Editorial Roundup: Indiana

 
 
Updated 8/31/2021 1:00 PM

South Bend Tribune. Aug. 29, 2021.

Editorial: Doing the right thing during a pandemic shouldn't be controversial

 

Doing the right thing is often difficult.

But it shouldn't be this hard or controversial, not during a pandemic, not when the goal is keeping people safe - and keeping kids learning in school buildings.

On Aug. 19, in response to a surge of COVID-19 infections in the first week of classes, School City of Mishawaka announced it would begin requiring masks for all students, staff and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. Last week, nearly 10% of staff and students in quarantine and the district reported more positive cases than during any other week of the pandemic.

As of Wednesday evening, 554 staff and students across the district have been quarantined - also an 18-month high for the district, according to school corporation data.

The decision came days before Penn-Harris-Madison issued its own universal mask requirement. Other schools in Indiana have already returned to virtual learning after being open less than a month.

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Given those numbers and those facts, it shouldn't be difficult to understand why Mishawaka, acting at the direction of the county health department, made the change in policy.

Still, as anyone who's been paying attention for the past 18 months could have predicted, School City's decision, and others like it, haven't gone over well with everyone. While some parents at Wednesday's board meeting were supportive of the district, others protested. As reported by The Tribune, a couple dozen people who refused to wear masks - and who were denied entrance to the building - shouted 'You should be ashamed of yourselves' and 'You have no right to mandate a mask on us.'

In explaining the decision, Mishawaka Superintendent Wayne Barker said, 'We have nothing left' and noted, 'we're trying every mitigation strategy that we have.'

Barker said that 'we have to try something because we're getting to a place where we're going to be forced to make another recommendation because we won't have the students or staff to keep our schools open.'

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A letter writer on these pages recently wrote the one thing everyone should be in agreement on is that keeping students in the classroom is critical. Simply put, the wearing of face masks - in addition to vaccines for those students who qualify for it - give schools a better chance of continuing in-person learning and dodging school closures and e-learning.

School officials who make that a priority - along with keeping everyone safe - are doing the right thing.

And that shouldn't be controversial.

___

Anderson Herald Bulletin. Aug. 26, 2021.

Editorial: It's time to take action against systemic racism

Gov. Eric Holcomb recently took another baby step toward addressing systemic racism in Indiana.

On Aug. 10, Holcomb's office lauded the launch of a 'public disparity data portal' online as a 'view into current equity gaps that exist in health, public safety, social services, education and workforce.'

The press release went on to say, 'The information reveals key areas the state will focus on to address disparities in our communities and monitor overall progress throughout the state.'

To be clear, the dashboard doesn't introduce any new information; it just pulls together and presents the already available statistics from 2014 through 2020. As most already knew, the data shows a troubling disparity between Indiana's white majority and Black minority.

Here's some of the evidence:

- In 2020, Black people comprised 9.3% of the state's population but accounted for 25.4% of police arrests.

- In educational attainment, more than 27% of white Hoosiers have earned at least a bachelor's degree, compared with just 19% of the state's Black residents 25 years of age and older.

- In February 2021, the white unemployment rate was 6.7%; the Black rate was 12.6%.

- In 2019, the median household income for white Hoosiers was $61,000; for Black Hoosiers, it was $36,000.

The new public disparity dashboard succeeds in pulling together important data to characterize the scope of racial disparities in Indiana. It's important to know exactly what the problem is before seeking to solve it.

But there are no surprises in the data. And now, it's time - way past time - to do something about it.

The state does have the beginnings of an action plan in the form of recommendations from the Governor's Workforce Cabinet.

Among the recommendations:

' Engage community leaders to engage with local citizens regarding access to education and employment resources.

- Create better data transparency and timely tracking of Hoosiers who take advantage of the state's education and workforce programs.

- Set targets for increased enrollment and completion in key sectors, like STEM fields and education.

- Identify and partner with Indiana employers, local economic development, and chambers of commerce to boost the state's education and employment programs.

- Allocate funding with the Employer Training Grant program specifically to minority-, veteran-, and women-owned businesses.

- Advance success strategies that close equity achievement gaps in education and the workforce.

The development of these recommendations, the establishment of a data disparity portal online and the appointment in November of a 'Chief Equity, Inclusion and Opportunity officer' are all baby steps toward addressing the complex, generations-old problem of systemic racism in Indiana.

Now it's time for the governor's team and other state leaders to roll up their sleeves and do the real work of changing laws and reforming judicial, educational, employment, health care and other systems across the state to solve the problem.

___

KPC News. Aug. 29, 2021.

Editorial: Do your part to keep fall events on the schedule

We're entering the busy part of the late summer and fall, with weekend calendars filled with public events.

After everything was called off in 2020, people are ready to get back out.

Events coming within the next month or two include the Auburn Cord Dusenberg Festival, Kendallville Car Show, Northern Indiana Bluegrass Association Labor Day music festival in Kendallville, the DeKalb County Free Fall Fair, Corn School in LaGrange, Mashmallow Festival in Ligonier, Kendallville Apple Festival and many more not included in this list.

That's not even mentioning high school sports including football games and other events that people want to get to.

For now, all of these things are still going on despite COVID-19 activity rising as rapidly as it did in late 2020, heading toward similar peaks the state hit by the end of the year.

Cases have risen into the thousands per day, hospitalizations have spiked with more than 2,000 Hoosiers in hospitals getting treated and deaths - nearly wiped out early this summer - have risen again. Lately, 20 Hoosiers per day are losing their lives due to the virus.

Local residents got a taste of how quickly something can be pulled off the schedule when East Noble High School decided to go virtual for a few days and canceled all of its extracurricular events - including this past Friday's home football game - until Wednesday.

At Trine University, where all of its concerts at T. Furth Center for Performing Arts were shelved last year and part of 2021, things were getting back to normal then the slate was wiped clean again out of an abundance of caution. Hopefully the top-notch shows return soon.

After a year of sitting at home with nothing to do and after an early summer taste of normalcy with good, safe results, we hope that everything else remains on the schedule.

But, as has been the case throughout this entire pandemic, it requires a little bit of buy in from everyone.

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is far and away the best way to protect not only yourself but others. While the highly contagious delta variant has been causing more breakthrough infections among vaccinated people, the numbers are extremely clear - vaccinated people are far less likely to pick up the disease than unvaccinated people and even for those who do, rates of hospitalization and death are far smaller as compared to people who don't get shots.

Because of the high infectivity rate of the delta variant of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masking up again in close-quarters situations indoors. Masks are a good idea too even in outdoor situations when you're going to be stuck in crowds like, say, walking through a crowded festival.

We recognize making these points that health officials have made time and time again are equivalent to talking to a brick wall at this point, as the people who refuse to participate likely never will up until a point where they or someone close to them ends up in a hospital bed or morgue, and even then we have our doubts about whether it would change their minds.

So, we'll aim for the barest of bare minimums instead - if you're sick, regardless of whether you think it's a cold or allergies or whatever else, please, stay home.

If you have a fever, if you have a cough, if you're snotting all over the place, please do not go out, regardless of what your personal medical opinion is as to the cause.

It stinks to miss a fun event, but most people attending fall festival and events probably don't want to pick up an infectious disease along with their photographs, fair food and fun.

You may think it's stupid or 'not a big deal' or 'overblown' or not a threat to you, but festival organizers are responsible for thinking of the needs and safety of hundreds or thousands or all types and are more likely to err on the side of caution.

If you do your part to keep COVID-19's spread down, you'll be simultaneously doing your part to keep fall fun events on the calendar.

END

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