Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Dec. 16

Time to prove that Madison is caring city

Madison is the second most caring city in the nation, according to a study released this week.

That’s good to hear. But now we need to prove it.

Charities across the city and state are struggling to keep up with higher demand for help because of the pandemic. So please give more during this holiday season if you can.

Madison ranks second only to Boston for its generosity among the 100 largest cities, according to WalletHub. The personal finance website based its list of the most caring cities in America on “39 key indicators of a compassionate spirit,” including the availability of homeless shelters, volunteers per capita, child poverty rates and percent of income donated to charity.

We’re not surprised that people here are charitable. Madison has one of the highest concentrations of nonprofits in the country, with nearly 1,100, according to Governing magazine.

But the damage COVID-19 has caused to our local and state economies has been severe. More people are out of work and struggling to pay for housing, food and utility bills. Restrictions on gatherings and business activity also have hurt many of the groups that help others.

The Salvation Army of Dane County, for example, is less than halfway to its goal of raising $550,000 from its Christmas Kettle Campaign, which is its largest fundraising event.

Because of COVID-19, fewer people are filling shifts ringing bells in front of stores to encourage donations. At the same time, fewer shoppers are carrying cash to try to avoid the virus, though the risk of contracting the disease from paper bills and change is very low.

That has left the local Salvation Army, which helps shelter homeless families, with just $220,000 in donations over the first five weeks of its campaign — with just one week to go.

Our community has a big heart. But these are difficult times.

Madison and all of Wisconsin should strive to give even more during the giving season.


Janesville Gazette, Janesville, Dec. 11

Grinch won't be able to steal this Christmas

If this Christmas has a Grinch, it’s a fuzzy infective agent known as the novel coronavirus.

It’s out to ruin what we love about the season—the family gatherings, the church services, the shared meals, the caroling, the office parties, the gift exchanges.

But like the townsfolk in the beloved Dr. Seuss book, people here aren’t letting COVID-19 steal Christmas. On the contrary, generosity and the holiday spirit abound.

Consider this:

Bags of Hope, the biggest holiday season food drive in the area, is forging ahead undeterred. Organizers won’t be giving bags of groceries this year. Instead, families in need will get $100 gift cards. The fear was that companies that in past years gave in-kind donations to help fill bags with $40,000 worth of groceries wouldn’t be able to give a like amount of cash for the purchase of gift cards. Maybe $25,000 was a more realistic target, organizers thought. They were wrong. Companies such as Seneca, Festival Foods, Dollar General and Kwik Trip came through to help raise $40,000 cash. Take that, COVID-19.

The Beloit Daily News Books for Kids drive collected 2,000 children’s books plus hundreds of dollars in cash donations. Despite obstacles thrown up by the Grinchy virus, book collection sites in the Beloit area filled. The Salvation Army will distribute the books to families throughout the stateline area. Score one for holiday spirit.

How about those home decorations? Is it just us, or are more people going all out this year draping lights from every limb and eve? Judy Olson, for example, decided her home at the corner of East Milwaukee Street and North Pontiac Drive in Janesville should pay homage to two Christmas movie classics, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and “A Christmas Story.” She covered a playhouse with 3,650 lights. When The Gazette asked readers to suggest nicely decorated homes people might like to visit, people responded with dozens of locations. You can find them at GazetteXtra.com/decorations. Pow! Right in the kisser, COVID-19.

And let’s not forget the reason for the season. Churches typically are overflowing on Christmas Eve, but COVID-19 insists on making that unsafe. Undeterred, local houses of worship are adjusting. They’re adding services and having people make reservations so attendees don’t exceed 25% of church capacity. First Lutheran Church in Janesville has offered other churches its radio-broadcast equipment and parking lot for drive-in services. We think COVID-19’s heart might have grown a few sizes right there.

As COVID-19 surveys the chaos it has wrought, hoping it has quashed the joy and generosity of the season, it will be disappointed.

The difficulty and loss of the past several months have made people a little more thankful, a little kinder and a little more generous. Just what COVID-19 doesn’t want.


Kenosha News, Kenosha, Dec. 14

Vaccine approval certain to spark fights

With more than 3,000 Americans dying each day from the COVID-19 pandemic, we would have thought the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Pfizer’s vaccine on Friday would have been greeted with great fanfare.

We would have thought that Americans would be preparing to roll up their sleeves and line up in droves to get the vaccine as soon as shipments made their way to their respective states.

There was some fanfare. The Chicago Tribune editorialized the vaccine was a “gift from science” that would give “a weary, frightened world what it needs: a verifiable path to defeat the coronavirus pandemic, end the suffering and start the process of returning life to the normal rhythms of ‘before.’"

“Imagine,” the Tribune said, “again going to work and school, to restaurants and concerts without significant risk of infection. Imagine being able to travel. Imagine hugging family members and friends. We are likely to get there in 2021 because a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine appears on pace for emergency regulatory approval and fast rollout. This gift of science will be ready — if we accept it.

“Wait, if we accept it? The big question about a COVID-19 vaccine has shifted from efficacy to whether enough Americans will agree to receive it.”

With that, the Tribune Editorial Board hit the nail on the head.

That’s a little mind-boggling. Medical teams and the pharmaceutical industry worked at warp speed to produce a vaccine for a lethal virus that was unknown less than a year ago — and they do, indeed, merit plaudits. The Pfizer vaccine is the first to get FDA approval; several others are waiting in the wings and could get approval by February.

Instead, many Americans have greeted the news with a jaundiced eye. According to a survey by Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 26 percent of Americans say they won’t get vaccinated for COVID-19 and another 27 percent say they are not sure if they want to get vaccinated. That only leaves 47 percent of Americans polled who definitely committed to getting vaccinated.

That would fall far short of giving the U.S. the estimated 70 percent vaccination rate that health experts say is needed to achieve herd immunity, which is needed to bring the pandemic under control.

In truth, there are grounds for some of the skepticism. The clinical trials were fast-tracked, and there are some questions and caveats that will only be resolved over time. We don’t know, for instance, how long the COVID antibodies will last — or whether further vaccinations will be required. The clinical trials didn’t include pregnant women or frail senior citizens, so the impact there raises questions. With a 90 percent effective rate, people could still get the virus, and it’s unclear whether those people could still infect others.

Some of the opposition comes from the anti-vaxxers, those who continue to push discredited theories that vaccines cause autism; some comes from minority groups that have reservations because of past abuses of their communities by the medical profession; and some of it comes from plain old American orneriness over the government telling them what to do. Yes, we are aware of New York state legislation that would allow health officials to mandate vaccinations if insufficient numbers of people get shots voluntarily.

That doesn’t even touch on the simmering fight over whether “essential workers” should have priority in getting vaccinations in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, versus prioritizing senior citizens in order to prevent deaths, since they account for 92 percent of COVID-19 deaths.

Instead of a ticker-tape celebration, the Pfizer vaccine and those that also receive approval will face a troubled terrain of doubt and reluctance. We can only hope that the rollout of the vaccine proves its effectiveness, lays to rest some of the doubts and convinces reluctant vaccine candidates to roll up their sleeves and go ahead.

Only then, when a vast majority of Americans commit to vaccination, will we reach the immunity levels needed to defeat COVID-19 and curb those 3,000 deaths a day. Otherwise, COVID-19 wins and Americans will continue to die at alarming rates.