Editorial Roundup: Texas

Dallas Morning News. Aug. 20, 2021.

Editorial: Texas universities have few good COVID-19 options

While the governor and local governments duke it out over mask mandates, it’s not just K-12 schools that are unsure how to proceed. Universities are also starting to welcome students back amid concern that COVID-19 is threatening another school year.

Some college administrators are taking a page from K-12 superintendents and requiring masks despite the governor’s order prohibiting mask mandates, other area universities are taking a different approach. We think their example is worth following. After the Texas Supreme Court hit pause on Dallas County’s mask mandate, the University of Texas at Dallas announced that it will be reducing class sizes and requiring those students, faculty and staff who do not self-report their vaccination status to fill out a daily screening form and take a COVID test within the first three weeks of the semester.

UTD President Richard Benson acknowledged in a letter to students and staff this week that the university cannot require masks or vaccinations per Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive orders. Rather than taking legal action or flat out defying the order, administrators are doing the best they can by recommending following CDC guidelines and requiring COVID tests for all students, faculty and staff, regardless of vaccination status.

Other area universities have implemented similar policies over the past week. The University of North Texas is requiring testing at regular intervals throughout the semester for those who do not self-report their vaccination status. The University of Texas at Arlington is requiring all students, vaccinated or not, to take a COVID test within the first few weeks of the semester while encouraging students to get vaccinated and wear masks.

The executive order does not apply to private universities and several have taken a different approach. Southern Methodist University, The University of Dallas and Texas Christian University are requiring masks “temporarily” as the semester starts.

Still, there are universities leaving students with little or no guidance as local and state government battles over mask mandates. While Texas Woman’s University offers vaccinations to students, they had no testing or vaccination requirements in place at the time of publication. Even worse, Dallas Baptist University and Collin College are not requiring masks, proof of vaccination, symptom monitoring, social distancing or testing even though they are returning to in-person learning.

As we all watch our leaders, waiting for unified guidance, let’s look at who is doing it right and working with what they can. With over 1 million students enrolled in colleges around the state, these universities are setting an important example of how to keep students safe.

Correction, 3:04 p.m. August 20: This editorial has been updated to reflect accurate information regarding the University of Texas at Dallas and Texas Woman’s University’s COVID policies.

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Brownsville Herald. Aug. 21, 2021.

Editorial: Back to work: Quorum in Legislature met, action on voting bill can begin

Texas Democratic legislators’ walkout only postponed the inevitable. After leaving the state Capitol in May and breaking a quorum to stop passage of controversial bills — a walkout that ended the regular session and lasted through one 30-day special session — lawmakers started trickling in, and on Thursday enough had returned to make quorum and enable action on the bills.

Surely, the process was frustrating for the absconders, whose main item of contention was a bill that would tighten voting restrictions and ban many of the creative ways county elections office helped people vote safely in the presidential and congressional elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed new law would prevent extended voting hours on Election Day, drive-thru voting and wider use of mail-in voting, among other measures. The Democrats fled to Washington, hoping to convince Congress members to pass federal election laws that would override such state restrictions.

Unfortunately, the state lawmakers ran into two hurdles. The first was Congress’ scheduled recess for the entire month of August, when no action would be taken, and the second was Congress members’ reluctance to take any action on voting rights, as it might eliminate one of their primary topics for the 2022 election campaign. Don’t expect any action in Washington on voting rights — or on any major issue including immigration — until after November of next year.

One of those House Democrats who returned and allowed business to resume is state Rep. Eddie Lucio III of Brownsville.

The Texas Senate always enjoyed a quorum, and already has done most of its work on the slate of issues Gov. Greg Abbott asked them to address. Once the House acts and the two chambers reconcile any amendments and other differences in their versions of the legislation, passage should come quickly.

We then can move on to the next steps, which includes expected lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the new voter restrictions.

The process also will give the American public one of the best opportunities to evaluate the success of Republican lawmakers’ efforts to control the Supreme Court by refusing to consider Barack Obama’s final court appointment and rushing through a late Trump nomination. Challenges to new voter restrictions by Texas and other states surely will reach the high court, where its ruling and individual justices’ writings are sure to raise questions on whether their primary loyalties are to the Constitution or to their respective political factions.

Most importantly, it helps give Texas voters information they can use during the 2022 elections. Every House seat will be on the ballot and most incumbents will be running for reelection. Many people have said that in fleeing the state, the Democrats were avoiding their duty; others have said that in preventing what they consider bad legislation from passing, even by using extreme measures, they actually were, in fact, doing their jobs.

Constituents’ votes in November 2022 in large measure will determine whether or not voters support the legislators’ actions.

Whether or not the legality of new voting restrictions is determined in our courts or at the ballot box, we hope the result provides us with the most open, fair and secure election process possible.

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San Antonio Express-News. Aug. 20, 2021.

Editorial: Get well, gov: Now fight, not fuel, the surge

Like thousands of others in Texas, a COVID-19 diagnosis is now the sobering reality for our state’s top elected official, Gov. Greg Abbott. We are deeply concerned about his health, and we hope his full recovery is swift, just as we hope this for all COVID patients.

But unlike many other patients, Abbott has helped bring this upon himself by not allowing mask mandates and not masking up in public. His policies have fueled the spread of COVID in Texas, and our hope beyond his recovery is that he charts a new and better course. End the mask mandate ban, governor, and follow the health experts. Lives are at stake.

Imagine an enlightenment, hard as it may be, in which Abbott, rather than fueling the pandemic, transforms his tone and message. Imagine if the governor shifted his focus from personal freedom to one that espouses scientifically proven tools — masks and vaccines — against a virus that has killed more than 53,370 Texans. There is little freedom to be found in an ICU, governor.

In his COVID-19 announcement video Tuesday, Abbott vowed to keep working from the Governor’s Mansion before signing off with “God bless you all and God bless Texas.”

He can get to work by allowing for local mask and vaccine mandates.

No one wants to see schools or businesses closed. We don’t want to witness the collapse of our hospitals. The thought of more illness and death spreading across our state is heartbreaking. But it’s happening.

COVID-19 cases, fueled by the more transmissible delta variant, are rampant; hospitals are overwhelmed and deaths are increasing. Our state health department reported Wednesday a seven-day average of 100 fatalities, 13,457 new confirmed cases and 12,402 hospitalizations — the highest since January. Five mortuary trailers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency soon will be centrally stationed in San Antonio and sent around the state at the request of local officials. Doctors are pleading with vaccine-reluctant Texans.

Abbott must lead the change.

He tepidly mentions vaccinations while vigorously advocating personal freedom. He fights mask mandates to help stop COVID but then falsely blames migrants for the surge. His mandate to end mask mandates is divisive and dangerous.

Abbott highlights personal responsibility, but he doesn’t model it. He has posted cavalier images of his unmasked face in rooms filled with other unmasked faces. He has boasted about standing room-only events such as the packed Republican Club at Heritage Ranch event Monday, the night before his diagnosis announcement.

How many people did you infect, governor?

Trying to stay free from the grip of COVID-19 is especially challenging for children younger than 12 who, unlike Abbott, aren’t eligible for vaccination. And still, he refuses to fund virtual education and fights mask mandates in schools.

A growing number of schools are fighting his ban on mask and vaccine mandates all the way up to the Texas Supreme Court, which has temporarily allowed mask mandates. By Tuesday, at least four Texas school districts had temporarily closed due to outbreaks. Also Tuesday, Disability Rights Texas filed suit in Austin on behalf of 14 disabled students.

Vaccinated, able to access the best treatments and assured of hospital space, Abbott is in a favorable position not afforded to most. The governor should have optimal health care, but so should all Texans, and that makes his policies related to COVID, and his refusal to expand Medicaid, so abhorrent.

Millions in Texas, which leads the country in uninsured, don’t have health insurance. They need support more than ever, and Abbott still has the power and responsibility to help provide it.

Governor, instead of fueling this crisis, work to end it. Allow mask and vaccine mandates. Do all you can to stop COVID’s spread. No one is immune.

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Paris News. Aug. 17, 2021.

Editorial: State officials don’t seem to care about education

Public health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and with Paris-Lamar County Health District are recommending that children over the age of 2 wear masks, whether they are vaccinated or not, as the delta strain of Covid-19 fuels a new surge in hospitalizations.

Amid political pushback on his first mandate during the first Covid-19 surge, Gov. Greg Abbott not only repealed the state’s mask mandate, he outlawed local level authority to require masks.

Several school districts across the state — including Clarksville ISD — are defying Abbott’s order by enacting local level mask mandates. It’s a move to protect the health and safety of their students and staff, school officials said.

Attorney General Ken Paxton won’t have it. In fact, he says Texas may look to Florida for inspiration on how to clamp down on these school districts that are following the guidelines of public health authorities — the state may pull their funding. Such a move would take the Legislature, he said.

There is no better way to prove how little state officials care about the education of our children than to pull funding from school districts whose officials made a health and safety decision based on the advice of their local public health officials. Oh, and what political theater state officials would make of it, playing the role of the victim and pointing the finger at local school boards, tearfully pleading that “it’s all their fault for not obeying politicians during a health pandemic.”

If you have colon cancer, are you going to visit your state representative for treatment? When you have a sinus infection, do you call the governor’s office? Wart on the foot? Now paging Sen. Bryan Hughes, right?

No.

This editorial board’s message has remained the same from Abbott’s mask mandate to today — follow the guidelines given to us by our public health officials. The next election doesn’t influence their advice — the situation on the ground does.

Schools should ensure the health and safety of students and staff. The loss of one student’s life to Covid-19 is not worth all the school funding in the world.

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Texarkana Gazette. Aug. 21, 2021.

Editorial: Shot at Stardom: Acclaimed filmmaker casting movie to be shot in our region

Looking for a shot at stardom?

Well, here’s your chance.

Acclaimed director M. Night Shyamalan is producing a movie in our area. The project, for now known as “Untitled Caddo Lake Film,” is set to begin shooting in October.

So where do you come in? The film’s directors are looking for more than 40 locals to appear onscreen in speaking roles.

It doesn’t matter whether you have experience or not. The directors are looking for regional authenticity.

Most are small roles requiring just a day or two of shooting. And all the actors will be paid.

Many readers can remember back in the mid-1970s when Charles B. Pierce put out a casting call for “The Town That Dreaded Sundown.” A lot of local folks had parts in the film, some speaking, most as extras.

Now aspiring local thespians have another shot at seeing their faces on the silver screen.

For more information, you can email caddocasting@gmail.com.

And good luck.

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