Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

___

Dec. 8

The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer on the modified stay-at-home order that requires North Carolina residents to remain off the streets between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.:

Three weeks ago, as other states tightened COVID-19 restrictions, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned of worsening virus metrics but announced no new COVID measures. Two weeks ago, as hospitalizations and positive tests rates continued an alarming rise, Cooper told North Carolinians: “We are in danger.”

Now, the governor has little choice but to act. North Carolina is experiencing record highs of cases and hospitalizations, and although hospital capacity is not urgently threatened at the moment, a continued spread could bring dire strain to health care systems in both urban and rural counties.

On Tuesday, Cooper took an incremental step toward confronting that surge with a “modified stay-at-home order” that will require people to stay at home and businesses to close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. The order also will require all on-site alcohol consumption sales to stop at 9 p.m. “With this additional action beginning Friday, we hope to get these numbers down,” Cooper said.

His order might not be enough. States that imposed similar measures weeks ago saw the virus slow initially but only temporarily. “It’s a half-measure and maybe less than a half-measure, but that’s better than no measure at all,” Raymond Niaura, interim chair of the epidemiology department at the New York University School of Global Health, said of curfews to CNN.

That’s why some states are enacting or contemplating the next apparent step: a targeted, precise shutdown. Such measures have worked in Europe, which experienced a COVID-19 resurgence in the fall. Attacking the virus aggressively now in North Carolina might be the best path to preventing prolonged misery this winter.

A North Carolina stay-at-home order wouldn’t need to be as stringent as Cooper’s restrictions in March. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued rules that took effect Monday, including requiring restaurants to halt in-person dining and offer food only for delivery and takeout. Retail can remain open at 20 percent capacity, as can schools that already were open. Hair and nail salons, playgrounds, breweries and wineries must close, however, and gatherings of people from different households are prohibited, with the exception of outdoor religious services.

Like California, Cooper could also target the order regionally or to individual counties instead of imposing it statewide as he did in the spring. California’s stay-at-home restrictions apply to any of the five regions where less than 15 percent of hospital ICU units are available.

Such an order, even targeted regionally, will be met with backlash from businesses and individuals already devastated by COVID-19. The reality in North Carolina, however, is that too many people continue to either doubt or dismiss the danger of COVID. While many businesses, restaurants and bars have become more attentive to COVID measures, too many are too crowded with people behaving as if it’s 2019.

A new stay-at-home order wouldn’t change the minds of many skeptics, but the evidence and science behind COVID restrictions are clearer now. Closing or limiting capacity of places where people from different households interact, especially indoors, helps reverse the upward trend of COVID-19.

Such measures, however, must be accompanied by relief for businesses and workers. We’re encouraged that a bipartisan group of U.S. House and Senate lawmakers have agreed to the outlines of a $908 billion COVID-19 relief plan that would offer expanded unemployment benefits ($300 for 18 weeks) and renew the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses. The plan also would provide funding for state and local government needs, including schools, vaccine distribution and food assistance.

COVID relief would ease the financial devastation caused by a stay-at-home order, should one eventually be necessary here. Cooper warned that such a step might be coming if North Carolina’s COVID-19 numbers continue to rise. “None of us want that,” he said.

He’s right. But while a vaccine is coming soon, its full effects won’t be realized until at least the spring. We need to confront COVID-19’s surge now, and we need to provide a bridge to businesses and workers through the hard weeks ahead.

Online: https://www.newsobserver.com/

Online: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/

___

Dec. 7

Winston Salem-Journal on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting pet ownership:

Since the COVID sequestration began, one class of resident has had an advantage over others: pet owners. Struggling with the inherent stress of a pandemic and its losses — which often includes elements of depression and anxiety — they’ve been able to turn to the unconditional love offered by their canine and feline companions.

Many, sensing what was coming, went to local animal shelters and adoption agencies earlier this year to adopt or foster a pet just as the virus was beginning to take its toll — so many that some shelters simply ran out of pets. A unique situation, for sure.

Now, for some of these pet owners, another challenge has to be faced: keeping their faithful companions fed. As unemployment has affected more of us, some pet owners have surrendered their companions, fearing not being able to take proper care of them.

As Jennifer Tierney of Fur-Ever Friends of North Carolina recently told the Journal editorial board, “Today, with over 300,000 North Carolinians unemployed and affected by COVID-19, many are simply having trouble making ends meet. This list includes the unemployed, the underemployed, single parents, heroic victims of domestic violence, proud war veterans, the disabled, fixed-income seniors and more.

“When people must choose what to cut from their grocery lists, pets often are among those that suffer most. And for those who can’t afford to keep their pets fed, the consequences are greater than just an empty stomach. Many pets will be surrendered to already overburdened shelters, many more will be abandoned. Families will be heartbroken and pet lives will be lost, simply because there’s not enough money to buy pet food.”

But that’s not acceptable to pet adoption agencies such as Fur-Ever Friends and the Forsyth Humane Society. They’ve been lining up donations of food and other necessities to share with pet owners.

“We have heard stories of people struggling financially who either go without eating themselves in order to feed their pets, or have to make the hard decision to surrender them to the shelter,” the Forsyth Humane Society states on its website. “We hope that if free food is provided, then this burden will be eased and they will be able to keep their pets in their homes where they are loved.”

The Humane Society distributes food from its Sturmer Park Circle location, off University Parkway. Call 336-955-1750 to make an appointment.

Fur-Ever Friends also hosts “Share the Warmth” community events to accept and give away food. More information can be found online at www.fureverfriendsnc.org/.

Some food pantries in the area also provide pet food, but many have irregular hours. More is needed to support this vital cause.

Of course, food is not all that our furry friends need. Don’t forget the slogan: If you’re cold, they’re cold. Some pets are built for cold weather, but many are not. They need to be kept inside, safe and warm with the ones they love, to avoid pain that could be debilitating.

Pet ownership should always be taken seriously, and more so at a time like this, when illness and unemployment are possibilities. But it’s a responsibility that provides unlimited rewards of joy and cheer. Don’t take it for granted. And don’t surrender it easily.

Online: https://journalnow.com/

___

Dec. 3

The Greensboro News & Record on efforts to enforce coronavirus safety restrictions in Greensboro, North Carolina:

Coming soon to a business near you: City inspectors and other staff members with orders to warn, fine and, if necessary, close establishments that are flouting COVID-19 precautions.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan spelled out the penalties in an emergency order on Nov. 20.

The City Council added juice to that order on Tuesday by unanimously passing an ordinance that designates establishments that violate the order as public nuisances.

The law applies to businesses that violate reduced occupancy limits and allows the city to impose a civil penalty of $100 for every person at a business or in an office that exceeds those limits.

The first violation involves only a warning, but the city could close a business for 24 hours following a second violation. And repeat offenders could be closed for as long as 72 hours.

You wouldn’t think people would need further convincing that this is serious.

Local hospitals are scrambling to find enough beds as COVID-19 patients begin to strain capacity.

On Wednesday, North Carolina suffered 82 coronavirus-related deaths.

Nationally, the U.S. reached a grim milestone on that same day: 3,100 deaths, the most in one day since the pandemic broke out ... and more than the losses of life on 9/11.

And, after initially ranking as a critical-risk red zone under a new state system that color-codes COVID hot spots, Guilford County now is classified as yellow, which still means “significant risk.”

So the mayor’s declaration of a state of emergency last week was hardly an overreaction.

In reinforcing statewide mandates already imposed by Gov. Roy Cooper, the mayor’s order requires that businesses in Greensboro:

Post signs requiring face coverings for entry.

Post capacity limits at every entrance.

Allow entry only to customers and clients who wear face coverings.

Have all employees who interact with the public wear face coverings and provide hand sanitizer.

“Looking at the positivity rate and the number of beds being used in the Cone Health system,” Vaughan said, “we had to do something to stem the tide.”

In case you’re wondering, Cone Health officials have cited an “alarming” number of COVID patients that was on track to significantly outpace their projections for this month at its five hospitals in the Triad.

Yet you don’t have to look far to see people here who willfully flout rules intended to make them and their neighbors safer from the spread of COVID-19.

Most apparent is their resistance to wearing masks in public spaces.

Some use no face coverings at all. Others sport their masks as if they were fashion accessories — necklaces dangling around their necks or chin straps.

This defeats the point of capturing droplets from our mouths and noses that can spread the disease.

Even with an imminent vaccine, it’s not here yet. And it won’t be a panacea.

Until the vaccine arrives — and even after it arrives — it still will be necessary to take proper precautions to avoid infecting ourselves or others.

As for enforcement of the ordinance, Greensboro police officers will not be involved. City staff from fire code enforcement, inspections and other departments will take on that job.

It’s a delicate responsibility.

Businesses are hurting. It’s not easy confronting the customers you have to follow the rules. Some of us don’t like to be told what to, even if it’s in our best interest.

Likewise, city employees may not be comfortable in levying fines or other penalties.

But in a crisis you do what you have to do. The ordinance isn’t a choice in Greensboro. It’s a necessity.

While what the mayor and council have done probably won’t be remembered as one of their most popular decisions, it may be one of their most important ones.

As for the city employees who have been pressed into duty to monitor our behavior, let’s make it easy on them and us by giving them little to do.

The intent and spirit of the rules is to create a clear set community standards — not to root out scofflaws in dark alleys.

So let’s be safe and follow the mayor’s order.

Let’s do the right thing because we want to, not because we have to.

Online: https://greensboro.com/