Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Decatur Daily on the flu season and the rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations in some Alabama hospitals:
First, the good news.
The good news is we could see a less severe flu season than normal, if patterns elsewhere hold here.
In the Southern Hemisphere, where the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the middle of the last flu season, there was almost no flu season.
“In March, as coronavirus widened its global sweep, one health statistic quickly flattened: influenza cases. In the Southern Hemisphere, flu season would have been just taking off, but cases were virtually nonexistent,” Scientific American reported in September. “... Although researchers need to study the reasons further, several told Scientific American that coronavirus prevention measures — hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing — are working against flu transmission. If those measures continue ... countries could see the most dramatic drop in influenza cases in modern human history.”
The 2020-21 flu season is just getting started in the Northern Hemisphere, but there already is some reason to be optimistic this prediction will pan out.
Canada, so far, is seeing an exceptionally slow flu season.
In an Associated Press report, Dr. Theresa Tam said she doesn’t like to “forecast too early” and it is still in the early weeks of flu season, but “it’s definitely looking good at this point.”
“We have an extraordinarily low number of influenza cases, despite testing at a higher rate than what we normally do,” Tam said.
The measures people are taking to protect themselves from COVID-19, along with getting a flu shot, could keep influenza infections down, which would greatly help doctors and other medical professionals who are already overwhelmed by the new coronavirus.
That brings us to the bad news: The COVID-19 situation is getting worse.
Decatur Morgan Hospital reached an all-time high Tuesday in the number of patients it’s treating for COVID-19, and that’s not counting an anticipated surge related to the Thanksgiving holiday.
“I’m worried about the fallout of Thanksgiving and what that does into the Christmas season,” said hospital President Kelli Powers on Monday.
Intensive care units in Decatur and Athens are at capacity.
This straining of medical resources is just what Alabama and other states sought to avoid when they went into lockdown earlier in the year: The goal was to “flatten the curve.” Now here we are again, and some states are again enacting strict lockdown measures.
No doubt much of this could be avoided if people took the guidelines about wearing face coverings, maintaining social distance and washing hands more seriously. We know these measures work, because those who do take them seriously have helped keep rates of flu infections down. But COVID-19 is a more virulent threat than the flu with, as yet, no treatments that are both effective and widely available.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Both Moderna and Pfizer are seeking approval now for their COVID-19 vaccines. The only question now is, how long will it take the Food and Drug Administration to approve them?
The FDA should not add unnecessary delays to the process.
Nevertheless, a vaccine seems only weeks away, with widespread use perhaps only months away.
With the end in sight, now is no time to let up on taking precautions. We all need to do our part to keep the spread down and keep the strain off hospitals.
The Decatur Daily and The TimesDaily on Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall's comments about local officials removing Confederate monuments:
Alabama’s attorney general almost certainly does not believe Alabama is at risk of descending into anarchy, but that has not stopped him from resorting to overheated rhetoric just because some local government officials are listening to their constituents rather than to the state Legislature.
“Around the country, we have seen what happens when city and county officials allow the mob to take over,” Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement recently, in which he announced a lawsuit against Madison County for moving a Confederate monument from its courthouse grounds to a more appropriate site in Huntsville’s Maple Hill Cemetery, where Confederate soldiers are buried.
“It all starts with subtle non-enforcement of laws and ordinances, and quickly devolves into utter lawlessness,” Marshall continued. “As a state, we must remain vigilant that those elected to govern our localities do not lead us slowly down the same road.”
The message was not at all subtle: If local governments follow the lead of Birmingham, Mobile and Madison County and move their monuments to the Confederacy to other locations, or even hide them behind partitions, it’s a slippery slope to the nightly protests, broken windows and burned out shops of Portland, Oregon, or some other liberal city.
In 2017, the Alabama Legislature passed the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act. The act’s language is neutral. In short, it requires local governments to obtain state permission before moving, altering or renaming historically significant buildings and monuments that are 40 years old or older. In practice, the law is meant to stop cities and counties from removing Confederate monuments they may no longer want to keep up.
The law is an unwarranted intrusion of state government in local matters. Whether a monument stays or goes, or whether a school or other civic building is renamed, should be up to the government and the taxpayers directly responsible for it. These are local matters by their nature.
The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act is nothing more than the Legislature choosing to play culture war politics.
The penalty for violating the act is a $25,000, so private citizens have in some cases offered to raise the money to pay the fine for any city or county that takes down a Confederate monument.
Marshall, however, is not having any of that.
“First, any elected official who removes a historic monument or statue in violation of Alabama law has broken the law. He has not simply decided to ‘pay a fee’ so that he can lawfully have the monument or statue removed. He has committed an illegal act,” Marshall said in his statement.
“Second, any elected official sworn into office by taking an oath to uphold the law, who then breaks a duly enacted and constitutional law, has violated that oath.
“Third, despite what some newspapers might have you believe, any elected official who disregards the duties of his office in this manner has done so not out of courage, but has done so out of fear. This should not be celebrated, for disregarding the law subverts our democratic system.”
Yet sometimes disregarding the law upholds our democratic system: when the Freedom Riders disregarded laws segregating buses and bus terminals, for example, or when Blacks defied the law to sit at segregated lunch counters.
It is vital to remember that the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act itself was enacted to short circuit the democratic process, to prevent local governments from responding to the will of the people they represent.
What Marshall is now doing is trying to intimidate other cities and counties, like Morgan County and Florence, that have discussed or are already looking to remove their monuments. Local leaders should not let themselves be bullied.
The Dothan Eagle on absentee voting in Alabama:
One positive consequence of the coronavirus pandemic is the realization that changes that make the voting process easier for Alabamians work well.
Alabama’s requirements for absentee voting were relaxed because of the pandemic, and almost 10 percent of the state’s 3.7 million registered voters took advantage of “no-excuse” absentee voting, casting ballots without declaring they’d be out of town, working, or too ill to vote in person on Election Day.
The election went off without a hitch. That trial run should prompt Alabama lawmakers to make that change permanent.
However, legislative leaders are already waving off the notion.
House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter said in a statement that, “I believe that no-excuse mail-in voting will erode the public’s confidence in honest elections and open the door to abuse.”
The absentee turnout for the Nov. 3 election — more than 3.5 times larger than the previous record number of absentee ballots — suggests otherwise.
Legislative leaders should allow any measure to allow no-excuse absentee voting full access to the legislative process, including public hearings in which committees should hear from election officials across the state.
It appears the voting public wants options beyond in-person, at-the-polls voting. Legislative leaders should remember their constituency.