The Day – ‘COVID-19 threat must be taken seriously.’ And so it began.
From the earliest days when the seriousness of the crisis became clear, The Day in its editorials focused on the importance of leadership and shared community sacrifice in dealing with the pandemic. The newspaper’s editorial positions backed aggressive steps to confront the economic damage. We marked the successes and shined a light on the failures.
The following are excerpts from some of those editorials as the pandemic played out across our region, our nation and the world.
COVID-19 threat must be taken seriously
Gov. Ned Lamont and other state and local officials deserve credit for the aggressive steps they are taking to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Connecticut, protect the elderly who are particularly vulnerable to the virus, and keep our hospitals fully functioning.
Many will criticize some of measures as an overreaction. But this is a situation where overreacting is preferable to failing to act or acting too slowly. Canceling events and imposing restrictions will cause disappointments, inconveniences and some short-term economic damage. But failing to act prudently can cost lives and lead to a deeper crisis with more profound economic damage that would not be easy to recover from.
As for this being a serious situation, consider that on Wednesday the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic, meaning a virus that can cause illness and death, is easily passed person to person and that has spread across the world. And among the stricken nations, the United States is one of the places it is spreading most rapidly.
Relief package incredibly costly and complex, but undeniably needed
On Friday the U.S. House of Representatives approved by a voice vote the $2.2 trillion relief package engineered in the Senate.
It being Washington there had to be drama, as some procedural fireworks forced members to scramble back to Washington, including 2nd District Rep. Joe Courtney.
By any measure, it is the biggest emergency package ever approved in a single vote. How big? It equals 46% of the $4.8 trillion budget approved in February to run the entire government. And that budget, by the way, was $966 billion in deficit on the day President Trump signed it because projected spending far outstripped projected revenues.
But the dire situation created by the COVID-19 crisis left Congress no choice. The decision to shut down much of American commerce to accommodate social separation and discourage the spread of the contagion is causing unprecedented damage to the nation’s economy. Failing to pump these trillions into that economy would have assured a more severe economic collapse and that would have proved more costly than the bailout.
Making sense of mixed COVID-19 messages
The start of another COVID-19 week, and the end of what has been a very long and eventful month, brought mixed messages.
On the one hand, evidence is increasing that the strict containment strategies that are keeping us from interacting with one another are effective in limiting the spread of the highly contagious.
On the other hand, statistical modeling revealed Tuesday during President Trump’s daily briefing suggested that even using these extreme containment strategies, the battle to suppress the pandemic will be long, the cost in human suffering significant, and the economic damage unprecedented. If the nation uses aggressive social distancing practices, the projections revealed by the White House show 100,000 to 240,000 deaths.
In reconciling these messages of social distancing success, but still grim infection and death estimates, we reach the conclusion that America must strengthen the containment strategy, knowing that it will not save us from a bad end, but cognizant that it can avoid a far more catastrophic outcome.
How to reopen may prove the bigger challenge
The broad outlines of Gov. Ned Lamont’s plan to lead Connecticut into the post-pandemic stage appear sound. The Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group the governor formed to guide him is a strong one with a good cross-section of scientific, business and public policy experts. This gives the state a good chance of succeeding. It doesn’t mean it will.
A full return to what once was normal must await the development of an effective vaccine to block COVID-19 infection. Even then, how people interact, and the disease risks they are willing to subject themselves to, may be forever altered.
Until there is a vaccine, the best the state can do is ease back toward normal. Widespread testing to assess the infection rates will be critical to getting people back to work and mitigating the economic damage. But officials cannot push too fast and risk the epidemic flaring up, requiring another shutdown.
COVID-19 death toll in nursing homes a scandal
The viral disease and death tearing through many of the nursing homes in Connecticut shows a major failure in the state’s otherwise strong response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont has done a good job of promoting social distancing to protect the general public, it clearly did not do enough when it came to nursing homes.
As the week ended Friday the number of confirmed COVID-19 related deaths in nursing homes pushed past 700 and accounted for nearly half of the virus-related deaths in the state. But nursing home workers are telling the Connecticut news media that they believe the actual fatalities are significantly higher and have not been fully calculated.
Nursing homes were sealed off from the general public early in the pandemic, but this was no guarantee of keeping the virus at bay. Workers come and go.
Two major issues have contributed to the failure to better protect these patients and the typically low-paid workers who care for them. Many of the workers said they have not been given the necessary protective gear to safely shield them and those in their care from the virus.
Nursing homes should have been better prepared.
Legislature should back Merrill’s approach to protect election
The COVID-19 pandemic could keep people from voting. That would be tragic. That is why the public should welcome Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s steps to prepare and assure citizens do not have to choose between their health and voting. But to do it right, she needs the support of the state legislature and the governor.
The secretary wants wider use of absentee ballots, working around the restrictions. She has called for advanced planning so local voting officials are ready to handle a substantial increase in absentee ballots.
But who would be allowed to actually vote absentee? We think, if the viral threat remains, it should be everyone who chooses to do so. But the legislature must act to make that possible.
A tale of two leaders facing a crisis
Why the soaring approval numbers for Gov. Lamont and the sinking numbers for President Trump?
The public, confronted with uncertainty, wants a steady hand at the wheel, the confidence that there is a plan. People are willing to put up with a lot, to make necessary sacrifices, as long as leadership reassures them it has a destination and a strategy to get there.
Lamont has done this. Trump has not.
Essentially, the governor has met the test of leadership a crisis provides. The president has not.
More stimulus needed to prevent economic nosedive
As the expiration date for previous rounds of federal stimulus spending approaches, Senate Republicans are rudderless, with no consensus on what to do.
The pandemic remains deadly and gaining strength throughout large parts of the country. No swift economic recovery is emerging. The Federal Reserve Bank projects unemployment above 10% into 2021. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell says additional aggressive relief spending is imperative to avoid a prolonged economic calamity.
House Democrats in May passed the HEROES Act — Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions — another $3 trillion bailout package.
Democrats are united in support. Republicans are divided and leaderless.
Be glad it’s working here
Connecticut hit a small but heartening high point in the COVID-19 pandemic Tuesday when the state marked its first day since mid-March with no new coronavirus-related deaths. New London County had its own good news: no new cases among residents in nursing homes in Groton, Waterford, New London, Stonington and East Lyme in the week ending June 30.
The numbers have been slowly but steadily improving. That trend increasingly shows evidence that we have benefited from a series of good choices by the state, concerted efforts by health care workers, and a willingness by most residents to follow the rules of social distancing, handwashing, and wearing masks in public.
To the inconsiderate few: stop complaining and start complying
There is really no way to say this tactfully: people have to stop being jerks.
They are a small group, but they cause outsized problems. They are the folks who don’t want to accept the relatively small inconveniences that come with trying to deal with a pandemic that has contributed to about 4,400 deaths in Connecticut and 144,000 nationally.
More troubling, they target for abuse the frontline workers — the food servers, cashiers and clerks — who, in addition to their normal jobs, are given the task of enforcing rules: reminding patrons to wear their masks and maintain sufficient space to deter the spread of COVID-19.
Expose the unpatriotic behavior of those who would rather complain than comply, who are so quick to talk about their rights but in the process forget their responsibilities.
American crisis deepens, Congress heads home
Congress has recessed. The senators and members of the House of Representatives have jetted home. They left without reaching any agreement to provide additional help to the 10% of Americans who are unemployed. There was no deal to help hospitals address the ongoing pandemic now responsible for more than 167,000 deaths. No lifeline to assist small businesses buffeted by the pandemic-caused recession and barely surviving. No plan to help states that have seen tax revenues plummet and which, unlike the federal government, cannot print money.
Rep. Max Rose, a freshman New York Democrat who won in a district President Trump captured in 2016, had promised to go to Washington to get things done, not focus on partisan game playing. He has found out in recent weeks how hard that is.
“At this point, it’s a middle finger to the American people,” Rose told The Hill, crassly but not inaccurately assessing the congressional decision to take the end-of-summer break without a deal. They are not scheduled to be back until after Labor Day.