Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:


Feb. 17

The Greenwood Commonwealth on the coronavirus pandemic:

The good news is that across the country, the number of new coronavirus infections is declining rapidly. The interesting thing is that scientists disagree on why this is happening.

A story this past weekend in The Washington Post website reported four theories:

- The percentage of people who have received one or both of the vaccinations is slowly but surely increasing. On Monday, the Post counted 38.7 million people who have received at least one dose. That is 11.7% of the population. Last week, 1.62 million people got a shot.

That exceeded President Biden’s goal of 1.5 million per week.

- Social-distancing measures are making a difference. Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, endorsed this idea to the point of saying the vaccine isn’t much help yet. Frieden said staying apart, wearing a mask and not traveling are limiting the spread of the virus.

- There is a natural seasonal ebbing in respiratory viruses. The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said there is the potential for the transmission rate to decline from now through August. Though it should be noted that if the coronavirus is more likely to spread in cold weather, it has found paradise in the South this week, which has been enduring a heavy coat of ice and snow as well as record low temperatures.

- There is less testing being done as resources start to focus aggressively on getting people vaccinated. The Covid Tracking Project reports there were 2 million tests per day in mid-January. Now there are 1.6 million, a decrease of 20%, apparently due to reduced demand for the tests and reduced availability.

The one thing upon which the experts agree is that the winter rate of infection was exceptionally high. They say that even though the rate of new cases has come way down over the past month, the public should not expect that this pandemic is about to go away.

They note correctly that whatever is decreasing the infection rate over the past month, Americans should remember that it’s coming down from the highest numbers recorded since the virus arrived last spring.

On Jan. 12, the national seven-day average of new infections hit an all-time high of 248,000. Since then, it has declined every day. Sunday’s seven-day average of 91,000 new infections is the lowest figure since November.

The University of Washington’s model predicts another 152,000 virus deaths by June 1, which would put the running total at 637,000. Eleven months ago, few among us would have believed that the death toll already would be 485,000 people, but that’s where we are.

If a “seasonal ebbing” is one reason why the number of infections are down, good for that. But even better would be to do some of the things we can control.

People who meet the current guidelines for the vaccine should arrange to be immunized if they wish; and everyone should follow the social distancing recommendations, which include wearing a mask in indoor public spaces.



Feb. 16

The Vicksburg Post on the winter weather:

There’s the common phrase that talks about how you don’t really love something until it’s gone. In this case, you really don’t love being able to drive through town until a once-in-a-decade snow and ice storm takes it.

For the better part of three days, Vicksburg and Warren County have been at a standstill, as we all wait on more than 4 inches of ice to melt.

But, that process in itself will be slowed by yet another round of wintry weather late Wednesday.

Who did we make mad? Whose family did we insult?

In Mississippi, we tend to enjoy our Februarys with near spring-like conditions — highs in the 50s, lows “near” freezing.

And so far this year, with two major winter storms that have brought multiple waves of ice and snow, local sports outfitters should begin considering adding a more robust winter and ski apparel selection.

While many of us have hunkered down, watching our electricity meters spin without ceasing and concocting the best recipes using milk and bread, some of our community’s very best have been out in it, battling the conditions and saving those of us who simply could not shelter in place.

Our city and county road crews worked days ahead of time sanding and slagging the roadways, and have continued that crucial work through the severe weather.

Our first responders have continued helping the sick and the injured while fighting fires throughout the wind, the ice and the bone-chilling cold.

Even some of our elected officials used their government vehicles to ferry healthcare workers to and from the hospital and long-term care facilities. Some even delivered much-needed baby food to some stranded at home.

Their efforts — from the deputies and officers who patrolled frozen streets, to our firefighters who fought devastating fires in the worst possible conditions, and everyone else in public service — made what we would all consider heroic efforts look amazingly routine.



Feb. 10

The Dispatch on the first public school in Mississippi

From its inception, the United States was an experiment, a concept in self-government never before practiced in what was then considered the civilized world.

Other experiments would follow.

On Friday, the Columbus Municipal School District commemorated the bi-centennial of Franklin Academy, the first public school in Mississippi.

Much like our government, Franklin Academy can also be viewed as an experiment -- and a quite improbable one at that.

Today, Franklin Academy is a handsome structure near the heart of a city of 24,000 people.

But in 1821, both the school and the city were far less impressive.

In fact, of all the cities that could have been chosen as the cradle of Mississippi public education, Columbus seems like the oddest of choices and the school built there the humblest of facilities.

In 1821, the population of Columbus, then in its infancy, was about 150 people.

It seems counter-intuitive that the distinction of being the site of the first public schools would be the prosperous Mississippi River towns of Natchez or Vicksburg.

What Columbus did have going for it was the right political connections.

Franklin Academy’s first board president was William Cocke, a Virginian who fought in both the American Revolution and War of 1812, served in the Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee legislatures and served as a U.S. Senator from Tennessee.

Cocke migrated to Columbus when he was appointed as Indian agent to the Chickasaw nation in 1814, later serving in the Mississippi Legislature. It seems almost certain that Cocke played a prominent role in landing the state’s first public school for his adopted hometown.

An interesting side note: As Cocke was making plans for Franklin Academy, he asked for advice from an old Virginia friend. Thus, Thomas Jefferson can be considered Franklin Academy’s first education consultant.

The original Franklin Academy hardly reflected the powerful connections that brought it into being, however.

The original Franklin Academy was a simple 30-by-40-foot structure with only a few students. There were no girl students and certainly no Black students, for whom public education would not be available in Columbus until the opening of Union Academy in 1865. There were, however, a few Chickasaw students, children of tribal leaders.

This history of Franklin Academy and the city of Columbus were intertwined from inception.

If you believe as we do that the past informs the present, we believe that synergy is just as important now as it was then.

Public education is essential to the health and prosperity of the communities they serve.

In 1821, Franklin Academy was very much an experiment. It’s growth and success can be directly attributed to the visionary citizens of the era who recognized the importance of public education and its impact on the community.

That is no less true today.