Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Advocate on Gov. John Bel Edwards extending the current coronavirus restrictions in Louisiana:
In his periodic coronavirus updates, Gov. John Bel Edwards has lately assumed a tougher tone. As he has since Louisiana quickly mushroomed into one of the world’s most virulent hot spots in March, Edwards is reacting to the data — in this case, an alarming reversal of the state’s steady reduction in diagnoses and hospitalizations.
Monday, the data dictated that Edwards delay loosening restrictions at the end of the week, when his Phase 2 emergency declaration expires. Rather than take another step toward full reopening, the governor said he’d extend current limitations another four weeks, and urged residents who are not following recommended precautions to do some soul searching.
We know it’s disappointing, but we think he’s right.
As frustrating as the past few months have been, as economically difficult and as personally challenging, Louisianans as a whole took the threat seriously, made sacrifices, and started writing one of the deadly pandemic’s success stories. Where there were well-founded fears that medical resources would be overmatched, that never happened. Instead, key indicators eventually started to trend down. Edwards said the state had been on a “pretty decent glide path,” which may have lulled people into thinking things were destined to keep heading in the right direction.
That’s not necessarily true. As Louisiana logged its 50,000th COVID-19 case and mourned its 3,000th death, the administration pointed to a growth in cases in most parts of the state — and even more concerning, a rise in hospitalizations. Some increase was expected in light of more widespread testing and the gradual reopening of public spaces, he said, but that doesn’t explain it all.
One discouraging development is the rise in cases among 18 to 29-year-olds, highlighted by clusters discovered among Tigerland bar-hoppers and graduation party-goers. Young people may feel invincible, the governor said, but they too can struggle with COVID’s severe symptoms and can pass the virus on to parents and grandparents.
Edwards didn’t announce a mask requirement or other new restrictions. Instead, he said he hoped to increase compliance through stepped-up enforcement of existing rules, and through better communication about why personal behavior is so important.
“Many of you are doing the right thing and I thank you for it. It’s incredibly disappointing to hear that there are still some people who refuse to wear masks in public, which puts all of us at greater risk of becoming sick. I implore Louisianans to be good neighbors, to stay at home when they are experiencing symptoms, to avoid crowds, physically distance, and to wear a mask when not around their immediate household whether inside or outside,” he said.
None of that is new, but it remains urgent. Louisiana has benefited from taking the cautious approach since the crisis started. The better we stick to it, the better chance we have of moving on to Phase 3 next month.
The Advocate on a recent gun bill signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards that allows people to carry a concealed weapon in places of worship if congregation leaders allow it:
John Bel Edwards has always publicly endorsed gun rights. But the Democratic governor has also shown a pragmatic streak and supported sensible limits.
After the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Edwards came out against a proposal to arm teachers, arguing that having more trained resource officers would be the safer approach. And at a recent online town hall hosted by this paper from his fourth-floor office, he responded to a tongue-in-cheek question by columnist Smiley Anders by arguing that state lawmakers shouldn’t come to work at the Capitol armed. He chuckled at the question’s premise, but his response was serious: ”I think this ought to remain one of those buildings where we don’t have individuals with concealed carry rights. … I’ve seen the tempers flare firsthand.”
So we were disappointed to see Edwards put his signature on a pair of bills that deprive worshippers and localities of the right to make similar judgment calls.
The governor signed House Bill 334 by Rep. Bryan Fontenot, R-Thibodaux, which allows concealed carry in places of worship if the head of the institution OKs it. State law previously required that congregations be notified of such decisions, which itself was the result of a compromise between those who back unfettered concealed carry and those who wanted to allow churches, synagogues and mosques to decide.
Lawmakers watered down Fontenot’s original proposal that would have kept the institutions’ leaders from having a say as well, but they still saw fit to cut the people who fill the pews out of the loop.
Edwards also signed House Bill 140 by Republican caucus chair Blake Miguez, R-Erath, which voids local laws banning firearms at places such as playgrounds, parks, public buildings and commercial establishments frequented by families and children.
Here too, the final bill is an improvement over Miguez’s original draft, which left the Capitol’s existing gun ban in place but blocked local government bodies from prohibiting firearms where they meet, even though tempers certainly flare there too. But it still affects the ability of local officials to keep their constituents safe as they see fit.
The bill drew fierce opposition from municipalities all over the state, including the urban centers that played a major role in Edwards’ reelection last fall. For voters there, Edwards’ signature is a slap in the face.
In fact, local control is supposed to be a conservative value — except, it seems, when pro-gun extremists smell an opportunity to score political points rather than focus on a pandemic that has sickened thousands of Louisianans, devastated large segments of the economy and kept many members of the public from participating in the legislative process.
There was no emergency here, only a chance to notch a couple of wins. That, apparently, trumps public safety for too many lawmakers — and, it seems, for the governor as well.
The American Press on smokers that might face heightened risks during the coronavirus pandemic:
If you want to quit smoking or abusing drugs, the current COVID-19 pandemic is an added incentive. The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora D. Volkow, has outlined the unique challenges coronavirus poses to people who smoke, vape, have substance use disorder or who are in recovery from drug addiction.
Specifically, the doctor noted that people who smoke or vape, or use opioids or methamphetamine may face heightened risks of serious complications from COVID-19.
She explained that chronic opioid use already increases the risk of slowed breathing due to hypoxemia, which can lead to cardiac and pulmonary complications that may result in overdose and death.
Also, Volkow urges clinicians to be alert to the possibility of increased adverse COVID-19 outcomes in people who smoke, vape, or use opioids or methamphetamine.
Another complication for people in recovery is the physical distancing measure needed for COVID-19 mitigation eliminates the important element of social support needed for addiction recovery.
Additionally, people with opioid use disorder may face barriers to obtaining medications (i.e. buprenorphine or methadone) or obtaining services from syringe services programs.
Another complication of social distancing is that it will decrease the likelihood of observed overdoses; administration of naloxone to reverse overdose may be less likely, potentially resulting in more fatalities.
However, Volkow stressed that, like other vulnerable people in the United states, people with substance use disorder cannot be forgotten or marginalized during this crisis.
For a copy of the ideas and opinions article, “Collision of the COVID-19 and Addiction Epidemics,” authored by NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow and published in Annals of Internal Medicine, go to https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7138334/.