Editorial Roundup: Ohio

The (Lorain) Morning Journal. July 24, 2021.

Editorial: Creative measures for vaccinations must continue

Health officials, government and business leaders have been creative when trying to get people to take one of the three novel coronavirus vaccines, but there still is work to do, especially with the Delta variant of the disease spreading so rapidly.

COVID-19 continues to pose a health threat with new variants, including the Gamma variant recently found in Russia, infecting people.

And with so much misinformation about the vaccinations, especially on social media, some just people don’t want anything to do with getting the shots.

It appears that those who haven’t received the prick of the needle to their skin would rather take their chances on catching the virus.

Measures implemented in 2020 to fight and contain the virus included social distancing, wearing masks and simply washing hands to reduce the chances.

But, that’s not enough.

Health experts say the vaccine is the best way to fight against the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that every state in the union is experiencing an increase in infections.

The Lorain County Community Protection Team met online July 21 for the biweekly update on medical, economic and community conditions caused by COVID-19.

Lorain County Public Health Commissioner Dave Covell said the county’s COVID-19 infection numbers are creeping up, though still less than conditions in the last year,

Covell stated that county medical workers have not seen many instances of the Delta variant, but England is having a surge with that variant.

He and other health experts say people who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 still can get an infection, but likely will not end up in the hospital.

However, the concern is that with the Delta variant, there could be a decent number of new cases in Lorain County in the fall because it is spreading rapidly among unvaccinated people.

Right now, it’s not a cause for alarm, but Covell vowed to keep an eye on it, and people should be thinking about it.

Covell continues to urge people who aren’t vaccinated, to get out there and get the shot because the Delta variant is very, very contagious, and it really moves quickly.

Vaccinations still are available.

Lorain County Public Health’s Tuesday clinics still are seeing 50 to 100 people get the shots.

In the hospitals, Char Wray, chief operating officer at Mercy Health – Lorain, said staff are seeing people who did not get inoculated develop new infections and those have the long hauler effects.

Kristi Sink, president of University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center, stated she has seen an increase in COVID-19 positivity rates, but not yet a corresponding spike in in-patient admissions.

What is promising so far is that vaccinated people still are well protected.

But, those who are coming up with innovative ways to get people to take the vaccine deserve a great deal of credit.

For instance, Vaxxin’ on the River featured entertainment by rocker Lita Ford on July 21 at Black River Landing in downtown Lorain.

Lorain, along with Mercy Health and Rockin’ on the River, hosted the concert with free admission for anyone who had their COVID-19 vaccines or was willing to get one at the site.

There were 33 people who received vaccinations at the site.

The city offered $10 each to the first 5,000 vaccinated guests and Lorain County Public Health provided the shots — in syringes, not bar glasses.

Lorain Mayor Jack Bradley said one of the purposes of the federal American Rescue Plan money is to promote vaccination.

The city used the federal money, not money specifically from Lorain’s taxpayers.

Bradley and his staff distributed the gift cards as a way to say thank you.

Incidentally, the night was not the first time giving injections outdoors for the Lorain County Public Health nurses.

They administered shots outdoors for Lorain’s Juneteenth celebration in June and other times.

Wray, who attended the concert with Edwin Oley, market president of Mercy Health – Lorain, said the hospital system was proud to sponsor the event.

Earlier this year, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine employed the Vax-a-Million drawing to spur Ohioans to get the shot.

The state handed out five $1 million prizes in a raffle to people who were vaccinated and five full-ride college scholarships to students.

The program was so creative and popular that other states, including Michigan, New York, California, Maryland, Oregon, Colorado and Washington, did the same.

It appears as though health and government officials, and business leaders still must devise methods to get people to get a shot in the arm.

And people should trust the science on the vaccinations, not the rhetoric.

___

Akron Beacon Journal. July 25, 2021.

Editorial: 4 actions Ohio residents must demand following FirstEnergy, Householder corruption

Editor’s note: This editorial has been corrected. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has already called for a 2024 rate review for FirstEnergy’s distribution charges.

Not so quick, FirstEnergy. Your contrition and $230 million plea deal might satisfy shareholders, but it’s far from the end of your embarrassing saga and the need for significant political reforms in Ohio.

The Akron-based utility that spans five states formally admitted Thursday to bribing state leaders to pad its bottom line at the expense of all Ohio ratepayers. The company agreed to pay a $230 million fine, with $115 million earmarked for helping people pay their utility bills. Ratepayers can’t be assessed the cost.

Shareholder lawsuits bolstered by Thursday’s criminal admissions and possible Securities and Exchange Commission and Public Utilities Commission of Ohio enforcement actions still cloud FirstEnergy’s future. Its reputation remains tarnished by the outright greed of its former leaders in their pursuit of a $1 billion taxpayer bailout for two nuclear plants and special “decoupling fees” through House Bill 6 and cancellation of a scheduled 2024 PUCO review that could have reduced rates.

Text messages from those executives paint a disturbing picture of how they used millions of dollars to purchase the influence of indicted former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, a Republican, and former PUCO Chairman Sam Randazzo, who resigned last year after his house was raided by the FBI.

There’s no reasonable doubt that FirstEnergy was running the Ohio Statehouse for years only to be thwarted by a tip federal prosecutors turned into our state’s largest public corruption case.

They came very close to stealing your money.

Now, Ohioans need to demand additional personal accountability and real changes to ensure politicians resist the temptation to put corporate and personal interests ahead of the people who elect them.

More people should be prosecuted in corruption case

First, it’s clear that additional people should be prosecuted for apparent corruption. Allowing the company to accept a negotiated prosecution without holding individuals accountable would send a horrible message to corporate America. We’re confident this conduct is not protected by the First Amendment as Householder claims. Prosecutors declined on Thursday to comment on additional prosecutions.

More disclosure needed for funds influencing state elections

Next, Ohio law must be changed to require more disclosure for all spending that influences Ohio elections and public issues.

FirstEnergy Corp. and FirstEnergy Solutions, now called Energy Harbor, donated $59 million to Generation Now, a 501(c)(4) dark money group controlled by Householder. FirstEnergy used its own group, called Partners for Progress, to fund Generation Now. The secret funding fueled Householder’s return to the speakership, his push for HB 6 and eventually a revolting and xenophobic campaign to thwart a referendum.

While federal law and the Supreme Court’s unfortunate Citizens United ruling make these so-called social welfare groups and contributions legal, there’s nothing stopping Ohio from demanding more transparency in all political ads. Let’s require all advertising campaigns to publicly release top funders, including the original sources, to avoid donation-hiding schemes.

For a democracy to thrive, citizens need a full accounting of the people and corporations seeking to influence public officials and policies.

PUCO must complete review of FirstEnergy rates

Third, the PUCO must keep its commitment to a 2024 review of FirstEnergy’s rates. Randazzo is accused of killing the review not long after taking PUCO’s helm and accepting $4.3 million from FirstEnergy. The public deserves a full, transparent review of rates as PUCO has agreed to do in a Dec. 30 decision.

Ohio energy policy needs overhaul

Finally, Ohio needs a complete overhaul of its energy policy, which has been further damaged by Senate Bill 52, which, surprisingly, Gov. Mike DeWine signed this month.

With global warming concerns growing, this law gives local authorities power to stop wind and solar power generation proposals, while denying the same rights for nuclear, oil and gas projects such as pipelines.

Republicans say they are protecting rural landscapes. But given the culture of corruption in the Statehouse, one can’t help but wonder if lawmakers are really helping the powerful gas and oil lobby instead. House Bill 6 also gutted Ohio’s renewable energy standards in defiance of any common environmental sense.

It’s been a year since Householder’s arrest and little has changed in Columbus.

It’s time to demand real reform or new representatives.

It’s your money after all.

___

Cleveland Plain Dealer. July 24, 2021.

Editorial: The Cleveland Indians are changing their name to the Cleveland Guardians. The Editorial Board Roundtable reacts

After more than a year of deliberation, the Cleveland Indians baseball team has decided on a new name -- the Cleveland Guardians, with a name script that looks quite a bit like “Indians” but with a little more angularity.

The change -- which won’t take effect until next year’s season -- was announced on Twitter Friday morning, with a video narrated by Cleveland baseball fan and former Cleveland actor Tom Hanks.

Team officials said the team wasn’t being named directly after the Guardians of Traffic pillars on the iconic bridge next to Progressive Field, as had been advocated by some readers in letters to the editor -- although that connection inevitably will be drawn.

Columnist Terry Pluto labeled the name as “safe and rather boring,” while acknowledging there could have been worse choices -- and that safe was likely the goal. He also noted in a cleveland.com column Friday that, “The Guardians fit with ‘Guard The Land,’ as Cleveland is sometimes known as ‘The Land.’”

The Indians will retain their old name through this season, then the switch before next season.

The new name was hailed by members of Indigenous communities in Cleveland, where some with Native American heritage had long been outraged by the grinning “Chief Wahoo” logo, sidelined after the 2018 season, but also by the Indians name. However, many fans -- perhaps hoping to keep the Indians name, or at least the “Tribe” nickname -- were disappointed or outright critical.

Still, the Dolan family, owners of the team, had made clear months ago that, in making the decision to change the name in response to modern-day sensitivities about racial and tribal nicknames chosen in a time of overt prejudice and stereotyping, they would not be reversing course.

So what does our Editorial Board Roundtable think about the Guardians?

Leila Atassi, managing producer, public interest and advocacy:

The endurance of the Indians moniker -- despite decades of protests by Indigenous people -- spoke to white America’s passive approval of cultural artifacts that communities of color find deeply offensive. We should be proud to cheer on the Guardians. It’s a truly honorable name that refrains from exploiting an already marginalized population.

Ted Diadiun, columnist:

So … what’s next? Changing the name of our NFL team to the Cleveland Pinks? This rips away the historic connection with the team, especially for old guys like me. The best thing I can say about it is that it could have been worse – but it still sounds more like a Cleveland entry in the Arena Football League.

Thomas Suddes, editorial writer:

The team’s new name is excellent in every way and should at long last end mention, perhaps even memories, of the offensive Chief Wahoo caricature.

Eric Foster, columnist:

In the words of Sam Cooke, “It’s been a loooooonggg….long time coming…” I’m happy the team made the change. If that NFL team in D.C. could summon the strength to change, so could we. If you dislike the name, remember that the name isn’t important. “Cleveland” has always been, and always will be, the brand.

Lisa Garvin, editorial board member:

As someone who wishes the Dolans had stuck to their guns on the name, I’ll continue buying gear with the Indians name before the legacy is erased for good. But Guardians is the least objectionable of the proposed names and has a great Cleveland connection. At least Guardians sounds like Indians.

Elizabeth Sullivan, opinion director:

Practically speaking, if the Indians name had to go, this was the best option. In changing its name, the team is looking to the future. As wrenching as this decision will be for fans, the Guardians -- with its similar sound and script to Indians -- should make it easier to take, in time. And bringing greater attention to those wonderful and iconic Art Deco bridge sculptures nearby will be a bonus.

___

Columbus Dispatch. July 25, 2021.

Editorial: Lawmakers thwarting efforts to fight COVID-19 are toying with lives

Biologically speaking, viruses are not alive.

They don’t need to be alive to harm us.

The microscopic parasites thrive in the gray area of the undead and wreak havoc on the living by hijacking our cells to replicate.

This is the case with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease that has hijacked our world and caused civilization to grind to a near halt.

Humankind has been studying viruses since the 1890s. We know a great deal about how they operate and how to control them.

This is why it is mind-blowing that so many state and national lawmakers work so egregiously to impede efforts to combat the virus.

Even more disturbing is the fact that they do so as the Delta variant proves to be more than 225 percent more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain.

There are those who downplay the seriousness of these times by reinforcing resentment of masks and unfounded fears of vaccines that can fend off the terror that comes with severe COVID infections.

Science has proven that vaccines work and mask are effective.

This never should have become a political game, even though lives are being toyed with through measures that could put people at risk and deepen the public skepticism of the masks and vaccines sown by former President Donald Trump’s administration.

An Ohio bill introduced by Sen. Andrew Brenner, R-Powell, would ban public schools and universities from requiring students, staff, and visitors to wear masks while in class, at school-sponsored sporting events or during extracurricular activities.

Although it is expected to be moot when vaccines receive full approval from the FDA, Gov. Mike DeWine signed a Republican pushed bill that prevents public schools and universities from requiring COVID-19 vaccines for students and staff.

The so-called Vaccine Choice and Anti-Discrimination law and other anti-vaccine efforts that undermine public safety are a cold slap in the face to those who lost loved ones and those who lost their livelihoods during the pandemic.

They defy logic.

The global, national, state, and local death and hospitalization statistics tell the story of a ruthless foe that hits both those with existing health issues and the healthy.

More than 4.12 million lives were stolen worldwide, including 609,0000 in the United States.

We’ve seen more than 20,500 COVID-19 deaths in Ohio, including nearly 1,500 in Franklin County.

The dead were mothers, fathers, children, sisters, brothers, friends, neighbors.

They attended church, ran races, cared for the sick, lived normal lives.

The lawmakers, the political pundits and talking heads who rant against masks, vaccines and other preventative measures are partly culpable for the lives that will be taken during what is now being dubbed the “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

The way out is not microscopic. It sits right in front of our eyes as bright as an electric billboard.

Fewer than 1% of people now being hospitalized with COVID-19 are vaccinated.

More than 97% of people who are entering the hospitals with coronavirus infections are unvaccinated.

“If you are not vaccinated, you remain at risk. And our biggest concern is that we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations, and, sadly, deaths among the unvaccinated,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said recently.

This does not bode well for Ohioans.

Only four states – Louisiana, Montana, Idaho, and North Dakota – fall behind us when it comes to vaccination benchmarks set by the federal government.

It is projected that 70% of this state’s adult population will not be vaccinated until May of 2022, according to a Washington Post analysis published in Becker’s Hospital Review.

Experts fear that there will be outbreaks across the state partly because vaccination rates vary here so widely: nearly 64% in Delaware County to just under 15% in Holmes County.

The rate in Franklin County is 51%, according to the Ohio COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker.

SARS-CoV-2 is just doing what a virus does.

Like any parasite, it seeks to thrive. SARS-CoV-2 finds hosts so it can replicate.

In this case, the hosts are the cells of the unvaccinated.

Residents of California and Nevada are being advised to wear masks indoors due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant mutation. Health experts warn that mask mandates might be necessary in more states as infection rates rise across the nation.

This is completely unnecessary.

We cannot see SARS-CoV-2 with the naked eye, but we have the tools to send a dagger through its figurative heart.

The question is whether we will use the tools to subdue it or continue to play games that will cost lives.

___

Youngstown Vindicator. July 23, 2021.

Editorial: State now must remove its lead pipes

Last week, the National Resources Defense Council issued a report that still 650,000 lead pipes are delivering water throughout our state, making Ohio the second worst in the U.S. for number of lead pipes still in use. (Illinois is worse with 730,000).

That’s a problem.

Acidic water sources corrode the pipes, which in turn leach lead into drinking water, which we consume daily. And there are no safe levels of lead exposure. Lead exposure has been linked to central nervous system damage, learning disabilities and impaired formation and function of blood cells, with infants and children being especially vulnerable.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Heidi Griesmer told the Ohio Capital Journal the agency is collecting lead service line data and requiring an inventory from all utilities to be submitted — but with no more specific timeline than “in upcoming years.”

At the very least, an inventory by utilities and municipalities should be done right now. We just haven’t discovered recently that lead in drinking water is dangerous — we’ve known this for decades. We are well past time to start making progress on the matter.

Associate director of Freshwater Future Kristy Meyer said every pipe costs between $2,400 and $7,100 to replace, which doesn’t factor in costs to dig to figure out if a service line does have lead. Freshwater Future has recommended lawmakers take $1 billion of the American Rescue Plan funds for use in line replacement. And state lawmakers have passed House Bill 168, which allocates $250 million for establishing and administering a water and sewer quality program. Gov. Mike DeWine’s “H2Ohio” project gives $725,000 to replace lead lines bringing water into Ohio day care centers. Certainly progress on that front should be made as soon as possible.

Money is becoming available, and we know the problem will not resolve itself. It is time for a sense of urgency. It will be inconvenient and expensive, but the Buckeye State must get to work on this one, immediately.

___

Toledo Blade. July 22, 2021.

Editorial: Protect Ohio consumers

Digging out from a mountain of debt is an intimidating and often overwhelming process. Consumers in this situation need help, not to have their burdens compounded by more expenses from for-profit debt-settlement firms.

That’s why Ohio should not rush forward with a proposal to open the state to for-profit debt-settlement companies.

Federal regulators have cracked down in recent years on debt-settlement firms that have bilked customers by taking their money but failing to settle debts as promised or charging customers who have to negotiate their own settlements with creditors. In some cases regulators found that debt-settlement companies misled their customers about fees and about the option of negotiating with creditors directly for free.

All of this should give lawmakers pause when they take up the Financial Accountability and Independence Recovery (FAIR) Act from State Sen. Bob Hackett (R, London), which would allow for-profit debt-settlement companies to operate here. For years such firms were barred from working in Ohio, but a recent state Supreme Court case has opened the door, prompting the bill.

Proponents say the measure will give Ohio consumers choice. But even without opening the door to potentially predatory for-profit firms, Ohioans already have choice. People who face debt problems can, of course, work directly with their creditors to settle the debt or work out payments. They also can turn to non-profit debt counseling agencies and to lawyers to help with their financial difficulties.

Lawmakers should recall the state’s long fight to rid itself of predatory payday lenders, who, once they got a foothold in a state with lax regulations, took advantage of consumers here with loans that carried as much as 600 percent interest.

Consumers wrestling with debt need choices, yes. But they need protection too and that should be the General Assembly’s first concern in this case.

END