Editorial Roundup:

Des Moines Register. September 24, 2020

Surviving COVID-19 doesn’t necessarily mean recovering. It’s another reason why we all need health insurance

Editorial: A pandemic. Natural disasters. Huge job losses. If there was ever a time to vote for political candidates who support saving and improving Obamacare, it is now.

The United States has reached the grim milestone of 200,000 deaths from COVID-19. Nearly 1,300 Iowans have died. Governments and news organizations report updated death tolls daily.

The focus on mortality is understandable. Dying is, after all, the worst outcome of a disease.

But surviving COVID-19 doesn’t necessarily mean recovering. When it comes to this virus, what doesn’t kill you can make you sick, perhaps for a long time.

Many so-called long-haulers report lingering problems, including difficulty breathing and racing hearts, months after their bodies have cleared the virus.

It takes time for doctors to follow patients and understand the long-term implications of the virus on the human body. But some research so far isn’t very promising — and it underscores the importance of access to health insurance for Americans.

A recent report published in the medical journal JAMA Cardiology looked at 100 patients who had recently “recovered” from COVID-19. Researchers found some form of heart abnormality in 78 of them and detected an inflammation of the heart muscle in 60. The problems were independent from relevant preexisting health conditions.

“These findings indicate the need for ongoing investigation of long-term cardiovascular consequences of COVID-19,” according to researchers.

Translation: We’ll have to wait to see how this turns out.

Another study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine found the coronavirus caused serious damage to cells that line the lungs.

Basically, “the virus causes the body to scar the lung’s air sacs,” explained Iowa physician Tom Benzoni. “This creates swelling and inflammation.”

While such studies generally examine relatively few cases, the implications are huge when you extrapolate the findings to even a fraction of the millions of Americans who have already or will contract the virus.

A modest increase in strokes, heart attacks and lung problems going forward could mean a subsequent plague of people with chronic health problems stemming from COVID-19.

And then there’s another looming long-term threat to Americans’ health: the extreme weather patterns fueled by climate change.

Storms can bring downed power lines, contaminated waterways, mental health stress and other problems that send people to the doctor.

Smoke from wildfires in the western United States can kill immune system cells that protect lungs from diseases. Down the road, exposure could prompt asthma in some children.

So if there was ever a time to vote for political candidates who support saving and improving Obamacare, it is now.

One of the goals of the 2010 Affordable Care Act was to provide health insurance to Americans. More than 20 million previously uninsured people gained coverage in the first six years.

Then Donald Trump was elected.

His administration scaled back outreach efforts to enroll people in health insurance. The individual mandate for coverage was eliminated. He supports a Republican-led court challenge that could overturn the law and strip coverage from millions of people.

In the late 2000s, well over 40 million Americans were uninsured. By 2016, those without health insurance reached a low of 26.7 million. Since then, the figure has inched back up.

So numbers were moving in the wrong direction even before millions of Americans lost jobs this year, which frequently means losing health insurance.

Obamacare provides access to private plans for those who don’t get coverage through a job. It has expanded Medicaid to more low-income people. It ensures hospitals, doctors and nursing homes are paid to provide care.

While the law is not perfect, it protects people with pre-existing health problems — something more of us may have going forward because of the coronavirus. Everyone in this country needs health insurance.

Iowans should support only those political candidates who support preserving and strengthening Obamacare.


Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. September 26, 2020

Is 2020 the worst year ever?

Is 2020 “the worst year ever?” The question has been raised in various news outlets and is becoming commonplace on social media.

“Why every year — but especially 2020 — feels the worst ever,” read a recent National Geographic headline.

“Stories of fear and peril pique our anxiety,” it reported. “They put our brains on high alert, an advantage that once protected our early hominid ancestors from predators and natural disasters, but one that now leaves us ‘doomscrolling,’ endlessly refreshing social media and online news to stay abreast of the latest threats.”

New York Times technology reporter Kevin Roose says he’s been “doomsurfing” — “falling into deep, morbid rabbit holes filled with coronavirus content, agitating myself to the point of physical discomfort, erasing any hope of a good night’s sleep.”

Whatever the terminology, a global pandemic taking more than 860,000 lives globally and 200,000 in the U.S. has converged with social unrest and a perceived lack of political competence (whether viewed from the left, middle or right) to make it a turbulent year.

Although for perspective, there’s 536 A.D.

Based on scientific discoveries, Science reported, “Turns out a volcanic eruption in Iceland created a cloud so large that it darkened the skies above Europe and Asia for months. As a result, temperatures dropped, snow fell during the summer, crops failed, famine spread and millions of people starved. … Historians believe that this massive change somehow caused bubonic plague, which would go on to eliminate almost half of the Eastern Roman Empire’s population and hasten its collapse.”

Which isn’t to dismiss 2020’s awfulness, although much of our current malaise was pre-pandemic.

A 2019 Pew Research Survey found 60% of respondents felt the U.S. influence in the world was declining, only 12% were “very optimistic” about the nation’s future, 31% “somewhat pessimistic” and 13% “very pessimistic.”

But the pandemic has increased isolation from family and friends. Large gatherings, for the most part, are a memory. Economic distress is widespread.

Murders, drug overdoses and suicides are up significantly. But, in some instances, that was pre-pandemic.

Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported a 24% murder increase in the nation’s 50 largest cities, led by Chicago, but also in Phoenix and Omaha, which are not particularly violence prone.

Yet the New York Times reported overall violent crime was down 5.3%, going in the opposite direction as murders for only the fourth time since 1960 (1993, 2000, 2002 and 2003).

Drug overdoses fell in 2018 for the first time in 25 years, then spiked in 2019 at 70,980, according to the Centers for Disease Control. More than half (36,500) were due to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, often mixed with cocaine or meth. From this January to April, overdoses increased 11.4%.

Don’t blame Big Pharma or rogue doctors. Opioid prescriptions decreased 37% from 2014 to 2019.

Anxiety and depressive disorders increased between April and June. In one survey, 40.9% of adults reported adverse mental and behavioral health conditions — 26.3% pandemic-related, including 10.7% who contemplated suicide. It reached heightened levels among “essential workers,” including Blacks, Hispanics and caregivers.

Farmers are at risk with commodity prices down 50% since 2012 and debt up nearly a third since 2003. A glimmer of hope regarding the trade war with China hasn’t fully materialized.

Suicides are up 13% in Cook County (Chicago) and 70% in Fresno in the heart of California’s Central Valley agricultural region.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reported in August, “There are fears that the combination of canceled public events, closed businesses, and shelter-in-place strategies will lead to a recession. Economic downturns are usually associated with higher suicide rates. … Schools have been closed for indeterminable periods, forcing some parents and guardians to take time off work. … Existing research suggests that sustained economic stress could be associated with higher U.S. suicide rates in the future.”

But is it “the worst year ever?” An estimated 618,222 men died in the Civil War (360,222 in the North and 258,000 in the South), 1861-65. The 1918-20 Spanish Flu epidemic killed 675,000 Americans (50 million globally). In 1933, the lowest point in Great Depression (1929-39), half the banks failed and 15 million were unemployed (20%) without a social safety net.

In 1968, amid the Vietnam War, both the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Robert Kennedy were assassinated; riots engulfed major cities, and 100,000 Americans died from H3N2, aka the “Hong Kong flu,” 1 million globally.

This isn’t to minimize today’s often heart-rendering trials and tribulations putting a premium on individual and family persistence. Unlike earlier eras, resources are often available. Pursuing them shouldn’t be regarded as weakness, but a helping hand necessary to get through tough times.


Sioux City Journal. September 23, 2020

Seemingly endless cycle of power politics will continue

We believe President Trump should nominate someone to fill the seat of late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the nomination should get an up or down vote by the full Senate. No need exists for Trump or the Senate to wait for the Nov. 3 election because it’s the president’s right under the Constitution to fill High Court vacancies and the Senate’s duty to take up nominations.

We also believed - and we said so in this space at the time - the same was true of President Obama following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

In 2016, eight months from the presidential election, Obama nominated Merrick Garland, but Majority Senate Republicans - led by Mitch McConnell - refused to consider the nomination. Why? Because, they said, voters in the next election should decide who gets to fill the seat.

This time, less than two months before the election for president, no such demand was made by majority Senate Republicans - still led by McConnell. Instead, McConnell vowed, Trump’s nominee for a replacement will receive a vote on the Senate floor.

As we said in our March 23, 2016, editorial, we believed the Senate should have performed its “advice and consent” responsibility by giving Garland a full, fair vetting. In the end, individual senators should have explained to Americans why they supported or opposed him. In other words, senators should have done their jobs. In our minds, the same holds true today.

That’s a consistent position.

Of course, the spectacle unfolding in the wake of Ginsburg’s death on Friday isn’t consistent with what happened in 2016, but it isn’t surprising, either. Hypocrisy is never in short supply - within either party - in our nation’s capital.

If, for example, a Republican occupied the White House when a liberal justice of a split Supreme Court died in a presidential election year in which Democrats controlled the Senate, would the Senate of today hold hearings on any nominee chosen by the president? If, for another example, a Democratic president who enjoyed Democratic control of the Senate wanted to replace a Supreme Court justice less than seven weeks before a presidential election, would Republicans like McConnell today react with anything less than furious indignation?

The answer to both questions is, we believe, “no.”

So even though in our view it’s proper for them to give Trump’s choice due consideration this year, the fact Senate Republicans didn’t do the same for Obama’s choice four years ago will add fuel to the fire of payback.

And what is a seemingly endless cycle of power politics will continue - to what we believe is the detriment of our country.