak.
“Did they have to have their wedding?” wondered Jen Tower, produce manager at Ellis Family Market in East Millinocket. “We’re a small community of a lot of older people. I just don’t get why they did it.”
The bottom line is that we must all take COVID-19 seriously and behave as if it’s in our community. That means following state mandates and guidelines about group sizes, social distancing and wearing a mask.
We’re sorry that this may mean putting off or altering meaningful events. But that is far better than knowing you’ve spread a deadly illness to family, friends and strangers.
Mayor’s office should not be treated as partisan
Laconia Daily Sun
It’s no secret that Andrew Hosmer is a Democrat. He was active in party politics long before he was elected mayor of Laconia, and his position gives him standing to comment on a variety of public policy matters. But an offer we received this week went too far.
“I wanted to quickly reach out about the possibility of publishing an op-ed from Mayor Hosmer, focused on the economic impacts of the Trump Administration in the context of the Republican National Convention,” wrote Will Rasky, the “Rapid Response Director” for the New Hampshire Democratic Party. “Please let me know if this may be of interest and I will be sure you get the language tonight.”
To translate: we had the opportunity to publish something with Mayor Andrew Hosmer’s name on it that would have been written by political operatives at the state Democratic Party.
“Can I ask why this submission is not of interest?” Rasky queried.
The editor offered up two reasons: “It’s obvious political opportunism and the mayor’s office is supposed to be nonpartisan.”
While many Laconia voters might have recognized Hosmer’s name on the mayoral ballot from his days as a Democratic state senator, there was no “D” next to his name. Voters in the city made a conscious decision almost 30 years ago to remove such party distinctions from the mayoral and council races. When the mayor allows his position to be used for such nakedly political hacktivism, he does a disservice to the office and to his constituents who may not share his partisan views.
We ask him to stop treating his office as if it were just another partisan stepping stone. If he wants to trade on his ties to the state Democratic Party, he is free to do it as Andrew Hosmer, private citizen, but he should keep the mayor’s office out of it.
And while we’re on the subject of the mayor’s office, we’ll use this opportunity to remind the mayor and council that voters are still in the dark about who funded the candidates in the last mayor’s race, and how much was spent.
While some cities around the state require such donations to be reported, Laconia does not, so there’s no transparency and no accountability to the public.
The mayor and council no doubt like it that way, given their track record of treating the public like mushrooms – keeping them in the dark on important matters, but giving them a good soaking when they need money.
No doubt some council members will take issue with that characterization, and that’s fine. But if they want to prove us wrong they should let their actions speak for themselves by sponsoring and passing an ordinance to require full disclosure of campaign contributions in city elections.
Anything less is just talk.
Our COVID fatigue
The Rutland Herald
There is such a thing as COVID fatigue.
We are seeing its effects both in the eagerness of young people to get together after months of being cooped up to risk getting kicked out of college to be social, or people traveling and shopping, and eating out more. This summer has been a test.
An exhausted, exasperated nation is suffering from the effects of a pandemic that has upended society on a scale and duration without parallel in living memory.
No question, we’re tired of being cooped up, tired of being careful, tired of being scared. But our collective fatigue is making some people careless, and that feels dangerous.
There is much to think about: Parents lie awake, their minds racing with thoughts of how to balance work with what their school districts have decided for the fall start. Frontline health workers are bone tired, their nerves frayed by endless shifts and constant encounters with the virus and its victims. Senior citizens have grown weary of isolation. Unemployed workers fret over jobs lost, benefits that are running out, rent payments that are overdue. And the death toll continues to rise around the nation.
According to one commentary in the Washington Post last month, “The metaphor of a marathon doesn’t capture the wearisome, confounding, terrifying and yet somehow dull and drab nature of this ordeal for many Americans, who have watched leaders fumble the pandemic response from the start. Marathons have a defined conclusion, but 2020 feels like an endless slog — uphill, in mud.”
Recent opinion polls hint at the deepening despair. A Gallup survey in mid-July showed 73% of adults viewed the pandemic as growing worse — the highest level of pessimism recorded since Gallup began tracking that assessment in early April. Another Gallup Poll, published Aug. 4, found only 13% of adults are satisfied with the way things are going overall in the country, the lowest in nine years.
A July Kaiser Family Foundation poll echoed that, finding that a majority of adults think the worst is yet to come. Fifty-three percent said the crisis has harmed their mental health.
But the Democratic and Republican conventions are putting the pandemic up against a political ruler that does not ease our concerns or fears.
In turn, many Vermonters (and Americans) are dealing with some form of low-grade depression.
Historians say that not even the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed an estimated 675,000 people in the United States, had the same kind of all-encompassing economic, social and cultural impact.
“One of the biggest differences between this virus and influenza is the duration,” said John Barry, author of “The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.”
With coronavirus, he said, the incubation period is longer, patients with symptoms tend to be sick longer, and many take longer to recover. Barry said leaders did not make sufficiently clear early on the simple epidemiological truth that this would be a painfully drawn-out event.
“Part of the frustration and disappointment and depression, frankly, is because of the expectation that we’d be through this by now,” he said.
Here in Vermont, we have continued to see low numbers of positive cases. The number of deaths has stayed constant for weeks.
But that fragile bubble of content in which we exist — hopefully for the long-term — is very much on the minds of many, especially across the Scott administration who are closely monitoring the start of colleges and public schools.
Because there is a tremendous risk of things going sideways, and incidents at Castleton University, and community-wide concerns about thousands of students returning to the University of Vermont in Burlington, do not assuage those concerns.
Many hopes are being pinned on a medical answer. (At least politicians are praying that will come to fruition before Nov. 3, but it seems unlikely.)
Yes, there are glimmers of hope for those staggered by this dire moment: The vaccine development for the novel coronavirus appears to be moving at unprecedented speed. There are promising therapeutics that may lower the mortality rate of those who become severely ill.
But none of that does not diminish three hard facts: There is no vaccine. Winter is coming. And political rhetoric does not pay bills.
Facing this fatigue is important for our personal health and for beating the coronavirus that has shaken American life so completely. Many people understand this, which adds to their exhaustion and stress.
The fatigue is real. But we cannot let it contribute to bad behavior and recklessness. This is a real threat. All of us remain at risk.