Editorial: Short takes on coronavirus do's and don'ts

Editorial: Short takes on coronavirus do's and don'ts

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Business stalls, caution reigns as virus spreads in Spain

People wait their turn for a blood sample in a hallway of a hospital in Barcelona, Spain, on Wednesday.

(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Round of applause for medical workers

The streets of Spain are empty these days as the nation copes with the coronavirus outbreak. Spain’s infection and death rates are second only to Italy’s on the European subcontinent, putting unprecedented strains on the nation’s health care system. Empty as the streets are under a mandatory quarantine order, each evening at 8 p.m., the streets come alive with the sound of mass applause.

The clapping and cheering are Spaniards’ way of showing their appreciation for the nation’s health care workers. The original observance occurred nightly at 10 p.m. but was moved up to 8 p.m. so children could join in. Audio of the clapping is interspersed with shouts of “Gracias!” in a mass show of gratitude for the sacrifice health care workers are making to keep Spaniards alive. The trend reportedly started in Italy, where thousands of health care workers have risked exposure to do their jobs and hundreds have become infected with the virus.

This is a tradition worth practicing everywhere in whatever language you prefer, because no corner of the globe appears to be completely safe. So gratzie, gracias, shukran, merci, mulumesc and dhanyavaad for the service and sacrifice of health care workers during these exceptionally stressful times.

Drawing inspiration from Trump

A Connecticut man has been charged with making death threats against Rep. Adam Schiff for his leading role in the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Does anyone still think Trump’s irresponsible and personal targeting of his political opponents doesn’t have real-world implications?

As reported in The Wall Street Journal, Robert Phelps, 62, was charged after he sent a meeting request to Schiff’s office in November with the message: “I want to kill you with my bare hands and smash your sick little round fat lying face in.” Phelps told investigators he felt he needed to protect Trump. He also said Democrats involved in Trump’s impeachment hearings should be arrested.

Obviously there are unstable people out there — but it doesn’t help to have a president who routinely calls for his political opponents’ arrests and slings around words like “coup.” In the case of Schiff, Trump in January tweeted his view that the Democrat “has not paid the price, yet,” for his role in the impeachment. Did Phelps take that as his call to action?

McConnell’s discomfort with free speech

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign is calling on his likely Democratic election opponent in Kentucky to stop running political advertisements during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s rich, given that the GOP’s consistent resistance to bringing America’s health care system into the 21st century — a resistance spearheaded by McConnell — has undoubtedly complicated America’s situation now.

“As Kentuckians adjust their daily lives and schedules to help stem the outbreak, the last thing they need to see on TV is negative political advertising,” said a McConnell spokesman.

A spokesman for Democratic challenger Amy McGrath countered: “Amy is well aware of the stress the coronavirus pandemic is causing Kentuckians and our nation. The only person who doesn’t seem to understand that is Sen. McConnell. He has a 35-year failed track record on issues like health care.”

Some things must shut down during this crisis, but free campaign speech isn’t among them.

Eat up

Starting next week, St. Louis will be offering free grab-and-go breakfasts to anyone in the city under 18 at dozens of sites. The goal is to cover kids whose main source of nutrition had been from lunches at now-shuttered schools. It’s an example of responsive governing at its best.

The federally funded meals will be distributed at schools and community centers from 8 a.m. to noon on weekdays. Kids who show up at any of the locations can get meals regardless of which school they attend. They will be asked to eat the meals off-site to avoid crowding and unnecessary contact with other kids.

Food issues affect about 45,000 city kids from the shuttered schools, which are expected to remain closed until at least April.

Hard times at the Riverfront Times

Our friends and, yes, occasional critics at the Riverfront Times are among the early coronavirus casualties — not because any staffers have been exposed but because restrictions on gatherings at bars, restaurants and performance venues have shredded the weekly paper’s advertising base.

“This is absolutely [expletive] horrible — the worst-case scenario,” publisher Chris Keating said in a statement.

Expletive horrible indeed.

Five reporting and editing staffers have been furloughed. Print publication will cease after this week’s edition, putting a big question mark on the paper’s future after a 43-year history as a much-appreciated St. Louis alternative publication.

Hold the ice

Greenland lost a near-record 600 billion tons of ice last summer, NASA reports. It should serve as a reminder that, even after we emerge from this pandemic, an ever greater challenge awaits the world. The measurements of ice loss due to global warming come from a NASA satellite mission that’s able to measure tiny changes in Earth’s gravitational field caused by ice sheets losing mass.

In Greenland, the world’s largest island, the losses in recent years have averaged about 260 billion tons annually. But last summer, that number was more than twice the average — enough to significantly raise sea levels all over the world, according to scientists.

“We knew this past summer had been particularly warm in Greenland, melting every corner of the ice sheet,” NASA scientist Isabella Velicogna said in a statement, “but the numbers are enormous.”

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