Editorial Roundup: North Carolina

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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Oct. 13

The Greensboro News & Record on indoor worship services in North Carolina:

Those odd-looking, animate objects you’re beginning to see again in the stands at college and pro football games are called people.

Time was when actual human beings packed stadiums in the fall to cheer the home team.

And, of course, boo the referees.

In North Carolina, COVID-19 restrictions have been relaxed to the point where a maximum of 7% of socially distanced football fans are now allowed to see games in person.

Meanwhile, as the News & Record’s Nancy McLaughlin reported Sunday, the hour many of us are accustomed to spending together before kickoff is making a modest comeback of its own.

Some houses of worship in North Carolina have begun to resume indoor services.

Under the state’s newest and more relaxed COVID-19 guidelines, churches, mosques and synagogues must limit gatherings to 30% occupancy or 100 people, whichever is less.

Some faith communities have attacked public health restrictions as an affront to their freedom of religion.

Their frustration is understandable. But the science is clear: Indoor spaces where people traditionally gather closely for an hour (or longer) while singing, hugging and shaking hands are tailor-made for spreading the coronavirus.

And when we risk infecting ourselves, we place others at risk as well. We are our brother’s keeper.

So, even with the blanket ban on indoor services now lifted, at least at the corners and on the edges, some churches still are not reopening their shuttered sanctuaries.

As much as they miss the fellowship and the hugs, they are still wary of the risks.

“It’s not worth one of my members getting sick,” the Rev. Ray Calhoun of Community Chapel Baptist Church told the News & Record.

“Some people,” he added, “are still afraid to get out of their cars.”

By contrast, St. John’s Anglican Church reopened for indoor worship services in May.

“None of us can really know the long-term impact of the COVID pandemic,” St. John’s pastor, the Rev. Mark Menees, said, “but we cannot wait for it to simply subside.”

Gov. Roy Cooper had limited church services to no more than 10 people indoors, but a federal judge voided his order.

Later, a federal judge’s order allowed churches to reopen.

“The record, at this admittedly early stage of the case, reveals that the Governor appears to trust citizens to perform non-religious activities indoors (such as shopping or working or selling merchandise) but does not trust them to do the same when they worship together indoors,” U.S. District Court Judge James C. Dever III said in his ruling.

Added State Sen. Warren Daniel, a Burke County Republican, in a written statement: “Gov. Cooper cannot treat retailers and ABC stores one way and houses of worship another.”

Judge Dever further said in his ruling that “the court trusts worshipers and their leaders to look after one another and society while exercising their free exercise rights.”

But we should sip these sweet tastes of Life As It Used to Be very carefully.

It is easy to get too comfortable and to forget that the pandemic is far from over. And to make costly mistakes.

Also, even as the state was trying to ease its way toward some semblance of normal life, COVID-19 has not cooperated.

Although overall cases in North Carolina had dropped on Sunday, 1,109 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized, the most hospitalizations since early August.

This is why the Rev. Jennifer Copeland of the N.C. Council of Churches described this as “a time when more caution is needed and not less.”

Copeland cited “super spreader” incidents that result in a cluster of coronavirus cases, including one traced to a choir performance.

“Some of the things we value,” Copeland said, “are dangerous for us right now.”

And this is why even in reopening its sanctuary in May, St. John’s Anglican Church rightly has erred on the side of caution.

The sanctuary is frequently and thoroughly cleaned.

Aside from family members, worshippers maintain at least 6 feet of social distance.

Parishioners chant and sing through masks.

The collection plate is no longer passed throughout the pews, but placed on a stand.

So, whether it’s football or faith (some people confuse the two), the path back to public gatherings has begun.

But this is a long, slow journey on a thin sheet of ice.

We have to be careful.

Or we’ll consign ourselves to a “Groundhog Day” of endless advances and retreats.

In other words, because we can doesn’t always mean we should.

Lead us not into temptation …

Online: https://www.greensboro.com

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Oct. 13

The Salisbury Post on a crash that happened in North Carolina and people who drive while they are distracted or tired:

The images were as shocking as the reality of the incident.

A tractor-trailer on Aug. 11 crashed into a stationary fire engine on I-85. That engine crashed into another, which crashed into another. The rear of the trucks were mangled and damaged. The crash tossed debris onto the interstate, which was closed for hours. Meanwhile, the firefighters who were tending to a truck that caught on fire had just a moment or two to save themselves before becoming victims.

Fortunately, none of the first responders were hurt. Inattention and a failure to move over were blamed for the crash.

Fire engines were put out of commission for months. First responders faced logistical challenges and needed to band together to provide services and resources for those within the district covered by Millers Ferry. Rowan County residents, particularly those within and moving through the Millers Ferry district, are fortunate that there’s been uninterrupted fire service. Millers Ferry is not exactly a small volunteer fire department, but it’s still a major loss when three trucks are put out of commission in one incident.

The crash has prompted some positive changes to protect first responders and get motorists to pay attention, as reporter Shavonne Potts wrote in a news story published Sunday.

Nick Martin, of the Salisbury Fire Department, said trucks are used to block off lanes of traffic on high-traffic roads like I-85, Jake Alexander Boulevard or Innes Street.

Other departments are buying speed bumps to get drivers to slow down. Millers Ferry is planning on buying tools like wireless headsets to make roadside collision responses safer.

The crash must also open motorists’ eyes (figuratively and literally) to the reality that too many drive distracted or tired. It’s not hard to find motorists actively using their smartphones on a drive down any Rowan County road.

Kannapolis Fire Chief Tracy Winecoff may have said it best when he told Potts for Sunday’s story, “They’ve got to really increase their level of awareness and their ability to pay attention.”

Text messages can wait. So can phone calls, especially if you don’t have a hands-free device. If you’re exhausted and you don’t otherwise need to be on the road, stay home. Reaction times are slower when you’re tired.

Most relevant in the case of the Millers Ferry accident: move over when first responders are working on the roadside. Not only is it the law, but it’s in the best interest of people and property.

As G.A. Barger, of the N.C. Highway Patrol said immediately after the accident, “Get as far over as you need.”

Online: https://www.salisburypost.com

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Oct. 9

The Robesonian on two North Carolina state lawmakers joining a coalition that supports communities affected by floods:

Robeson County now has representation on an alliance that supports flood-affected communities across the United States.

The question the above statement should raise among most local residents is a quizzical, “And?”

State Reps. Charles Graham and Brenden Jones are two of 15 N.C. House of Representatives members, Democrat and Republican, who are to now part of the American Flood Coalition. According to the Coalition’s website, the group has more than 200 members from 19 states and has the lofty goal of advancing proactive solutions to the challenges of frequent flooding.

Sounds good, right? Particularly given that since 2016 Robeson County has suffered the not-so-tender mercies of two powerful hurricanes that left much of the county under water.

The question now is what can a coalition that appears to be about 2 1/2 years old and until September 2018 was called the Seawall Coalition really do? Let’s face it, they are dealing with what is perhaps the most powerful and destructive natural force on the planet. If a hurricane decides to visit, there’s precious little anyone can do except secure everything and get out of the way. For proof of that statement, ask the people of Louisiana. They’re getting hammered by a major hurricane for the second time in less than two months.

Now if the members of the alliance are talking policies and programs that can mitigate damage or make recovery efforts faster and more efficient, that’s different, and we can say, “God bless you and good luck!”

The alliance may need all the good luck it can get because they just enlisted politicians, and not just from North Carolina. It can be hard to get people from different political parties to agree on any major issue — and floods and hurricanes are major issues. But, if anything can unify politicians long enough to shape meaningful policy, it’s natural disasters.

Granted, the Coalition may want the politicians to only share their experiences and offer suggestions on how to deal with hurricanes before and after they make landfall, and with the floodwaters they leave behind. If this is true politics shouldn’t be a factor and something good may come out of the politicians’ work with the Coalition.

There is also the possibility that the Coalition wants the politicians’ involvement in part to cultivate contacts who can help the nonprofit alliance, for lack of a better word, sell whatever policies that are developed to state governments. And, there’s nothing nefarious about that, particularly if the Coalition’s efforts result in workable plans to mitigate flooding damage and to help victims of hurricanes and floods.

Graham has said he plans to consult with constituents, inside and outside local government, about “how to address our needs and provide a voice on the pressing issues in our county.”

So, if the representative asks for input, give it to him. The more knowledge and information he can take to the Coalition the better equipped he will be to help shape policies that will benefit Robeson County.

In the meantime, local leaders can best help the people of Robeson County by working together to craft flood mitigation policies and programs that can be implemented locally. Rarely are we best served by waiting on someone else to something for us.

Online: https://www.robesonian.com/