Editorial Roundup: Indiana
Terre Haute Tribune-Star. April 27, 2021.
Editorial: An unnecessary infringement on executive power
The coronavirus pandemic cast a heavy shadow over policy debates during the 2021 legislative session. Public health, education, budgeting - all areas of Indiana government felt the urgency of dealing with an unpredictable crisis as well as preparing for what havoc it may wreak in the future.
Hoosier lawmakers were largely relegated to the sidelines in the early months of the pandemic as Gov. Eric Holcomb and his administration wrestled with the initial social, cultural and economic impact of COVID-19 on health care systems, long-term care facilities, schools, businesses and other community institutions.
The demands on executive leadership were unprecedented. Gov. Holcomb reacted in a timely manner and handled a difficult situation skillfully. He did so within the confines of Indiana law and used the health and safety of the Hoosier public as his guide.
A crisis of the magnitude presented by COVID-19 created a need for legislative review and oversight. In some areas, lawmakers met the challenge and made sensible adjustments in state law to help manage such a crisis in the future. In other areas, however, they overstepped the bounds of reason and set the state hurtling to what will likely be a constitutional battle in court.
The Republican-dominated House and Senate passed a law that establishes a new process under which legislative leaders can call the General Assembly into an emergency session. Holcomb, also a Republican, vetoed the law, citing legal questions about the legislature's authority to call itself into a special session. The constitution gives the governor the sole power to do that.
While Holcomb has been generally praised for his handling of the public health crisis, some conservatives have bellowed and blustered about their freedoms being infringed upon by such measures as mask mandates and other restrictions devised to slow the spread of the virus.
The governor has said he was within his rights to take the steps he did under dire circumstances, and interjecting the legislature into a rapidly changing crisis would have created obstacles to a good response.
The governor's objections were ignored and the legislature voted to override his veto.
As expected, Gov. Holcomb on Tuesday filed a lawsuit seeking to block the new law from taking effect. The legislature gave him no choice. This court fight will be a costly confrontation that serves little purpose.
This battle over executive power is unfortunate and unnecessary. It makes managing an emergency more difficult for a governor in the future and serves the interests of Hoosiers far less.
South Bend Tribune. May 2, 2021.
Editorial: Reaching out to prevent lead poisoning
It's the sort of problem that anyone who's been paying attention to this community's lead poisoning problem among children might not have imagined.
The grant money to reduce contamination from lead-based paint in a number of South Bend households - funding that advocates have been fighting for - is there. But the families who need such help, aren't.
As reported in a recent Tribune story, $3 million in grant money is practically untouched, with just a small number of families enrolled in a program that officials hoped would help 100 households.
And the number of children tested for lead in their blood dropped by a third last year, with inspections performed by the health department decreasing by 40%.
Advocates for lead prevention attribute the problem to the pandemic. They note that pediatric immunizations also declined, with many families concerned about the safety of going out for such wellness care. But with the community edging closer to emerging from COVID-19, they say they plan to redouble their efforts to prevent lead poisoning.
'Those of us who provide these kinds of services need to be standing at the ready,' said Heidi Beidinger-Burnett, president of the St. Joseph County Board of Health.
At a news conference on Thursday, city, county and community leaders urged residents to seek help dealing with lead contamination in their homes. The event took place in a census tract where more than a third of all children tested between 2005 and 2015 had elevated levels of lead in their blood. Health officials believe most lead poisoning in South Bend is linked to lead-based paint in older homes; the vast majority of the city's housing was built before 1978, when the government banned lead paint.
It's good that area leaders have pledged to refocus their efforts. The low application rate points to the need to raise awareness and reach families.
To that end, the city must ensure that applying for the program is accessible, not intimidating. Given that most of the 30 applications received were incomplete, withdrawn or ineligible, there's clearly room for improvement, either through providing help to applicants or easing the process itself.
And the city must step up and do all it can for renters who need help but fear retaliation from their landlords.
There's no time to waste, either, as some of the grant money is set to expire at the end of the year, the rest in late summer 2022.
For several years, lead prevention advocates have urged elected officials and other leaders to make lead poisoning among children a priority. The past year has proven that while money is critical to that goal, it's about more than that. Prioritizing lead prevention in this community also involves coordination and communication to get help to the people who most need it.
KPC News. May 1, 2021.
Editorial: Vaccines work
The initial wave of pent-up demand and enthusiasm for the COVID-19 vaccine has started to fade and now health officials are put in the unusual spot of having to try to convince people to take the vaccine to protect themselves and others.
Polling on vaccines has pretty consistently identified about 30% of the U.S. populace declare they will never get a COVID-19 vaccine, a level of resistance that puts efforts to obtain herd immunity as a wider community protection in jeopardy.
Many are saying no because they view the COVID-19 vaccine - developed and deployed in less than a year as part of the Trump-fueled Operation Warp Speed - as 'experimental.'
Yes, vaccines typically aren't developed so quickly. Then again, vaccines aren't often developed for diseases that are ravaging the entire planet right now, either.
The mRNA vaccine delivery systems of the Pfizer and Moderna two-shot vaccines are new technology, but they weren't created overnight in March 2020. That technology has been in development and testing for about a decade and this became the first good opportunity to deploy it on a mass scale.
These vaccines went through clinical trials in a sample population same as any vaccine or medication being created and seeking use approval, albeit on a compressed time scale to what was normal.
To some extent, COVID-19 vaccinations are an experiment but the experiment is turning out to be highly, highly successful, with more encouraging data pouring in every day.
Two weeks ago, our publications reported data showing the change in new infections by age group, comparing June-December 2020 to March and April 2021. That data showed with an extremely strong and clear correlation that new COVID-19 infections have decreased the most among the age groups that have been most highly vaccinated.
For those above age 70, who have been vaccinated at rates upward of 70%, new infections dropped by more than 80%.
For each age group that had lower vaccination rates, the decline in new infections was also lower, showing very clearly that as vaccinations went up, infections went down.
Even though cases have increased 35% in April compared to March, daily deaths have declined 39% to fewer than 10 per day across the state. In every other month prior to April, when cases increased, so did deaths, so this reversal is further proof that the vaccines are doing what they're supposed to - protecting people from severe illness and death.
Vaccines have been deployed to millions of Americans; no negative impacts have been detected with consistency that would warrant questioning their safety.
Yes, a very small number of people have died after the vaccine, whether it's directly related or not; a very small number have developed a severe blood clot after a Johnson & Johnson vaccine; and, yes, some people might have allergic reactions or the shots might trigger a previously unknown autoimmune disorder.
No health official has ever said that any vaccine, any medication, any medical procedure comes with 100% guaranteed safety, but serious side effects occur at thousandths of percents odds - far, far, far lower than the known risks of COVID-19.
Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box last week noted that the risk of blood clots from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 7 per 1 million in women 18-49, while the known risk of blood clots among COVID-19 patients is 165,000 per 1 million.
Michigan is being ravaged because of new, more infectious and more severe variants of the disease striking the unprotected population. Hoosiers need to take heed.
The longer people drag their feet to get immunity to the known strains, the more opportunity COVID-19 has to morph into something new and drag this pandemic on.
We urge readers to get vaccinated. Let the vaccine work for you, for your loved ones and for our nation.