Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:


Oct. 26

Cookeville Herald Courier on notifying the public of important COVID-19 spread information:

Since Putnam County Schools dismissed for Spring Break in March, we’ve heard numerous unconfirmed reports of large trips, dances, reunions and other large in-person gatherings where COVID-19 has spread, prompting an increase in positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Putnam County.

The reason these reports are unconfirmed is that the Tennessee Department of Health, like many states in the country, isn’t releasing superspreader event data for gatherings outside of places like long-term care facilities, schools, homeless shelters and prisons.

We contend that in addition to urging the public to wear masks in places where people are close together, indoors and can’t properly social distance, the public also needs more information about where people are contracting COVID-19 so we can all make better decisions about where we go and what we do to protect ourselves.

A member of a class reunion planning committee recently posted on social media that they decided to cancel their reunion because they’d learned of another class reunion where 30 percent of those attending contracted COVID-19. Some were hospitalized, and at least one reportedly died.

However, Putnam County Schools managed to have three outdoor high school graduations in June where hundreds of people gathered outside, graduates sat in chairs six feet apart in Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium. COVID-19 cases didn’t skyrocket after those events, so apparently there are safe ways to continue doing many of the things put on hold earlier this year.

Putnam County Mayor Randy Porter said that the most important thing is to limit social gatherings over the next few weeks, and we agree, but we can’t just tell people that. We need the state to release data on the results of those gatherings — the reunions, the dances, the large gatherings that result in COVID-19 transmissions, hospitalizations and deaths.

We know the majority of COVID-19-related deaths happen in people ages 51 and older with the biggest percentage among those ages 81 and older.

We’ll continue to ask questions and provide as much information as we can, but we also want our state health department to release more information about superspreader events to help better inform the public.



Oct. 24

Johnson City Press on expanding access to quality health care:

A Remote Area Medical popup clinic will again visit Gray in two weeks, bringing an army of volunteers to provide free medical, vision and dental care for people in our area who need it.

For the hundreds of people helped each year by the participating medical professionals and organizations, the bi-annual clinic is a godsend. Without the free services, they would go without care.

Demand is usually high, likely even more so after the job losses and health concerns brought by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

... RAM sent notice that all the available vision, dental filling and dental extraction appointments available during the Nov. 7 and 8 clinic had already been filled through an online request system put in place this year as a precaution against COVID-19.

Usually, those seeking care camp out overnight in parking lots outside RAM clinics clamoring for the limited chances to see a physician or dentist. If they’re too late, they may have to go home without receiving the care they need.

The services offered by the folks at RAM are needed and appreciated, but in the modern era, in the richest country in the world (in terms of private wealth), this is no way to run a health care system.

The web of for-profit health care providers and insurance companies we’ve built over the past few decades in this country is failing these people. If the pre-existing condition needed to access basic health care is a hefty bank balance, then the system is ailing.

Access to care is a public health issue, something made even more evident by the virus currently ravaging the country.

Yet, our state and national leaders continue to outright ignore available options to expand access through Medicaid and work against efforts to reform the broken system, because they were proposed by political opponents.

The current status quo of political games and obfuscation has and will result in death for those who cannot afford care. It’s time to find a cure for the obstruction that has kept millions of Americans from meeting basic health care needs.



Oct. 21

Kingsport Times-News on arguments for ending daylight saving time:

Bad habits like fiddling with our clocks twice a year are hard to break, even when they serve no good purpose, even if destructive. But there is hope we will be spared the burden of turning our clocks back from daylight saving time (DST) next month if legislation sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott is approved.

We’ve had enough to deal with this year, the senators say, in pushing for a bill to skip the upcoming time change and keep the country on daylight saving time through November 2021. And if that is successful, we may well be done with this useless ritual, with 32 states now having voted to keep the clocks an hour ahead permanently.

When will Congress get a clue and get it done?

Most folks will tell you DST was created for the benefit of farmers when America was largely agricultural. Most folks would be wrong. Farmers don’t give a hoot about DST and in fact strongly opposed it when the time switch was first made in March 1918 as a wartime measure.

After the war ended, DST proved so unpopular the federal law was repealed in 1919, though some states and localities continued the observance.

When World War II arrived, so did year-round DST. But from 1945 to 1966, observance was inconsistent, resulting in all manner of confusion for the transportation and broadcasting industries in particular, which pushed for standardization. Farmers, by the way, remained opposed. To fix things, the Uniform Time Act was established in 1966.

After 55 years of this misery, it’s time to repeal it, move time forward an hour, and be done with it. There simply is no good reason to continue changing our clocks twice annually.

The U.S. Department of Energy is promulgating the notion that DST saves about a half a percent in total electricity per day. However, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the closer you live to the equator where the amount of daylight varies little, the amount of electricity actually increases after the clocks are switched. A Yale economics study found a 1% increase in electricity use in Indiana from DST costs residents $9 million annually.

“Further studies in 2008 showed that Americans used more domestic electricity when they practice daylight saving. Today, as modern society marches forward, the energy argument may become obsolete. In terms of work, we’re not really a strictly 9 to 5 society any more. Factories have different shifts. Office workers use the internet. Farmers will use daylight hours, no matter what. At home, our electricity demand is no longer based on sunrises and sunsets. We drive instead of walking, which means daylight saving actually increases gasoline use,” says the OFA.

Indeed, other studies show a negative impact on health, more car crashes and increased workplace injuries as folks get accustomed to time switches.

Two years ago, California and Florida voted to move clocks ahead an hour and leave them there. Last year, six more states signed on including Tennessee. So far this year there have been six more. More than half the states now demand an end to clock tampering. Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands don’t change their clocks. Next month, neither will California, Washington and Oregon.

Congress should take this year off and leave the time set ahead. Next year, it should make it permanent.