Editorial Roundup: Michigan

Traverse City Record-Eagle. April 9, 2021.

Editorial: Stop the threats

There are a plethora of ways to vent frustration with the ongoing disruptions we’re all living through because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For that matter, there are plenty of avenues to engage in civil disagreement over the administration of public health measures meant to curb the disease’s spread.

That’s why we have become increasingly concerned about the ongoing de-evolution of dialogue when folks decide it’s necessary to voice their disapproval of a policy or opinion. The latest incident illustrative of the ongoing degeneration was described by Grand Traverse County Health Department Director Wendy Hirschenberger on Wednesday.

The veteran public health director, someone who has spent the past year doing her level best to guide our community through a pandemic, told Grand Traverse County commissioners she and her staff had received threats, by both phone and email, after encouraging local school officials to move secondary school classes online this week.

“Throughout the entire pandemic our staff has been yelled at, sworn at, screamed at and threatened — more than anybody should in their job,” Hirschenberger said. “We are actively being threatened right now.”

She said the outbursts now are in the hands of police -- where they belong. And we hope investigators find and prosecute the callers and writers.

That last bit is an opinion to which we don’t arrive without a lot of thought and a little consternation. As champions of the First Amendment, we wholeheartedly embrace and support free speech. Protecting the free flow of opinions and ideas, especially the ones with which we vigorously disagree, is a necessity to preserve a free society.

But the things we’ve witnessed during the past year have moved beyond free speech. Somehow, in the midst of pandemic-induced isolation, the worst conduct we witness in the social media melee has infiltrated real life.

Somewhere along the way, some in our communities regressed past the lessons about appropriate interactions with others we all learn as toddlers.

The fact is, the latest threats Hirschenberger described are not isolated incidents. During the past year, our reporting has mentioned a handful of public officials, public commenters, and local workers who have received threats. We have heard of several more in passing that didn’t appear in our reporting.

Don’t get us wrong, verbal assaults, and even promises of violence, occurred long before the COVID-19 pandemic. But a year of limited in-person social interactions seems to have taken its toll. That hiatus from face-to-face disagreement seems to have opened a behavior bridge that transferred to real life the detritus that passes as appropriate behavior on the internet.

When did some of us begin to believe it’s a good idea to call and threaten a public health worker whose job requires difficult decisions based on expert guidance? Or to promise violence against a store clerk?

Folks seem far more comfortable shouting things today they wouldn’t have considered uttering even under their breath a year ago. Hopefully this is a trend we all see undone as we return to pre-pandemic interactions.

Because we refuse to normalize threats as part of appropriate dialogue, and you shouldn’t either.

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Detroit News. April 8, 2021.

Editorial: Focus on vaccines; avoid shutdowns

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has the right instincts in response to the latest surge of COVID-19 in Michigan — go full speed on vaccinations and avoid another broad shutdown of the state.

Michigan is in a baffling situation. It is among the nation leaders in new cases of the virus and is home to 10 of the 12 worst metro areas in the nation during this latest surge.

This is coming despite the state having maintained the most restrictive measures over the past year to contain the spread of the virus.

With other states, particularly in the south and southwest, reopening as rates decline, it’s a frustrating position for Michigan.

But Whitmer should stay the course she’s outlined in a few recent interviews to focus on vaccinations rather than imposing restrictions.

The pressure on her is growing to return to restrictions on schools, restaurants, bars and other public places, including from the Centers for Disease Control.

“I would advocate for sort of stronger mitigation strategies, as you know, to sort of decrease the community activity, ensure mask-wearing, and we’re working closely with the state to try and work towards that,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said about Michigan in a briefing this week.

In addition, the Republican-led state Legislature passed a bill that would tie shutdowns to COVID rates, a measure that would likely have all bars and restaurants closed now.

That obviously wasn’t lawmakers’ intent, and hopefully they’ll withdraw the measure now that the consequences are known.

With vaccination delivery growing daily and supplies apparently plentiful, the focus should be on getting the highest possible percentage of the population inoculated.

Statewide, 37% of the population has received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. That’s slightly below the national rate of around 40%.

But in Detroit, the vaccination rate is lagging at just 21%, despite the city receiving a priority in vaccine distribution.

Detroit is working with churches and has opened neighborhood centers to deliver shots. It is also trying to break down barriers such as transportation and lack of Internet access to schedule appointments.

Despite an excellent safety record in the first four months of administering vaccines, there’s still some hesitancy among some state residents to get vaccinated.

Michigan must do whatever it takes to convince its residents that vaccines are the best option for protecting themselves, their families and neighbors.

Vaccinations, not additional restrictions, are the answer.

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(Marquette) Mining Journal. April 9, 2021.

Editorial: Want to own a piece of the Mackinac Bridge? Here’s your chance

Although we’re not at all certain who might be interested, a sale involving state property in the eastern Upper Peninsula is worth mentioning, if for no other reason, its unusual nature.

According to officials with the Mackinac Bridge Authority, 12 sections of the original steel grating from the 64-year-old structure are up for sale.

Each 30-by-60-inch piece weighs about 200 pounds. Bidding starts at $100, and all 12 pieces already have multiple interested buyers, with prices shooting to $400 and higher.

Perhaps unsuitable for framing but a potentially tasteful accent for a garden pathway?

The Mighty Mac opened Nov. 1, 1957, and it currently holds the title as the third-longest suspension bridge in North America, according to the website.

Considering its age, the grating was originally coated with lead-based paint. The auction listings say it’s mostly gone, but buyers must sign a hold harmless agreement, regarding the lead and structural condition of the gratings.

Bidding for these steel pieces will close on April 19. The listings are available at bit.ly/3rTLDhz.

As we said, we’re uncertain who might be interested but if anyone is interested in owning a relatively small piece of the span, here’s their chance.

END