The Jefferson City News-Tribune, Jan. 19

The vaccination rollout has gone slower than expected, but we’re encouraged that the county’s health department, along with area schools, are planning for vaccination clinics for school staff members.

On Sunday, we reported it’s still unclear when school staff will have the opportunity to get vaccinated, but that county/school officials are starting to plan for clinics.

We hope the clinics come sooner than later. School teachers/staffers are essentially front-line workers, and we’ve previously editorialized in support of them being among the first to receive the vaccine.

As we reported, essential employees — including all teachers and school staff — are in Phase 1B-Tier 3 of Missouri’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. This also includes people who provide contract services to schools, such as substitute teachers, bus drivers and therapists.

Tier 1, which includes first responders, emergency services and public health officials, was activated Thursday, and Tier 2, which includes Missourians who are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, activated Monday.

The state’s vaccine supply will determine when Tier 3 is activated.

We hope the vaccine shipments can be expedited and that schools are ready when Tier 3 is activated.

But we’ll also repeat a previous plea: We urge everyone, especially teachers and school staff, to consult their doctors and to take their advice about getting the vaccine. We suspect that for most people, doctors will recommend their patients get vaccinated.

Staff members at different schools had varying interest in getting the vaccine, according to recent surveys. At Jefferson City’s public schools, 76.5 percent of respondents said they wanted to get the vaccine. At Blair Oaks and Helias Catholic High School, around half were interested. At Calvary Lutheran High School, only about 33 percent expressed interest.

Experts say it’s important to get vaccinated against COVID-19 even for people who already have had the virus. But, ultimately, we ask everyone follow the advice of their doctors.


The Kansas City Star, Jan. 19

After disgracing his office by making dangerous and entirely false claims about nonexistent voter fraud, could U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley lose his law license?

At least 60 attorneys have attached their names to a formal complaint against Hawley, Kansas City attorney Hugh O’Donnell said. The group wants the Missouri Supreme Court’s Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel to investigate the senator’s actions leading up to the assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Lawyers from St. Louis to Kansas City had been expected to file complaints after gathering the signatures.

More attorneys still could sign on to the effort, O’Donnell said. Alan Pratzel, the chief disciplinary counsel in Missouri, wouldn’t confirm or deny whether an official complaint against Hawley has already been filed.

Hawley, like any other attorney accused of malfeasance, should be afforded due process. But history will not be kind to the junior senator from Missouri. He brought shame to his office and his profession — and must answer for his treasonous misdeeds.

Hawley’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

In the letters drafted by practicing attorneys across the state, Hawley stands accused of professional misconduct and violating his oath as a senator, among other questionable acts.

There should be no question about Hawley’s culpability, and his indefensible actions must have consequences. He helped lead the charge to try to overturn a free and fair election, echoing President Donald Trump’s fabricated claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and offering a fist pump of encouragement to the rioters who stormed our country’s Capitol.

The deadly Jan. 6 insurrection left a stain on our country and put public servants’ lives in danger. Five people died, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick.

Repercussions ranging from a public reprimand to disbarment should be considered, said Alan Hoffman, a retired attorney from St. Louis who circulated one of the letters seeking sanctions against Hawley.

“The accusations are serious enough to warrant disbarment,” Hoffman said. “But that’s not my determination to make.”

In one of the letters, Hawley is accused of making public statements with “reckless disregard for the truth.” He wrongly alleged that judicial and elected officials in Pennsylvania committed unlawful acts, “conduct antithetical to the integrity of the profession,” the letter reads.

Hawley’s actions “have undermined public confidence in and respect for the institutions of the United States,” another letter reads.

Tom Porto and O’Donnell are among a group of Kansas City attorneys who signed a complaint. Both were stunned by Hawley’s actions contesting the election and the vile rhetoric that led to a mob descending upon the Capitol.

“As a fellow attorney, I am ashamed of him,” Porto said.

“I am appalled by Sen. Hawley,” O’Donnell said.

Hawley, whose Senate bio declares that he’s “one of the nation’s leading constitutional lawyers,” has yet to take responsibility for his role in inciting an assault on democracy or apologize for repeating baseless allegations about a fraudulent election.

“That photo of him giving that pseudo-fascist salute was the last straw,” Hoffman said.

Missouri’s senator so far has managed to avoid answering legitimate questions about his leading role in attempting to overturn the election, hiding behind guest columns filled with specious claims and opting for appearances on friendly television networks.

While Hawley is far more focused on his political ambitions than on actually practicing law, an inquiry into whether Hawley violated rules of professional conduct could force him to answer for his actions.

Anyone can file a complaint against an attorney who practices law in Missouri. Once a grievance is filed, an investigation will determine the merits of the allegations. If formal charges are filed, the case will be sent to the Missouri Supreme Court. Once the accused attorney answers the charges, subsequent hearings will be open to the public, Pratzel said.

Hawley’s actions were cynical, wrong, politically motivated and incendiary. He has dishonored his office — and his profession. Hawley violated the oath that all lawyers in Missouri swear to support the Constitution, and a formal investigation by the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel should hold him to account.


The St. Joseph News-Press, Jan. 15

Gov. Mike Parson gives the state of Missouri good marks for its initial distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Political leaders can boast impressive progress. Thanks to both Operation Warp Speed and prior scientific advances, vaccines were tested for safety and approved for emergency use in record time.

As of Wednesday, more than 161,000 doses were given in Missouri. That amounts to 2,600 for every 100,000 people in the state, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s online dashboard. Parson said the state hopes to complete Phase 1A of distribution to health workers and nursing home residents by the end of the month.

But the vaccine rollout has been far from perfect. A press release from state Rep. Rusty Black, R-Chillicothe, paints the picture of limited supply and poor communication and erratic shipment projections at the federal level.

The state receives one-week advance notice of shipments that are sent directly to those that have enrolled to become a vaccinator. Supplies do not go to the Missouri Department of Health. There are reports of providers expecting the Moderna vaccine and getting the Pfizer one instead, a significant change in terms of storage needs.

“There is an exceptionally limited supply available in Missouri at this time, and thousands of health care workers across the state are still in need of vaccination,” Black’s office said in the release. “Supply has far exceeded demand.”

He said the Department of Health is continuing to work with community providers to establish efficient networks for distributing vaccines to those outside a hospital system.

Efficiency is a key measure and one where the state and local communities, so far, appear to fall behind others in the country. The CDC dashboard shows that of 526,455 vaccines shipped in Missouri, only 161,784 were distributed to patients as of mid-week. That’s a rate of 30%, the lowest in 12 Midwestern states that surround Missouri. The rate of vaccine delivery to patients was 61% in North Dakota, 57% in South Dakota, 49% in Texas, 42% in Iowa and 38% in Illinois. Kansas was only slightly better than Missouri, at 32%.

All of this should give pause to those who cheer the federal government’s new push to dump all supplies on states as soon as possible, with the goal of mass vaccination. A White House report recommends a speedy pivot to rapid immunization of those over 65 years of age, but these numbers suggest that many states, particularly Missouri, need to do more to administer doses at the local level.

The St. Joseph Health Department made its first push this past week. That’s good news, because the worst scenario is for the vaccine to be sitting on a shelf or freezer somewhere as the expiration date draws near.