Editorial Roundup: Louisiana

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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July 15

The Advocate on gun violence in Louisiana:

Maybe it’s not huge news these days that there will be another march on Saturday, to the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. There’s a great deal to march about, right now.

But this is a march that is different from many of the most recent, but in a cause that is all too familiar: the plague of gun violence that has ravaged our communities, but in particular the Black community.

Both in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, it’s already been a long hot summer. Months of heat — and killings, probably and unfortunately — lie ahead.

That is why community organizations will be marching with the Baton Rouge Police Department on Saturday morning. Their combined message is important and relevant in Louisiana cities, where the summer has been a violent time.

Gun violence often surges during the summer months when people are spending more time outside, temperatures are rising and children are on vacation from school. But that surge appears to have started earlier than usual because the pandemic has upended normal life.

The violent Fourth of July holiday in New Orleans was one example of the trend. Heartbreakingly, a shooting in the city’s 7th Ward killed a nine-year-old boy and injured two teens.

For Baton Rouge police, there is the fear that the current rash of shootings will set records for 2020.

Homicides could be a record in 2020, worrying city and parish officials about the months to come, especially since the coronavirus pandemic and resulting financial crisis don’t appear to be fading away.

BRPD Chief Murphy Paul said he believes the added stress and anxiety are fueling increased violence both in Baton Rouge and in other cities nationwide.

We would not want to bet against that hypothesis. The added financial and family strains of the pandemic clearly have an impact. While efforts have begun to ramp up counseling services with federal aid money, stress and anxiety are threats.

But as Chief Paul says, the culture of violence “has been in this community for far too long.”

That is why there is a need for a march, as organizations in the community want to spread the word about how to combat destructive behaviors, from robbery and other crimes, including domestic violence. With Paul, community organizations noted an increase in domestic calls as well.

Organizers of community groups appeared with Paul to also emphasize the need for support services to give people an alternative to violence, connecting them with educational and job opportunities, showing that a different outcome is possible and within reach.

These remain important components to a strategy against crime in every community, but in a relatively poor state as Louisiana is, economic and social strain is bound to hit harder during events like the coronavirus pandemic.

We applaud the marchers on Saturday and the day-in, day-out work of peace officers and community organizations. Violence is a plague, too, and it must be addressed.

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

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July 14

The American Press on preparing for hurricane season in Louisiana:

With peak hurricane season drawing closer to us, FEMA and its National Flood Insurance Program are urging Southwest Louisiana residents to prepare now for severe storms and the threat of flooding they can bring.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted an above-average Atlantic Hurricane Season with six to 10 hurricanes. NOAA has said three to six of the storms could be classified as Category 3 or higher.

Residents may recall that more than 17 inches of rain fell in Lake Charles when Hurricane Harvey struck in 2017. Although Harvey hit Southeast Texas the hardest when it made landfall along the Gulf Coast in August of that year, it brushed against Southwest Louisiana long enough to displace hundreds from their homes and warrant a visit from President Donald Trump.

Emergency responders and local volunteers, including the Cajun Navy, rescued about 450 residents in Lake Charles and the surrounding areas from their homes — many in the Greenwich Terrace area — as high waters rose and rendered roads impassable.

That’s something to keep in mind as we near what is typically thought of as the hurricane season’s peak time.

“Where it can rain, it can flood,” said David Maurstad, senior executive of the NFIP. “One of the most important steps homeowners can take during the start of this year’s hurricane season is to buy flood insurance. With it, you have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you and your home can, and will, recover in the event of an unexpected flood.”

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 with peak storms expected in late August and September.

Flood insurance policies typically take 30 days to go into effect, so now is the time to prepare by visiting FloodSmart.gov/hurricane or by call 877-336-2627.

No home is completely safe from potential flooding. When just one inch of water in a home can cost more than $25,000 in damage, flood insurance can be the difference between recovery and financial devastation.

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

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July 11

The Houma Courier on combating the coronavirus outbreak:

Gov. John Bel Edwards plans to enact a new executive order Monday requiring almost everyone in public to wear a face mask in an effort to control record rises state COVID-19 cases.

It’s the right thing to do.

The rule, which has the effect of law, applies to anyone 8 and older except those who have a documented medical condition that would prohibit them from wearing a face mask.

Also, all bars will be closed to on-premises consumption, including those with food permits. Bars can offer curbside pickup.

It was clear to anyone who has paid even casual attention to the pandemic’s impact in Louisiana that such actions were coming. For the past several days, the state’s daily case totals have neared or exceeded record levels.

On Friday, Terrebonne Parish set a record for the daily number of COVID-19 cases at 120. Deaths, now at just under 3,300 statewide, have also been on the rise. And in some parts of the state, particularly southwest Louisiana, hospital beds are becoming scarce. Louisiana now ranks third in the nation cases per-capita, trailing only New York and New Jersey.

Edwards and other state officials acknowledge that increased testing -- something everyone should welcome -- has helped drive up the numbers. And locally, where right now hospital capacity does not appear to face an immediate threat, officials have also pointed to increased testing as a main reason for the rise in COVID cases.

But what is undeniable is that the overall trend, especially statewide, is not good. As Edwards has said many times in recent days, we are headed in the wrong direction.

One key measure is called the positivity rate, or the percentage of total tests that come back positive. For the past week, it was 9.5% statewide, 14.3% in Terrebonne and 11.3% in Lafourche. Each was up compared to the week before. And each significantly exceeds the 5% rate the World Health Organization recommends a community have for at least two straight weeks before considering whether to move to the next step of reopening.

All of this comes as schools in Terrebone, Lafourche and across the state plan to open in early August. Doing that safely will be a monumental endeavor, and continued community spread of the deadly novel coronavirus will only make it more difficult.

The solution, at least the part individuals are being urged to execute, has been delivered so consistently and clearly by reputable health and political leaders that it has become ubiquitous. Here are the basics:

‒ Wear a face mask in public. Starting at 12:01 a.m. Monday, it’s the law.

‒ Stay home unless except for essential activities, such as going to the grocery or pharmacy. Work at home if you can.

‒ Wash your hands regularly, avoid touching your face, and clean and disinfect things you use often, including door handles, refrigerator doors and eating surfaces.

‒ Gather in groups of no more that 10 people and, if you do, practice social distancing, which means staying at least six feet away from others.

Those who complain that these things are inconvenient might consider the alternatives: more illness, more deaths, a return to stricter stay-at-home orders and economic paralysis, and more pressure on hospitals’ limited capacity to handle not only COVID-19 but other illnesses. Those things are a lot less convenient than wearing a face mask.

It’s time for everyone to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem.

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