Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:

Some Republicans Aren’t in Denial About the Virus. Trump Still Is.

New York Times

June 23

News Update: On Tuesday, the United States recorded the highest single-day total of new coronavirus cases since April, according to a New York Times database.

More than 100 days into the coronavirus pandemic, here’s where things stand in the United States: 2.3 million people have been infected, and some 120,000 people — more than in any other country — have died. Early epicenters like New York and New Jersey appear to have gotten their outbreaks under control, but several new hot spots have emerged, including in Florida, Texas and Arizona, where daily case counts are higher than ever. Over all, the number of new cases a day is rising, and the rest of the world is taking note: The European Union is mulling travel restrictions that would prohibit Americans from entering any nation in the bloc because the United States has failed to contain the pandemic.

None of these developments have put an end to the denialism that has prevailed at the White House from the start. In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal last week, Vice President Mike Pence argued that reports of a coming second wave of infections were exaggerated. That argument was seconded by Larry Kudlow, the administration’s top economic adviser. Scientists do not agree: On Tuesday Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told a House panel that the country has yet to clear the first wave of the pandemic and that a second wave of outbreaks is possible. “We’re still in the middle of a serious outbreak,” he said. “There is no doubt about that.”

A few days after the publication of Mr. Pence’s op-ed, President Trump noted at a rally in Tulsa, Okla., that the nation’s case counts would not rise quite so egregiously if the U.S. stopped testing so many people for the virus. “When you do testing to that extent, you’re gonna find more people, you’re gonna find more cases,” he told the crowd. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’” Administration officials later insisted that the president was joking about requesting a testing slowdown, but it’s difficult to see the humor in that punchline: If the U.S. reduces testing, case counts will decrease, but death counts will undoubtedly increase.

The president’s remarks were hardly surprising. They harken back to the earlier days of the outbreak, when Mr. Trump suggested that coronavirus-exposed passengers be kept onboard the Grand Princess cruise ship so they would not contribute to the case count on American soil. At that point, he’d already spent weeks downplaying the risks of the virus, saying, among other things, that it would disappear like a “miracle” come spring.

It’s hard to see the benefit of such magical thinking, especially now, when the truth is so plain that even some of Mr. Trump’s reluctant fellow Republicans are starting to acknowledge reality. In recent days, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has finally allowed individual cities and counties to mandate wearing masks, after initially overruling such orders. (The reversal came after several local Republican leaders joined their Democratic colleagues to request more autonomy in responding to the crisis.) But the pattern is clear: The president and his most loyal supporters keep acting as though if they ignore the seriousness of the coronavirus, it will cease to exist. This game of make-believe is made easier for them by the fact that the pandemic is doing the worst damage behind the walls of prisons, nursing homes and meatpacking plants.

There is still hope to be found in this morass. For all the denialism and politicking, scientists have managed to learn quite a bit in recent months about this coronavirus: They’re fairly certain now that it can spread from normal breathing (as opposed to just coughing), that an infected person who isn’t showing any symptoms can pass the virus to others and that even simple cloth masks can prevent such transmissions.

Doctors also say that at least two medications have been shown to help treat Covid-19 and that refined treatment protocols — including for when and how to use ventilators — are helping to improve patient outcomes.

But it would still be better if the nation’s leaders worked to prevent as many people as possible from contracting the virus in the first place — and to do that, they’ll have to start by acknowledging that the threat is real. On Tuesday, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the pandemic “the greatest public health crisis our nation and world have confronted in a century.” It’s past time for the rest of the administration to start taking it that seriously.



NASCAR noose and NYPD poisonings proved bogus — but look what happened next

New York Post

June 24

No one put a noose in NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace’s garage, and no one tried to poison three cops with milkshakes: Both tales of mistaken outrages have some telling lessons.

The FBI agents sent in to investigate learned that the “noose” found in a garage assigned to Wallace (an outspoken Black Lives Matter supporter) was just a pull-rope for the door that had been there since last October.

And NYPD investigators quickly determined that the “poisoned” shakes served to three cops were just the result of a badly cleaned shake machine — and they’d ordered remotely, so Shake Shack workers didn’t even know the drinks were for police officers.

Wallace never even saw the “noose”; the three cops never felt sick.

Yet hysteria followed in each case, before any facts were in: Police unions tweeted outrage at the “poisonings,” while CNN and some other media exploded over the supposed racist threat.

Lesson No. 1 holds for both stories: Social media and 24/7 cable spread a whole lot of “news” that isn’t. Wait for the facts before you lose your marbles.

But Lesson No. 2 is about the contrast: The cop unions pulled their tweets once the facts came out. Yet some insist the debunked Wallace story is somehow still true.

Atlantic columnist Jemele Hill won’t accept the full facts, tweeting: “It. Was. A. Noose. They just don’t believe it was directed at Bubba Wallace.” Which, conveniently, lets her claim it’s all still “a disgusting reminder of who this sport is for.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton, meanwhile, wants the investigation to continue — until, we guess, it proves that Tawana Brawley told the truth.

The times are tense, and everyone’s buggy after months of lockdown; jumping to conclusions is understandable. But refusing to admit you did so is foolish and vile.



Why didn’t cops handle Manlius standoff by the books?

Syracuse Post-Standard

June 25

A week and a half before George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer, sparking weeks of nationwide protests and soul-searching about policing in America, an incident in Manlius perfectly illustrated the root of the issue: a deep resistance to transparency and accountability.

On May 16, 2020, Manlius police, Onondaga County sheriff’s deputies and State Police responded to a 911 call from a house on North Street. A man with a gun had fired a shot and was threatening to kill himself. His family escaped as police arrived. For four hours, they tried to negotiate with the man, William Barrett, establishing contact just once before he went silent.

Then, the police packed up and left. One officer was left behind to stand watch outside the house. Later that night, they went inside and discovered Barrett had taken his own life. It was a tragic end, but not uncommon in police standoffs with armed individuals.

What was uncommon – unprecedented, even – was the way police abandoned a troubled, armed man. A survey of 76 police standoffs over the past 30 years found zero similar outcomes. In every case, police stayed until contact was made with the person inside – dead or alive, by a police officer, SWAT team member or a robot, after 40 minutes or 30 hours. It’s standard operating procedure, according to experts in police tactics. Leaving a disturbed man with a gun to his own devices put him and others at risk of harm. That’s just common sense.

Why did the sheriff’s crisis negotiators give up on Barrett? Why didn’t the department send in its robot to establish contact or determine if he was injured or dead? Does it have something to do with the fact that Barrett was a Manlius village judge, thus someone who was well-known to local police?

Lots of questions, but no answers. The blue wall of silence has gone up around this case.

Sheriff Gene Conway does not respond to our inquiries. His spokesman declines to comment “on matters of such a sensitive nature.” Manlius Chief Crowell says police followed best practices and procedures — though the actions of his officers clearly contradict best practices and procedures. Manlius Town Supervisor Ed Theobald texts a bland statement of support for town police and won’t respond to questions.

Yes, suicide is a matter of a sensitive nature. Our inability to talk about it openly only compounds the agony for survivors. Knowing that the police gave up on a disturbed man with a gun makes it that much worse. Barrett’s family deserves answers.

So do members of the public. Conway, Crowell and Theobald answer to you – theoretically, at least. Their failure to account for the unusual way they handled this case abuses the public trust. We won’t forget it, and neither should you the next time they ask for your vote.



Find out if TSA enabled virus spread

Adirondack Daily Enterprise

June 25

The coronavirus epidemic is much like wartime: Resources must be used effectively. That may not always have been the case.

February and March were the months in which COVID-19 took the offensive in the United States. They also were a time when supplies and equipment needed to battle the disease were relatively scarce.

A few days ago, a Transportation Safey Administration official in Kansas, Jay Brainard, filed an official complaint about how his agency handled the epidemic. He made the complaint to the federal Office of Special Counsel, which handles filings by whistleblowers in the federal government.

Brainard alleges the TSA failed to train its employees to deal with the coronavirus. Worse, he alleges TSA officials would not allow lower-level supervisors to give N95 face masks to airport screeners in March, despite the fact stockpiles of the personal protective gear were available.

We know COVID-19 came into the United States from travelers who came here from abroad. In some cases, they were Americans returning from foreign countries.

Failure to train TSA airport screeners adequately may have allowed some coronavirus carriers to pass out into the general population.

Since March, the TSA has improved procedures dramatically.

Brainard’s allegations need to be investigated thoroughly. If they are true, that is no doubt because TSA officials thought they were pursuing the correct course. They may have been mistaken. If so, that knowledge could prove invaluable in the future.



If We Are Serious About Protecting Historical Buildings, We Need More Than Just Talk


June 25

Those who want to save buildings in downtown Jamestown need to come to a stark realization — there simply isn’t that much interest in the city’s vacant buildings.

The latest example is the former Joyce’s Keg Room, a building that once was part of a thriving Jamestown music scene that helped birth the 10,000 Maniacs. The West Eighth Street building has seen businesses come and go in the years since Joyce’s closed, but it has sat vacant for years. The current owner has sought to sell the building, but hasn’t had anyone interested in buying.

And therein lies the crux of the problem.

Facebook was abuzz recently with news that the building was going to be torn down, prompting hundreds of calls to save the building. Those calling to save the building have wonderful reasons. They remember seeing a favorite band there or had some of the most meaningful memories of their young adult years visiting with friends and listening to music in the venue. In a perfect world, the building would have been Joyce’s Keg Room until the end of time, with live bands playing every weekend and some of those bands hitting it big nationally like the 10,000 Maniacs once did.

Unfortunately, memories don’t redevelop old buildings and sustain their eventual reuse. Saving buildings like the Joyce’s Keg Room building takes the right kind of owners who act quickly before the building is so far gone that rehabilitation doesn’t make much economic sense. There may have been a future for Joyce’s Keg Room had renovations happened before the building sat vacant for years. The same is true of the Arcade Building and a host of other vacant buildings downtown. If we are serious about protecting our historical buildings, then we must do more than talk.

Jamestown has been far too reactive in recent years when it comes to its vacant building stock, and that reactive nature needs to change.