Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:


Feb. 2

The Kingsport Times-News on an increase in roadway deaths in Tennessee:

As the pandemic kept Tennesseans close to home last year, they took to the state’s rivers and lakes, recording the most boating-related deaths in 37 years. And despite that the highways were less traveled with traffic down 13% in the state, fatalities increased about 7%.

Public safety took a back seat last year. As we edge closer to warmer weather with infection rates dropping due to the vaccination program, we need to renew that focus. It was a tough year with nearly 9,000 Tennesseans falling victim to the pandemic. This year, let’s advocate for public safety on our roads and waterways as we continue to push our COVID-19 positivity and death rates down and our vaccination rate up.

Tennessee had 32 boating-related deaths in 2020 as boating traffic on the state’s lakes and rivers increased. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency reported that 30% of the deaths had alcohol or drugs as a contributing factor. Along with the 32 deaths there were 61 serious injury incidents that hurt 82 people, the agency said.

How can you be safer on the water? Take a boater safety course, always wear your life jacket, and be aware of the water conditions around dams. Always boat with a sober operator. Operating while impaired is a crime. And report unsafe operation, boat accidents or law violations to your nearest TWRA dispatch center.

As a result of an increase in fatalities on our roadways, the state departments of Transportation and Safety and Homeland Security are teaming up to raise public awareness. With fatalities up even as traffic decreased, TDOT Commissioner Clay Bright is asking motorists to “take notice and work with us in making a change.”

Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Jeff Long said there were 1,211 fatalities on state highways last year. “The loss of life is never easy, especially when it could have been avoided,” he said.

How can you be safer on the highways?

“We encourage the public to make safe choices when traveling. Obey the speed limit, stay off your phone, don’t drive distracted or impaired, and please wear your seat belt. Those simple choices will greatly cut down the chances of you dying in a crash,” Long said.

Of the 1,211 fatalities in 2020, 396 were unrestrained, up a surprising 32% from 2019. Fatalities in the urban and rural areas were up 56% and 44%. Shelby County led the state with a total of 244 roadway fatalities in 2020.

TDOT and partner agencies will be posting information to raise awareness of the importance of driving safely. Take heed, and help make 2021 a safer year as we make up for lost time on our highways and waterways.



Jan. 30

The Johnson City Press on safely warming homes as temperatures drop:

Winter weather often leaves home heating systems working overtime to push back the cold.

That means some area residents will turn to auxiliary heaters to help keep warm.

If you are one of these people using a kerosene or electric heater, we want to remind you of the importance of following all the safety precautions when using these devices.

With the cold, there often comes a tragic story of a family left homeless by fire started by an auxiliary heater located too close to a flammable object. If you use an auxiliary heater, be sure that you are following all the safety precautions listed on the devices.

That includes keeping the heater at least 3 feet from drapes, furniture and other flammable materials.

Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep, and turn the device off when you leave home.

There should be a smoke detector on each level of the house, inside every bedroom and outside the bedrooms in each sleeping area. Residents who use gas or oil space heaters also should install a carbon monoxide detector outside every bedroom.

Another problem often associated with extended periods of sub-freezing temperatures are frozen water pipes. The first line of defense against the cold is to insulate pipes located in unheated portions of the house where air can’t circulate. Other precautions include:

— Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.

— Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.

— Let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes.

— Drain outside faucets and sprinklers.

— Locate your shut-off valve. Don’t wait until a pipe is broken to find it. Shut-off valves are usually located inside near where the main waterline enters the house.

Finally, it’s important to remember to take care of your your pets on those bitterly cold days. Never leave a dog or cat outdoors when the temperature drops below freezing.



Jan. 30

The Herald-Citizen on learning to adapt amid the pandemic:

If anything good can be said about the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the near miraculous way we’ve all learned to adapt to constantly changing situations.

From the grocery store and restaurant workers to police and utility employees, we’ve all had to change so many things about the way we do business and go about our daily lives.

Perhaps no profession has been more affected than our healthcare system, in which nurses and doctors are dressing in full body protective gear to care for those most vulnerable to this deadly virus.

As of Jan. 29, Cookeville Regional Medical Center staff had cared for 1,273 COVID-19 patients, and 164 of those had died.

... We are telling the stories of the nurses and emergency workers who’ve cared for these patients and how they’ve handled the stress and constant change that comes along with it.

Of course, since COVID-19 is so contagious, we weren’t allowed to step inside the hospital and interview nurses or patients like we would have in the pre-COVID-19 days. This time, we relied on hospital staff to write down their experiences, which we formed into stories. ...

We’re also sharing the story of a Cookeville Police officer whose pregnant wife was admitted to the hospital with complications from COVID-19 and what officers do to protect themselves and their families.

And we’re sharing a story about how Tennessee Tech’s health services team has adapted to keep the thousands of students, faculty and staff safe on campus.

From the tornado to the pandemic and joblessness for many of our neighbors, the past year has been the most difficult probably any of us can remember, but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. Thousands have already been vaccinated against the virus, and daily cases of COVID-19 at CRMC are at the lowest level since October.

But for now, until one day when this is hopefully all behind us, we want to salute those who’ve taken care of the sick and continue to serve our community.