Editorial Roundup: Louisiana

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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June 27

The Advocate on wearing face coverings in public places in Louisiana:

Want to buy some clothes or groceries? Mask up. Want to see a movie in a local theater? Mask up. Want to see the LSU football Tigers play this fall? You might have to mask up.

It’s almost July and the State of Louisiana has been requiring business employees coming into contact with customers to wear masks. That means employees at Louisiana businesses interacting with the public must wear masks, and masks are strongly encouraged for customers. Technically, New Orleans requires customers to wear face coverings or masks when doing visiting businesses. As we open up our society more, things such as going to the movies and going to football games will likely change.

AMC, the world’s largest movie theater chain, said recently that it would “strongly encourage” moviegoers to wear masks when they open to the public in July. Then they got blasted on social media and that decision got reversed. The chain is going to require face masks in areas where local officials mandate it.

There are AMC theaters in parts of Louisiana, including Baton Rouge, Hammond, Houma, Metairie, New Orleans and Slidell. Like AMC, Regal Theatres, which has operations in Bossier City, Covington, Kenner and Leesville, is requiring customers to wear masks where mandated. AMC customers can bring their own, or they can buy one at the box office along with a movie ticket. Surely some of our friends and neighbors are interested in getting back to the comfort of a cushioned seat in a cool theater with dynamic sound to view some of the latest movie offerings.

Mask wearing is picking up steam as reasonable leaders realize that public health officials know what they’re talking about after examining local, state, national and worldwide data — and as they realize that no vaccine is likely for several months. That means staying home and away from others or going out and maintaining a distance of at least six feet and masking up to lessen the likelihood that novel coronavirus droplets will be spread from one person to another.

As we learned just a few days ago, this virus is expanding from those who are senior citizens and those with underlying conditions to younger people.

During a recent radio interview, LSU Athletics Director Scott Woodward said requiring Tiger Stadium football fans to wear masks is “definitely in play” as university officials listen to public health experts. During The Paul Finebaum Show, he said he regularly wears a mask and he encouraged others to do the same. We like the way he put it. “This isn’t a political statement,” he said. “This is a health statement. We’re trying to save lives here.”

Wear a mask. Wear face coverings. Let’s save lives.

Online: https://www.theadvocate.com/

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June 27

The American Press on mail-in ballots:

Some states are conducting their balloting entirely by mail-in ballots, while Louisiana uses that system only for absentee voting for eligible voters — such as military personnel living out of state and the elderly over 65 years of age, and other reasons.

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has expanded absentee balloting by providing a COVID-19 ballot form for the July 11 election in certain situations.

The persons eligible for the virus absentee ballot are persons at severe risk related to the illness, being under an isolation order, displaying symptoms, or caring for someone who is susceptible.

Some people, however, are uncomfortable with mail-in balloting due to such concerns as the ballot getting lost in the mail, tampering with the mail and an increase in vote fraud.

The National Conference of State Legislatures is a nonpartisan entity that gives the pros and cons of all-mail elections.

According to the NCSL, supporters of all-mail elections allow persons to cast a mail-in vote from the comfort of their home and helps people avoid wait times at polling places. Other pro factors cited by supporters are that it reduces the cost of elections, offers flexibility and reduces the needs of infrastructure and personnel to conduct the election.

Those opposed to mail-in voting say the method weakens the traditional civic experience of voting in local polling places, cost savings are nullified by the expenses to print and mail ballots to each registered voter, and while it slightly increases balloting in special elections, mail-in voting doesn’t encourage voter participation in the larger general elections.

Then there are concerns mail-in ballots do not provide the level of security that assures the voter his or her ballot will be counted. Ballots have gotten lost in the mail or misplaced at any stage of the vote-by-mail process. It has also been contended the all-mail process increases the possibility of the voter being coerced in selecting candidates (vote fraud).

There was also a recent case of a rural mail carrier being charged with tampering with ballot requests in West Virginia, which is a serious federal offense.

While Louisiana has a very expansive absentee voting process, there is still considerable opposition to relying on all mail-in elections.

Online: https://www.americanpress.com/

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June 25:

The Houma Courier on reopening schools amid the coronavirus pandemic:

It’s difficult to reconcile the mixed messages Gov. John Bel Edwards sent this week as Louisiana continues to deal with the coronavirus epidemic.

Edwards said Monday that he expects Louisiana schools and colleges to reopen for in-person classes in August with social-distancing and other changes aimed at reducing risk.

The same day, he announced that he is delaying Louisiana’s move to Phase 3 of its reopening plan for about a month as new infections and hospitalizations rise to the highest levels since the height of the pandemic in April.

“We’re not where we want to be,” Edwards said. “We are going in the wrong direction.”

A lot can happen between now and August, but if Louisiana continues to head in the wrong direction, will it still make sense to open schools? And with just over a month to go, do state and local school officials have enough time to educate teachers, parents and students on all of the changes that will be enacted?

Some of those changes arrived Thursday in a 20-page document the state Education Department issued. Much of the guidance follows recommendations released earlier by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among the state guidelines:

‒ Students and teachers must practice social distancing and congregate only in small groups with minimal contact with other groups.

‒ Students in grades 3-12, and all school staff members, will be required to wear masks if they don’t have breathing issues.

‒ Students and staff will be monitored for symptoms each day, including upon entry.

‒ Bus occupancy is limited to 25% in Phase 1, 50% in Phase 2 and 75% in Phase 3.

‒ Staggered class changes should be implemented to limit hall traffic.

‒ Sports will follow Louisiana High School Athletic Association guidelines, which so far have not been issued for the coming fall sports season.

Think about the logistical issues these and other such guidelines will cause for your children and your family. Then try to imagine what it means for the nearly 37,000 public and parochial students in Terrebonne and Lafourche and the schools that serve them. Or the more than 800,000 students attending public and private schools across Louisiana.

A lot of questions remain, but a few things are clear:

‒ Like all responses to the pandemic, reopening campuses will be an effort to lower risk but won’t eliminate it completely.

‒ It will take a massive effort to not only educate students, parents and school employees about the adjustments but to enforce them.

‒ If you think wearing a mask is too much to ask, what until your kids head back to school.

Newly appointed Louisiana Education Superintendent Cade Brumley put it mildly when, in issuing the guidelines, he suggested the state’s schools are entering “uncharted territory.”

Online: https://www.houmatoday.com/