Editorial Roundup: West Virginia

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

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Oct. 27

The Journal on the distribution of a potential vaccine for the coronavirus:

Once a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available, demand for it will be enormous. Plainly, there will not be enough to go around, probably for several months. Thoughtful plans will be needed to set priorities for the limited amounts of vaccine that will be available at first.

Federal officials have sought and are beginning to receive state governments’ plans for that. Such an approach is wise; state officials know better than anyone in Washington how to set priorities for vaccinations.

Plainly, health care professionals should be first in line. That category needs to include employees of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, by the way. It also should include ambulance personnel.

Other first responders, including police and firefighters, often are first on the scene when medical emergencies occur. They, too, should have priority.

There should be no argument about the next class of people to whom vaccines should be rushed: nursing home residents. They live in COVID-19’s preferred hunting ground and have been victims of the virus by the tens of thousands.

Up to that point there seems to be wide agreement on priorities for vaccine. But what, or rather who, comes next?

We suggest school employees. Millions of American children remain out of school because their parents are afraid to send them. Across the country, many schools that have reopened have remained so only sporadically, as outbreaks strike their students and staffs.

Getting school employees vaccinated would be a major step in restoring a semblance of normalcy to the process of educating our children. Making that happen is critical.

Online: https://www.journal-news.net/

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Oct. 26

The Charleston Gazette-Mail on a recent briefing by a West Virginia health official regarding the coronavirus:

Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s coronavirus czar, expressed some urgency as it pertains to the pandemic during a briefing Friday.

Marsh gave his most impassioned plea yet for West Virginians to wear masks in public settings and indoors, citing the now-evidenced effectiveness of face coverings in stomping out the spread of COVID-19.

Marsh has always been serious about these types of things, but he laid out the case particularly strongly Friday, along with a warning that this virus will get worse and health risks will rise as more people spend more time indoors and flu season hits.

Gov. Jim Justice’s takeaway that “masks equal vaccine,” might not be totally accurate, but some national health experts have said that masks can be as effective or more effective than a vaccine. Some have even said they’d take a mask over a vaccine, if forced to choose between one or the other.

While testing percentages and numbers of active cases can fluctuate in West Virginia, all of the raw data show COVID-19 cases steadily increasing. This is coming as the United States is seeing a third spike, with more than 80,000 new cases a day. Virus deaths in West Virginia surpassed 400 last week, carrying all the way to 424 by Monday morning. All of this is happening rapidly, when compared to the same statistics between March — when schools were dismissed and Gov. Justice issued an initial stay-at-home order — through the early summer.

Justice’s message on COVID-19 since businesses reopened and West Virginians began to travel and socialize more — not to mention reopening schools — has been back and forth, and muddy metrics haven’t helped. Marsh has sometimes enabled the governor’s wishy-washy approach to this crisis over the past three months or so. It was encouraging to see Marsh step up and address the issue with the seriousness it deserved, while encouraging state residents not to give up taking precautions out of fatigue — a message also touched on by the governor.

It has been a long haul and, in all likelihood, it will continue to be so for some time yet. The direct firmness with which Marsh laid out the coming challenges and the call for continued vigilance was something West Virginians needed to hear.

Online: https://www.wvgazettemail.com/

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Oct. 24

The Register-Herald on Republican Sen. Shelley Moore speaking in support of a constitutional amendment to cap the U.S. Supreme Court at nine justices:

Republican conservative hypocrisy lives loudly within U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who joined party colleagues on Wednesday to announce their opposition to court packing. They share a suspicion that should the Democrats win the White House and take control of the Senate, seats would be added to the Supreme Court to rebalance the scales of justice.

Well, elections do have consequences, senator, and since the current general election is already underway – with more than 50 million voters having cast an early ballot – let’s see what Americans have to say, first, before you jump to any scary conclusions.

Capito and friends spoke in support of a constitutional amendment, introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., back in March of 2019, capping the Supreme Court at nine justices as progressives push for expanding the court. (We note that Rubio’s proposed legislation has gone nowhere even though the GOP has controlled the Senate these past four years.)

But, now, these folks fear such court expansion could happen if Democrats take the reins of the Senate and former Vice President Joe Biden wins this year’s presidential race. Biden has not backed the idea, by the way, saying, if elected, he would appoint a commission to study the matter. And for the record, the size of the court is not stated in the U.S. Constitution and is, indeed, a congressional matter. Or, put another way, within the rules.

Perhaps the GOP senators fear the outcome – of court packing, not the election, though there is that, too – because they are so familiar with the strategy.

It’s a tactic the GOP has used in recent years with state supreme courts when it has controlled all levers of state political power.

For instance, Republican governors in two states, Arizona and Georgia, have signed bills passed by Republican-dominated legislatures to expand the number of seats on their states’ respective high courts. In Iowa, the Republican governor has gained greater leverage over the commission that names judicial nominees.

And we all know all too well how Republicans who controlled the West Virginia Legislature rebalanced, in effect, the state Supreme Court two years ago when that body sank into a stew of corruption – real and alleged.

In a story by The Associated Press, Marin Levy, a law professor at Duke University who has written about efforts to expand state high courts, said, “The arguments being advanced now by Republican leaders – that this is an affront to separation of powers, that this is a way of delegitimizing courts – those don’t seem to be holding at the state level.”

Capito, of course, fell in line with her Republican colleagues, just as she has done at almost every turn since first becoming the state’s junior senator.

“The American people reject packing, as they would reject restructuring, because they are actually one in the same,” Capito claimed without sharing how she knows what the American people want.

Not a word from Capito about chiseling away at the integrity of the court by rushing the latest Trump nominee through the process in less than a month after denying a Democratic nominee in 2016 eleven months before a same-year election.

Nothing about how rushing this nomination took legislative precedence over all other concerns – even as business men and women, families, cities, counties and schools were awaiting essential federal assistance during a painful and prolonged pandemic.

Nothing about how she has voted for every last Trump appointee to the federal bench including six nominees whom the American Bar Association rated as “not qualified.”

Nothing about how the GOP and the White House are trying to outlaw the Affordable Care Act and, if successful, will strip tens of thousands of West Virginians and millions of Americans of access to quality health care in the middle of a pandemic.

Nothing, in short, about her constituents.

Shelley is all about party before country. She is merely a good foot soldier for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who hands her a speech and trots her out on a stage. She is in D.C. to do the party’s bidding, not ours.

Just spare us the party dogma, senator, and your feigned apprehension of the big, bad Democrats coming for justice.

Given the damage the GOP has inflicted on the court system and on the Justice Department, extraordinary measures may, in fact, be necessary.

Yes, Sen. Capito, you and yours brought this moment upon yourself.

We look forward to hearing what America has to say – even if you don’t.

Online: https://www.register-herald.com/