Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:


Oct. 13

The Journal on plans by Virgin Hyperloop One, a technology company, to build a certification center in West Virginia:

At long last, a high-technology company recognized internationally is coming to West Virginia. As we reported last week, the Virgin Hyperloop firm will build a center here to help develop a next-generation high-speed transportation network.

It’s a start.

Hyperloop transportation is about as high-tech as one can get. It uses special pods to transport cargo and passengers through huge vacuum tubes, utilizing a magnetic levitation system. It appears possible for the pods to reach speeds capable of crossing the country in five hours or so.

Eighteen states competed for the company’s hyperloop certification center. West Virginia won. Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson said of the state’s effort, “You put more than your best foot forward ...”

Many factors, including the involvement of West Virginia University and Marshall University, went into the project. The hyperloop center will be located on 800 acres between Tucker and Grant counties, not far from Canaan Valley.

We had help. West Virginian John Chambers, executive chairman of Cisco Systems, helped convince Branson to locate in our state. It is not the first job-producing act on behalf of West Virginia by Chambers — and all Mountaineers have reason to be grateful to him.

But we must stand on our own two legs. The Virgin Hyperloop center will help us do that.

Unless we are sadly mistaken, Virgin employees who come here will be impressed by the quality of life in West Virginia. Like Toyota executives several years ago, they also will be pleased with the quality of our workforce. Let us hope they tell their friends and business acquaintances.

Employers like Virgin Hyperloop and Toyota are just what we need in the Mountain State. Building on successes in bringing them here needs to be the top priority for state government. Resources devoted to the task will be money and effort well-spent for our future.



Oct. 12

The Register-Herald on the flu shot:

Counting deaths and illnesses daily from Covid-19 may have normalized our relationship with the insidious and highly infectious disease to a point that we do not take it as seriously as we should. The tracking – whether it is a state count produced by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources or national numbers from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at John Hopkins University – can have a mind-numbing effect.

They are big numbers, we know, that grow bigger by the day, from the hundreds of thousands into the millions. And yet we all grow weary of the daily counting, masking up, keeping our distance and washing our hands.

Call it Covid fatigue.

Besides, the overwhelming majority of us have not been infected. Nor do many think that they will.

But now is no time to let down your guard – or your mask. In fact, with flu season fast approaching, now would be a good time to double down – and get a flu shot to boot.

A flu shot will not ward off Covid-19. Only a vaccine specifically engineered for this coronavirus will do that. From what experts say, there won’t be a Covid-19 vaccine available for general distribution, at the earliest, until the middle of next year.

But what a flu shot can do is keep you and millions of other people healthy so that doctors and nurses and other health care providers can stay focused on Public Enemy No. 1 – Covid-19.

A flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor visits each and every year. By way of example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu vaccinations prevented an estimated 4.4 million influenza illnesses during the 2018-2019 flu season, 2.3 million influenza-associated medical visits, 58,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 3,500 influenza-associated deaths.

Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor by 40 percent to 60 percent.

A 2014 study showed that a flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of being admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit by 74 percent.

A 2018 study showed that flu vaccinations among adults reduced the risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit by 82 percent.

Our collective capacity to treat the sick is limited – a known quantity. There are only so many hospital beds, so many ventilators, so many ICU units, so many doctors and nurses trained in the medical procedure of intubation. As much as possible, they – the medical professionals and equipment – need to be reserved for the long and growing line of people who are falling sick to Covid-19. It, compared with the flu, is the more dangerous disease because, again, no vaccine. It is a novel coronavirus – new to the world, new to scientists. As such, we do not know its long-term effects because it has been with us less than a year. We must tread lightly.

So while the totals can become an indistinguishable blur after awhile – nationally, more than 214,000 deaths and over 7.7 million illnesses attributed to Covid-19 as of this writing – it is the trend right now that should put all of us on alert.

At least 915 new coronavirus deaths and 58,539 new cases were reported in the United States on Friday, according to The New York Times database. Over the past week, there have been an average of 47,782 cases per day across the U.S., an increase of 12 percent from the average two weeks earlier.

Cases are rising in 45 states.

In West Virginia, the first week of September produced an average of 166 Covid-19 cases a day. The first week of October? 185. That is an 11 percent increase.

We are not out of this pandemic – not by a long shot. We are not, contrary to what our president says, rounding a corner. In fact, just as epidemiologists warned awhile back, our state and national numbers are climbing at a time when the cooler weather is encouraging us to stay indoors – sometimes in poorly ventilated offices, for others in school classrooms. It is happening just as we head nose first into the cold and flu season.

We are now up against what could prove to be our nation’s biggest challenge with this disease and we will only exacerbate the outcome if we do not wake up, smell the coffee and take prescribed precautions.

So, rinse and repeat: Wash your hands, keep your distance and wear a mask.

And, now, add this: Get a flu shot.



Oct. 9

The Journal on the death of Breonna Taylor:

The more we learn about Breonna Taylor’s death, the clearer it becomes that she did not have to die. Law enforcement officials everywhere should be examining what happened to ensure similar tragedies do not occur in their jurisdictions.

Little by little, information about what happened in the Taylor case is trickling out. Some of what we are learning contradicts earlier reports.

It is known now that after midnight on March 13, police in Louisville, Kentucky, went to Taylor’s apartment to serve a search warrant. They were looking for evidence of illegal drug activity.

Inside were Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. They were in her bedroom watching television, not near the apartment’s entrance door.

Police say they knocked on the door three times, announced they were law enforcement officers, then used a battering ram to force their way into the apartment.

Walker has said he heard the disturbance but did not know it was caused by police officers. He had a gun. He and Taylor went down a hall, saw people in the apartment — and Walker fired one shot. He wounded an officer, who returned fire. So did the other policemen.

Taylor was hit several times and died at the scene.

Other details may come out later, but the details above are clear.

Without in any way passing judgment on what happened, Walker’s account seems believable. It would have been foolish for him to open fire on people he knew to be police officers. He fired one shot — then, realizing what was going on, stopped.

It appears neither Walker nor Taylor heard the officers announce their presence.

Louisville officials already have announced they are reviewing — and changing — procedures for such situations.

That comes too late for Breonna Taylor.

Thorough, objective reviews and change in procedure at other law enforcement agencies could save lives, however.