Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Herald-Dispatch on armed protesters demanding lockdowns end:
In Michigan, Mississippi and elsewhere, people are staging protests to let their governing bodies know they want the lockdown of the economy to end.
That’s good. Protesting what you perceive to be an injustice is an American tradition. It’s protected three times in the First Amendment — freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
But some protesters have carried things too far by showing up at these rallies in public spaces carrying rifles.
If the idea is to intimidate, then having a rifle strapped to your body is a good idea. If the idea is to use facts, logic and human experience to bring another person over to your point of view, then it’s not such a good idea. It’s the difference between coercion and persuasion.
If you want the governor to speed up his re-opening plan, give him good reasons. Bring out a barber, a landscaper or a salesperson who can make the case that the lockdown is harming real people and that business can resume safely.
Don’t try to intimidate the governor by showing up at the Capitol with a rifle. Second Amendment rights have little to do with the economic pain that’s being felt.
It was Mao Zedong of China who said, “Every Communist must grasp the truth, ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.’ ” That works in totalitarian regimes, but rarely does it last in the long term. Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland proved that point. King George III learned that lesson. Now, while the world is watching the COVID-19 pandemic, China is playing the game in Hong Kong. We will have to see how that plays out.
But this is not a totalitarian nation, despite the feeling among a large group of Americans that governors in some states are taking the lockdown too far.
Protest if you wish, but leave the big guns at home. Set the example of how to have a peaceful protest.
Meanwhile, businesses in at least two dozen states, including West Virginia, are re-opening after a lockdown that began in March. The process will be a slow one. The speed of re-opening is slowed down by public health officials’ insistence on spelling out so many details of how the process must work.
Some health departments in other states are telling churches how they should conduct the communion ceremony, if they are allowed to have communion at all.
Reasonable people can disagree over how much regulation is too much. If you’re of the opinion things are moving too slowly or too quickly, let your state and local officials know. The best way of doing that is at the ballot box. West Virginia has a primary election next month. Let candidates know if their handling of this situation warrants your support. That’s far more effective than carrying a rifle and a protest sign.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail on proceeding carefully as the state begins to reopen:
There seemed to be a sense of relaxation in Charleston and across West Virginia over the weekend. The governor has a plan for the state to gradually reopen amid the coronavirus. The numbers of new cases are dropping. With good weather, many people ventured outside.
Many still kept to social distancing, wearing masks in public, and keeping gatherings small. Others did not.
That’s to be expected. There’s a natural tendency for some people to let down their guard when something appears to be coming to an end. Ask any public school teacher what their classrooms are like in a normal year once May comes around. It’s a similar kind of feeling.
But West Virginians need to remain wary, especially in light of a new report that COVID-19 cases and deaths aren’t slowing down at all in many areas. While some hotbeds are seeing a lingering plateau with the virus, cases and deaths are actually climbing elsewhere, in areas rural and urban.
After numerous states began shutting down non-essential businesses and advising limited travel, it was anticipated the death toll from the virus would be about 60,000 — a number the United States has already passed. On May 3, President Donald Trump estimated that total fatalities could reach 100,000 (double the amount he had projected in mid-April) by the time the virus has run its course.
According to The New York Times, an internal report from the Trump administration shows that up to 3,000 deaths per day might become standard by June 1, and the United States could hit about 200,000 deaths by that time, which is closer to original predictions in the early stages of the pandemic.
Reopening the country, something the president and several governors have been eager to do as the nation’s economy tanks, will give the virus more fuel to spread, sicken and kill. It might be possible to reopen with fewer casualties if public health guidelines are followed strictly. And it seems, inevitable, the country will reopen, whether that’s the right thing to do or not.
The financial pressure everywhere is immense. West Virginia is facing a huge budget shortfall, has massive unemployment claims and is banking on the federal government to come to the rescue, something that is far from certain.
There’s a lot to consider, and making the right decision is hard, especially if those making the choices don’t even have the right information in front of them. But momentum is carrying everyone toward a reopening, so residents need to control the things they can, which means following public health guidelines. Keep gatherings small. Wash your hands. Wear a cloth covering over your face in public. Practice social distancing.
This is all uncharted territory, but staying healthy demands vigilance.
The Journal on Gov. Jim Justice's reopening plan:
Gov. Jim Justice has released a step-by-step plan for what he calls “West Virginia Strong — The Comeback.” It lays out a roadmap for easing restrictions meant to stop COVID-19 in our state.
Not so fast, however, as the governor himself is emphasizing. Much of his initiative will kick in only after the state passes a milestone regarding new COVID-19 cases.
For the plan to be implemented fully, the state will have to record three consecutive days in which fewer than 3% of those tested for the disease return positive results. An idea of how difficult that may be can be gained by referring to postive-test rates during the past few weeks.
It was only on April 27 that the state recorded its first below-3% positive testing day in weeks. On Sunday, the rate shown by the Department of Health and Human Services on its website was 3.09%. A single day’s return to that level would put us back at the starting line.
But greater concerns should exist in the Eastern Panhandle. Our proximity to other states with heavy caseloads is a reason for greater precaution. Our next-door neighbors in Frederick County, Maryland have recorded more deaths than the entire state of West Virginia. Moving a little further down the road is a COVID-19 hotbed in Montgomery County, Maryland, where a significant number of Eastern Panhandle residents work.
West Virginia’s positive test rates have always been far below those in many other regions, between 3% and 4.5% for some time. Meanwhile, the average positive rate for the nation as a whole was 17.6% just last week.
Most Mountain State residents are eager to begin getting back to normal, we feel certain. For many, the word is not “eager” but, rather, desperate. Laid off from their jobs, tens of thousands need badly to begin earning paychecks again. A significant number of businesses are hovering above insolvency.
Nevertheless, better safe than sorry with a disease that, as of today, had already killed 37 West Virginians — and 56,253 of our fellow Americans.
A mixture of luck, demographics and conscientious personal health actions by residents of our state has limited COVID-19’s devastation in West Virginia. Justice is right to recognize that a false step now could be deadly.