Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
The News & Observer on President-elect Joe Biden's COVID-19 plan:
The story of Donald Trump’s four years as president is not only about the narcissism and norm-breaking of our nation’s leader, but the sheer and sometimes willful incompetence of his administration. That’s never been more apparent than with COVID-19. America has suffered unnecessary devastation because Trump treated the virus as a political threat more than a health crisis, but also because his administration was ill-equipped structurally and philosophically to properly confront it.
That, we hope, is about to change. President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 plan, announced late last week, marshals the nation’s resources and expertise to more robustly address this deadly pandemic. It’s the kind of large-scale assault on an urgent problem that Americans have long expected from their government, and it’s poised to help states like North Carolina in places where the Trump administration fell critically short.
Most helpful and urgent is vaccination distribution. North Carolina, like many states, has struggled initially to get the vaccine to the people who need it. In part because of an early decision to rely on under-resourced county health departments for distribution, our state continues to lag behind most. As of late last week, North Carolina ranked 45nd in the nation in the percentage of its available vaccines that have been administered: 27.66 percent.
The Biden plan will address vaccination rollout issues by using the Federal Emergency Management Agency to set up thousands of community vaccination centers across the country and deploy mobile units to under-served areas. The federal government will reimburse states using the National Guard to help with vaccinations, and Biden wants to expand who can deliver the vaccine, including retired medical personnel. The administration is even exploring using the Defense Authorization Act to potentially mass-produce a syringe that squeezes additional doses out of Pfizer’s vaccine.
Biden also says the vaccine will be free to all members of the public, regardless of their immigration status, and he will address vaccine hesitancy with a national public relations education campaign.
Most critically, the new administration plans to attack the virus with a $50 billion investment in a robust testing and contract tracing infrastructure that includes more rapid testing, expanded laboratory capacity and aid to schools that conduct regular testing. Schools also will get $130 billion so that they can become structurally safer from COVID transmission.
Unlike the Trump administration, the president-elect will complement the public health efforts of governors like Roy Cooper, who has stressed the importance of individual behavior to slow the spread of COVID. According to reports, Biden will quickly announce a mask mandate for federal properties and interstate transportation, and he already has begun to publicly reassert the voice of medical experts and public health officials. Americans should be more confident they will get an honest, science-based accounting of the landscape before them, not politically driven assurances that we are “turning the corner” on COVID.
Certainly, the Biden plan will face hiccups and challenges, but so much of it — from testing to information to vaccine distribution — is infuriatingly unremarkable. It’s what a functioning government should at least try.
In a way, it’s also a test. Outside of Operation Warp Speed’s success with vaccine development, the Trump administration largely left COVID to the states — an approach that aligns with Republican and conservative ideology. Biden’s plan signals a different and unsurprising philosophy — that the federal government can and should rise to meet a public crisis with expertise and robust resources.
We don’t believe government is the answer to all woes, but we do know this much: Trump’s approach to COVID hasn’t worked. States have been left unprepared and unsupported to address critical COVID needs. North Carolina’s members of Congress should support Biden’s plan, which also calls for additional COVID relief for Americans. It’s well past time for a new approach.
The Salisbury Post on administering COVID-19 vaccines in North Carolina's Rowan County:
Last week marked the first major test of the Rowan County Health Department’s vaccination plans.
Including those who arrived too late, as many as 1,000 people may have gotten in line Monday or Thursday to receive a vaccination.
There were only 200 vaccines to administer Tuesday and 600 on Thursday — a supply issue that has its roots at much higher levels than county government, but local folks adapted. County staff handed out tickets on Thursday to 600 people so that they didn’t have to wait more time than needed in line to find out if they were too late.
And folks who were able to receive a vaccine Thursday generally had good things to say about it, provided that they brought something to occupy their time while waiting.
But the Health Department should continue to consider whether changes are needed to the way in which it delivers vaccine and adapt as needed. It’s simultaneously a blessing and a curse that there’s no playbook that tells a local health department how to seamlessly administer a vaccine during a global pandemic.
One adaptation worth continued exploration is whether appointments have a place as part of a mixed-method approach.
Appointments don’t necessarily have to involve people sitting in a chair for a vaccine. A drive-thru method still seems to be the most efficient. However, if the county has the technological infrastructure to make it happen, appointments could be made for blocks of time — where people sign up to receive a vaccine between 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., for example, and save some time idling in the West End Plaza parking lot.
To be clear, the most significant vaccine-related problem is the supply, which has proven to be below demand. There, vaccine companies, private providers, state government and the feds bear a burden to improve, including ensuring supplies are equitably distributed. Meanwhile, the county should continue adapting so that it’s ready when vaccinations are opened for the general public. That’s when it will be critical to have a nearly seamless system.
Winston-Salem Journal and The Greensboro News & Record on President Donald Trump's second impeachment:
President Donald Trump now has the unique distinction of being the only American president to have been impeached twice. The second time, of course, occurred Wednesday with a concluding vote of 232 in favor of charging him with “incitement of insurrection” over the siege of the Capitol on Jan. 6, and 197 voting against.
Every Democrat and 10 Republicans in the U.S. House voted in favor of impeachment, making this, numerically, the most bipartisan impeachment in U.S. history.
Four Republicans abstained from voting.
Many of the House Republicans who voted against impeachment, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, condemned Trump while still promoting other options.
Trump “bears responsibility” for the riot, McCarthy said. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”
But McCarthy called for a fact-finding commission and a censure resolution rather than impeachment.
And other House Republicans, like Rep. Jim Jordan, just tried to change the subject from Trump’s riot instigation to the supposed stifling of Republican views.
The House impeachment isn’t likely to be followed by a Senate trial before Jan. 20, when President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated. That leaves many fearing what Trump could still do during these final few days of his administration. Given Trump’s lack of restraint, that fear is legitimate.
It couldn’t have been easy for Republican legislators to stand against a president who is still somehow popular among the party’s rank-and-file. The 10 who did are no squishy liberals. They include Rep. Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney; Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who said in a statement that she believed her party would “be best served when those among us choose truth”; and S.C. Rep. Tom Rice, who said it “is only by the grace of God and the blood of the Capitol Police that the death toll was not much, much higher.”
They deserve respect for acting on conscience and holding the president to account.
What Trump did should not be papered over. Despite his latter, self-serving, desperate admonitions to his followers that there be no further violence, he still lit the fuse for the insurrection on the Capitol building — not just by telling the Jan. 6 rally crowd to “fight like hell,” but by repeatedly lying about the outcome of the election, stirring his unstable followers to prepare for violence. Five people, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, were left dead in their wake.
Yet Trump has still shown no repentance, remorse or sense of accountability. On the day before his impeachment, he claimed that his remarks at the rally were “totally appropriate.”
This isn’t where it ends. The FBI and the Secret Service have warned that extremists are planning further acts of violence on Jan. 20, both in Washington, D.C., and at all 50 state capitals.
N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper is sending 200 National Guard members to D.C., where they’ll join a force of approximately 20,000 guard members who will assist local authorities before and during the inauguration. Three-hundred and fifty National Guard members will remain on duty in Raleigh.
We hope their presence will discourage and negate any violence.
After four tumultuous years, we’d all like to see the nation put rancor aside and unite for the common good. Republicans are urging a “move on and heal” narrative that no doubt sounds appealing to many.
But we can’t have unity without honesty. We can’t have unity while Republican leaders enable a false narrative that discredits a fair and legitimate election — which is where all the evidence points.
Every Republican legislator who intends to lead the nation in the future needs to match the courage of the 10 who voted for accountability and actively negate that narrative. Then we can talk about healing.