Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Advocate on individual actions in the fight against the coronavirus:
As usual, there’s a lot of attention to the details of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ restrictions on particular businesses in the coming weeks.
That is more than understandable, it is inevitable. Closing or greatly reducing business in bars hurts owners and employees, besides making the winter duller for many of us. Restrictions on restaurants, ditto, although some of Edwards’ detailed restrictions are less onerous on them.
But if you’re a high-end restaurant in New Orleans, dependent on the now-vanished tourist trade, employees and proprietors still take a huge additional hit with any restrictions.
But in the course of the discussion, we think a couple of things should be the overriding elements.
One is that the coronavirus is real and that these are not the governor’s restrictions but the coronavirus restrictions. Further, Edwards has acted all along in general agreement with the requirements of President Donald Trump’s White House task force.
“This year has been tragic and sad and we finally have the hope of better therapeutics and a vaccine, which means the end of the pandemic is in our sights,” the governor said last week. “Now is not the time to let down our guard simply because it is Christmas or New Year’s Eve.”
The new and only slightly adjusted restrictions continue through Jan. 21. Probably unintentionally, that means Democrats have to be cautious about celebrating their new president, sworn in during that time.
For most of us in Louisiana, it means caution and respect for others in the New Year and the formal beginning of Carnival on Twelfth Night, too. It’s a lot to ask.
But these are not ultimately the decisions of the governor, the White House or any single other authority. They represent the consensus of medical opinion in this country and the world. Those who wish to play the political blame game — and there are businesses and workers genuinely suffering — ought to be made to declare what their alternatives might be.
If that question is not answered, we have a hard time taking seriously the critics, among them, the Republican members of the state House of Representatives, who tried to suspend the emergency declarations entirely. That is tied up in court, a needless case forced upon Edwards by reckless actions by one house in the two-chamber Legislature.
What ought to be top-of-mind in our duller January? It is that broad actions by the community are the most important path toward ending this crisis. Social distancing, fewer or smaller or even no social gatherings, respect for others by wearing masks — those must be the public’s agenda.
If one man should be a warning to all of us, it is Luke Letlow, just elected to the U.S. Congress, forced into ICU by COVID-19 treatments. He has faith and the hardihood of being in the prime of life, but even Letlow at Christmas was taken away, temporarily, from his lovely young family by this pandemic.
Wear the mask, do what is asked of you, for others if not only yourself.
The Advocate on the long road ahead for hurricane-struck Louisiana:
A term of art at the Federal Emergency Management Agency is “long-term recovery.” In Louisiana, because of our vast experience with hurricanes and floods, we know that the emphasis there is “long.”
For the southwestern parts of Louisiana, long-term recovery is the phase of reaction to hurricanes Laura and Delta, back-to-back storms that added to the economic and social afflictions visited upon our state during 2020.
While debris clearing and restoration of utility services are, in some areas, mostly in the rear-view mirror, storm damage is ever-present in the region around Lake Charles. Daily life is still a struggle as many stores and other needed services are not open, and there are long lines at those available. Many homes and apartments remain uninhabitable.
While flood damage caused so much misery in 2005 with hurricanes Katrina and Rita, this year’s storms were heavy hits because of wind damage. Laura as a Category 4 hurricane was one of the worst ever to hit the United States.
The misery it inflicted is still very much top-of-mind in the region, but the good news is that help continues to arrive from other parts of Louisiana — basics like meals and other direct aid — but also with philanthropic donations.
In the dozen gifts for Louisiana from MacKenzie Scott, from the Amazon fortune, the $5 million for the United Way of Southwest Louisiana is a huge benefit during the holiday season. There are few places in America that need such a tremendous infusion of aid this year more than the five parishes around Lake Charles.
But the FEMA distinction between emergency relief and long-term recovery is still an important issue for the region in 2021.
Long-term recovery includes rebuilding and restoring public schools and other facilities damaged by Laura’s incredible winds. By its nature, that work takes a long time.
By its nature, it’s also bureaucratic work, although because of the magnitude of the Katrina and Rita disasters, that process is probably a good bit easier for local governments and the nonprofit sector. Laws and regulations have been improved, but one of the things needed in 2021 in our worst-hit region is that Louisiana’s delegation in Congress continues to ride herd on the regs and financial difficulties of steering aid to the right places.
Our delegation — including even the newest member, Luke Letlow of northeastern Louisiana, a former staffer in Congress — is wise in the ways of post-storm bureaucratic difficulties. We are confident that Laura/Delta aid will be a key priority in the months and years — not days — of the long-term recovery process.
One example: U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy, R-Madisonville, leveraged one of his subcommittee assignments on the Judiciary Committee to help expedite rebuilding of the federal courthouse in Lake Charles. In a hundred ways, for large projects and small, that will have to be repeated for long-term recovery from Laura and Delta to be a success.