The Kansas City Star, Oct. 5

During the last two weeks, COVID-19 has hammered Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The community has averaged nearly six new cases each day per 10,000 residents, among the 20 worst COVID-19 rates in the nation.

Cape Girardeau County, near the Missouri Bootheel, reported more than 500 active coronavirus cases on Thursday. That’s the highest daily number since the crisis began in March.

Do we need any more reminders that COVID-19 still poses an imminent danger? Missouri is in the red zone for cases, the White House said in late September. Gov. Mike Parson and his wife both contracted the virus. More than 2,100 Missourians have died from it.

So it’s stunning to learn that nearly half of Missouri’s federal COVID-19 response funds remain unspent. In the latest accounting on her website, Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway said the state had spent just $1.6 billion of its $2.9 billion federal allotment for coronavirus mitigation and response.

The state received $2.1 billion from the CARES Act, Washington’s primary COVID-19 response fund.

Some of the money is undoubtedly in the spending pipeline. “We believe we are on track with appropriate levels of spending of the CARES Act funding,” Parson’s office said in a statement.

It’s clear, though, that Missouri has yet to spend millions in federal funds it has available to fight the coronavirus.

Where has Missouri spent its COVID-19 dollars so far? Masks. Equipment and supplies. Aid for school districts, as well as colleges and universities. Public safety.

At more than $500 million, direct aid to Missouri counties is the biggest single expenditure. That spending is appropriate and has helped in the fight against COVID-19.

Yet more must be done.


The Joplin Globe, Oct. 2

The effect of any political influence in the handling of the coronavirus pandemic can only be harmful, yet it appears to be happening at all levels.

State and local health departments seem to have dragged their feet at times in providing pandemic information. Gov. Mike Parson failed to acknowledge the recommendation made to him privately by Dr. Deborah Birx for the White House Coronavirus Task Force to impose a statewide mask order when Missouri was in the “red zone” for new cases. An area county health department defies both state and federal guidelines regarding quarantines.

Nationally, multiple reports involving the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal health agencies show likely attempts to exert political influence on reports, recommendations and actions.

Areas of concern nationally include:

• A surprise change in testing recommendations for people who had contact with infected individuals. The CDC went from recommending testing to saying those exposed didn’t need testing if they were asymptomatic, shocking medical experts.

• News posted on the CDC website citing potential spread of the coronavirus through small airborne particles, not just by respiratory droplets. When news about the warning came out, it was quickly taken down. Officials say it was a draft posted in error.

• The back and forth between the Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn and those scientists involved in the effort to create a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine versus the White House regarding the approval process for the vaccine and the speed with which the nation could expect one.

Some of these issues on various levels of government may involve mistakes in the rush to act, or they may result from disagreements about the intersection of science and policy. But multiple news outlets reporting recently confirm there have been efforts to let politics overrule sound science in the COVID-19 response.

Recent reporting shows the administration pressed recommendations on the CDC that were written by political officials with no science background, then inserted into the agency’s guidelines over the objections of its scientists. Further, reporting finds that political appointees within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have demanded to delay, review and revise scientific reports on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The New York Times reported “Current and former senior health officials with direct knowledge of phone calls, emails and other communication between the agencies said ... meddling from Washington was turning widely followed and otherwise apolitical guidance on infectious disease ... into a political loyalty test, with career scientists framed as adversaries of the administration.”

We cannot afford this. Lives depend on sound science and the best recommendations for our response in terms of contagion prevention, treatment and eventual immunization. Health agencies at all levels have to reliably follow the best science available, to be transparent and to provide clear information to the public as it is gathered. Leaders must refrain tainting the process with political considerations.

Their concern must be protecting Americans and saving as many lives as possible.


The Jefferson City News-Tribune, Sept. 30

We’re encouraged by Ameren Missouri’s announcement that the energy company plans to invest in renewable energy and have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

We’re encouraged by Ameren Missouri’s Monday announcement that the energy company plans to invest in renewable energy and have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The company’s “transformational change” involves closing carbon-emitting energy sources and replacing them with renewable sources.

As we reported Tuesday, carbon dioxide, or CO2, is one of the main greenhouse gases released by human activities — including the burning of fossil fuels — that contribute to climate change.

Ameren’s pledge is consistent with the objectives of the Paris Agreement and limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Ameren has operations in Missouri and Illinois. The company plans to cut its carbon emissions in half within the next 10 years — based on 2005 levels — and by 85 percent by 2040.

For Ameren Missouri, that means taking advantage of increasingly cheaper renewable energy options, such as solar and wind power, to add 3,100 megawatts of power production capacity through renewables by 2030.

The company wants a total of 5,400 megawatts from renewable energy sources by 2040.

Talk is cheap, and many companies are spewing words such as “ethical,” conscious,” green” and “sustainable.”

Large companies such as Amazon and Microsoft also have committed to becoming carbon neutral or carbon negative within the next 20-30 years.

Only action determines whether companies are truly interested in the environment or just corporate greenwashing — marketing to convince customers they are more eco-friendly than they really are.

We’re encouraged by Ameren’s announcement, and we believe they are committed to their plan. Time will determine how well they implement it.