Editorial Roundup: Mississippi

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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Aug. 11

The Vicksburg Post on the discovery of remains identified as a man who went missing in 2018:

There is nothing we can say, or in this case, write, that would in any way ease the pain, the grief of the family of Timothy Howell Hearn.

There is nothing we can do, or offer, that would add one more moment together, or go back in me and change what happened.

But what we have done, and what we will continue to do, is pray for the Hearn family, who has suffered for nearly two years in the loss and resulting search.

Monday, that search, which began with Timothy’s disappearance while working aboard a towboat on the Mississippi in November 2018, came to an end, as remains discovered in July along the river in Adams County were positively identified using DNA. Timothy had been found, and closure had been provided.

While there was a closure to the search, there remains the grief and the mourning. But, the Bible says, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalms 30:5) We are so truly thankful for that morning when it comes.

Timothy’s family has been buoyed by this community’s love and prayers from the very first moments news broke of his disappearance. This community’s love and prayers carried them through the early, fruitless days of the search by law enforcement and emergency response officials near Tensas Parish. And, that love and prayer carried them through the remaining months until Monday’s confirmation. It will carry them even farther.

And while we pray for Timothy’s family, we pray too for his co-workers, the rescuers and the searchers. We pray too for those who discovered his remains and for the officials who, in working with the family, collected DNA samples to bring this search — this long search — to an end.

But even with Monday’s confirmation, there are still questions. What caused him to fall into the river? What was the cause of death? And of course, the question that we can never answer, why?

“… joy cometh in the morning” we are told. Let us hope so for all involved. Monday’s announcement brought some closure, but there is still far more to pray for.

Online: https://www.vicksburgpost.com/

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Aug. 9

The Daily Journal on using alternative facilities to allow for social distancing while starting school during the pandemic:

Since the July 30th peak of 1,775 cases reported, Mississippi has averaged 1,007 cases per day. Daily Journal education reporter Blake Alsup reported on some schools in our area reopening last week, as Johns Hopkins University reported Mississippi now has the highest test positivity rate in the nation, with a weekly average of 25.8%.

We are not seeing a decline in cases fast enough, and Mississippians must be vigilant in their mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing. This is more important now than ever. Our kids in Tupelo, Lee County and all over Northeast Mississippi are headed back to school.

Tupelo Public Schools just announced a delay to the start of its school year, from Wednesday, Aug. 12 to Monday, Aug. 17. In order to prevent outbreaks at schools we need parents to reinforce the value of the protection protocols and adhere to them. We also need to look beyond the current plans. Are our schools taking advantage of all facilities available for classrooms? We hope conversations are happening to look at the former Tupelo Automobile Museum and BancorpSouth Arena as potential options to get us through the fall semester.

These facilities are not being used for events but could allow both the city and county schools to spread out. There is obvious parking space available, and our belief is we must leave no stone unturned as we get kids back into the classroom. With access to reliable internet an issue in some of our communities, those students must have face-to-face instruction. The most vulnerable in our society that we struggle to educate in perfect conditions cannot be left behind because we could not find a way to get kids and teachers back together.

Online: https://www.djournal.com

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Aug. 7

The Dispatch on transparency when it comes to sharing coronavirus data related to schools:

Columbus students were back in school as of Aug. 6. Other Golden Triangle schools will follow suit between now and Sept. 1.

As COVID-19 cases in Mississippi have surged to more than 1,000 new cases a day, we are all holding our breath as our children return to school, hoping the safety protocols are effective in avoiding community spread among the students.

There is reasonable cause for concern. During its first weeks of classes, the Corinth School District reported six cases, leading to the quarantine of more than 100 students. On Aug. 6, a teacher and coach in the Lafayette County School District, died after being in self-quarantine and is, most likely, another fatality in a state where 1,825 had died of the virus as of Aug. 5.

Those legitimate fears are compounded by the revelation that there is no requirement for school districts to disclose COVID-19 cases.

Governor Tate Reeves and State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs are both encouraging school districts to release this information but admit there is no state requirement to compel them to do so.

Both Reeves and Dobbs said the state health department will begin releasing data on cases involving students on a county-by-county basis, but since not all students in a county attend the same schools in the same school district, that information won’t provide parents the clear information they need.

To its credit, Corinth appears to have been very transparent in releasing information about the outbreak in its district, providing daily updates after positive test results.

While we would certainly hope that our local school districts will be just as forthcoming — and there is nothing to suggest they will not — we would like to see clear requirements that such information is released with as much detail as student privacy constraints permit and in a timely fashion.

Such requirements would give school districts clear guidance on what should be reported, how it should be disseminated and how quickly that the information should be reported.

That information is of far to great importance to allow too much latitude.

We urge the Mississippi Department of Education to quickly devise and implement requirements for disclosing student COVID-19 cases.

Knowing that cases in schools will be made public in an open and timely manner will of no small comfort in these dangerous times.

Online: https://www.cdispatch.com