Editorial Roundup: Louisiana
Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Advocate on the safety issues and concerns for the Hard Rock Hotel that will carry into the new year:
We knew the Hard Rock Hotel collapse in New Orleans would lead to an extended cleanup and investigation, even before the work could begin to get the site back on track for development. Now that knowledge is becoming a hard reality.
Recently, New Orleans Fire Department Chief Tim McConnell said the work is likely to take several more months, deep into next year. At a news conference at Elk and Canal streets, McConnell and Collin Arnold, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, discussed the next steps. McConnell said it’s going to take about two months to shore up the unstable building before officials can send in investigators and workers who can recover evidence to determine what happened and recover the bodies of the two workers who remain inside.
“We know it’s going to take two months, at least, to shore up, so we’re talking about the end of February,” the chief said. “Then it’s going to take about 30 days to get the victim recovery and evidence recovery.”
That means it’ll be the end of March, at a minimum, before a total demolition can start.
We’re glad to see that the city is moving along with proposals to address a construction project that has become a dangerous eyesore.
Before what remains is torn down, the partially collapsed structure has to be supported with heavy equipment in between floors. Only then can 1031 Canal Development LLC, the same construction firm building the structure that collapsed, start demolishing what’s left.
The biggest concern is the recovery of the bodies of the two people who lost their lives during the Oct. 12 collapse. Things are so unstable that rescuers, recovery specialists and now investigators have not been able to get to the areas where city officials believe the two are buried among debris. In the days after the collapse, city officials focused on imploding the building. But that plan changed.
As much as we grieve with the families of those who were victims of the collapse, we know the highest priority must be avoiding future loss of life and injuries and preventing damage to buildings in the 1000 block of Canal Street, including some that are historic.
The Hard Rock collapse was a great tragedy of 2019. Dealing with its aftermath will be a continuing theme in 2020.
The Houma Courier on getting a flu shot:
Louisiana’s high rate of flu this season has prompted state health officials to again urge residents to get a flu shot.
Despite numerous warnings during this and past seasons, state surveys indicate only 1 in 4 Louisiana residents have received the shot this year.
State and federal health officials have consistently promoted vaccination as a safe and effective way to help individuals and the community at large avoid the flu. Nonetheless, myths and misunderstandings have contributed to less than half of American adults getting a shot the past few years.
Asked why they do not intend to get vaccinated, adults in a University of Chicago study last December were most likely to cite concerns about side effects, at 36%. Another third said they’re concerned the vaccine will make them sick. And another third said don’t need the vaccine because they never get the flu or don’t think the shot works.
All of those reasons are bogus; health officials around the world have debunked them over and over again.
“Getting vaccinated every year is the best way to lower your chances of getting the flu,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says at vaccines.gov. “Flu vaccines can’t cause the flu. Keep in mind that getting the flu vaccine also protects the people around you. So when you and your family get vaccinated, you help keep yourselves and your community healthy.”
That’s especially important if you spend time with people who are at risk for serious illness from the flu, like young children or older adults, the agency says.
Flu is one of the deadliest diseases on the planet. So far this season, the authorities estimate it has killed 1,300 people nationwide, including six in Louisiana. And we haven’t arrived at the season’s peak, usually around February or March. Last season, the illness killed 61,200 Americans, including about 15,000 in Louisiana.
This is a serious illness, everyone. And the best way to prevent it, and protect those around you, is to get a shot.
The (Lake Charles) American Press on Louisiana starting a college/high school dual enrollment program for juniors and seniors:
Setting up an education system that makes it possible for high school juniors and seniors to graduate with college credit or an industry-based credential by 2029 is a no-brainer. Dual enrollment is its name, and Louisiana can’t afford to wait any longer to get the program up and running.
Organizing and funding dual enrollment has been a problem up to now, but half of the high school graduating class of 2018 earned college credit for at least one course or a marketable industry credential.
The state is spending about $17 million in the current financial year for dual enrollment through the fund that finances public schools. So some groundwork has already been laid.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has been a proponent of dual enrollment, but The Advocate reported that his plan never won political traction because of costs and other challenges.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the state Board of Regents at a joint meeting last week voted to move ahead. Kim Hunter Reed, commissioner of higher education, calls dual enrollment “focusing on improving talent development in Louisiana.”
Reed is co-chairwoman of a 12-member task force that will make recommendations in January. Its most difficult task is to make dual enrollment available in both urban and rural parishes. Getting college classes in some rural areas will be difficult.
The regents have already endorsed a program aimed at boosting the percentage of adults ages 25-64 with a postsecondary credential from 44% to 60% by 2030. The current percentage is below the national average at a time when 56% of state jobs are requiring post-high school training.
Reed said of 100 ninth-graders, only 45 enter college and only 18 of those will earn a two-year or four-year degree. She said the rate for African-American students is even bleaker.
The state has about 90,000 high school juniors and seniors who would benefit from dual enrollment. The Legislature earlier this year proved it wants to do more in education by increasing funding early childhood, K-12 and higher education. All of those areas had experienced regular budget cuts or years of static funding.
Louisiana has already waited much too long to get the dual enrollment program up and running. The Legislature taking office Jan. 13 needs to make dual enrollment a higher priority because it has been established that students who earn college credit in high school do much better in college.