Other view: Short takes on a tobacco take-down and a geyser gaffe
OTHER VIEW

Other view: Short takes on a tobacco take-down and a geyser gaffe

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Ouch

It’s uncomfortable having to level criticism at a man who has suffered severe burns. But what other response is there when someone gets drunk, illegally leaves the marked path in a national park and stumbles into the world’s most famous geyser?

Cade Edmond Siemers was walking near the Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming late Sunday night when (he would later tell park rangers) he left the boardwalk that park visitors aren’t supposed to leave. He tripped into the heated groundwater near the geyser, according to a National Park Service statement.

The statement said rangers suspected Siemers had been drinking and found a beer can near the scene.

Old Faithful and the surrounding surface water tops 200 degrees. Others have been seriously burned, and in some cases killed, generally after ignoring park rules about staying on the marked boardwalks and paths.

Siemers was in critical condition. Rangers were investigating whether he caused any damage to the area, which could mean federal charges.

Nothing Says ‘Green’ Like Plastic

When your entire political party is founded on eco-righteousness, almost inevitably there will come a time when militancy for the cause conflicts with doing what’s ethical. Just ask Canada’s Green Party, which is competing in national elections on Oct. 21. Leader Elizabeth May posed smiling for a photo while holding what is, environmentally speaking, a perfectly eco-responsible, compostable, disposable cup.

But environmentally speaking, earnest party activists apparently wondered, does the cup really send the right message? Disposable, compostable paper cups are great and all, but if the cup in her hand doesn’t display the Green Party logo, what good does it serve?

So someone, somewhere in the bowels of the Green Party’s communication offices decided simply to alter the image, substituting the disposable cup for a plastic one (reusable, sure, but it’s still plastic). They even arranged it so May’s index finger appeared to be steadying an eco-friendly metal straw. Even better, they made sure the plastic cup contained the Green Party logo.

People noticed and called the party on its lie. And they really let the party have it for making it appear that May preferred plastic to paper. May apologized and made clear: “My personal daily practice is to avoid single use plastic items 100 percent of the time.”

Leading From Behind ... the Sales Counter

Schnucks announced it will stop selling tobacco products at its 115 stores in the St. Louis region. For a grocery chain that relies on the profitability of every product on its shelves (and Schnucks is, after all, in business to make profits), the bottom-line sacrifice will be significant. But sometimes, more important considerations have to take priority.

“I’m sure that we will disappoint some customers by discontinuing the sale of some product,” Schnucks Chairman and CEO Todd Schnuck told the Post-Dispatch’s Jacob Barker. “But when we look at the grand scheme of things, well, what’s the right thing to do? And we believe discontinuing the sale of tobacco products is the right thing to do.”

The new ban will take place on Jan. 1. Starting Oct. 15, all stores will offer double shopper-reward points on over-the-counter products to help smokers quit.

Actually, this is a smart business decision. Cigarettes are deadly. When customers stay alive longer, they shop longer.

Life-Saving Dugout Drama

Kudos to Post-Dispatch baseball writer Derrick Goold, who took time out from his stellar reporting on the Cardinals this week to help save a heart-attack victim’s life at Busch Stadium.

As fellow Post-Dispatch sportswriter Rick Hummel reported, Goold was at Busch Sunday prior to the Cardinals-Cubs game when St. Louis-based videographer Mike Flanary, 64, collapsed in the Cubs’ dugout. He’d suffered what would later be diagnosed as a heart attack followed by a stroke. He was briefly without a pulse.

According to witnesses, someone asked if anyone knew CPR. Goold, an Eagle Scout and former lifeguard with CPR training, stepped up and performed it on Flanary until emergency medical personnel got to the scene. Flanary was later listed in “critical but stable” condition at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

The stadium doctor on duty Sunday, Dr. David Tan of Washington University, called Goold’s actions “the first link in that chain of survival.”

“It was the early CPR by Derrick Goold that probably saved his life,” he said.

Oh, and the Cardinals later beat the Cubs 9-0 to win the National League Central Division.

Missouri Compromise

After Missouri voters last fall overwhelmingly approved legalized marijuana for medical use, some complications ensued regarding the implementation of the new system. Among them: What to do about a 2011 state law that penalizes recipients of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families if they test positive for pot.

Under that law, the state is required to ask TANF recipients about illegal drug use and can request a drug test. If the recipients refuse or fail the test, they lose benefits for three years.

Missouri’s Department of Social Services has come up with a compromise that avoids penalizing TANF recipients for legal use of medical marijuana and takes a less-punitive approach to still-illegal recreational marijuana (which, after all, is now legal right next door in Illinois).

TANF recipients with a doctor-issued medical cannabis card won’t see their benefits affected for testing positive for marijuana. And those who don’t have cards, and either test positive or decline to be tested, can keep their benefits by agreeing to enter a substance-abuse program.

Missouri officials are right to rule that welfare recipients won’t lose their benefits for testing positive for pot if they have a prescription for medical marijuana.

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A small outbreak of coronavirus at a Fry Foods plant in Weiser gives a prime example of the importance of testing for COVID-19. More than that, it represents a warning shot across the bow of potential pitfalls if we don’t reopen our economy the right way.

As we tiptoe through Stage 2 of Gov. Brad Little’s phased reopening plan and approach a more robust Stage 3, it’s going to become even more important that we take the necessary steps to prevent future outbreaks.

And there will be future outbreaks.

The fact remains that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still out there. It’s ready to strike again, and without a vaccine, it remains a potentially destructive and fatal disease.

Aggressive and quick testing remains one of the key elements — perhaps the most important element — of controlling outbreaks at this point.

Fry Foods offers an early case study.

The Weiser food processing plant employs 260 people to make onion rings and other food products. It shut down earlier this month when at least seven employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Fry Foods initially didn’t test all 260 employees at the Weiser facility — only the 50 or 60 who likely came in contact with the employees who tested positive. Other employees were able to get tested on their own.

The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (state run-laboratories) tested all that they had the capacity to do in one day, according to Kelly Petroff, director of communications for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The state lab can do about has a testing capacity of approximately 200 tests per day.

“We are not prepared to handle this,” Doug Wold, human resources manager for Fry Foods, told the Idaho Statesman, referring to the lack of coordinated response. “If you don’t have an employer who’s willing to be proactive, we’re just going to fail.”

Fortunately, Crush the Curve Idaho, a private, business-led initiative established during the outbreak to increase testing, stepped in and tested every employee at Fry Foods.

By Tuesday of this week, 20 employees — about 8% of the plant’s workforce — had tested positive for the coronavirus, along with at least two of their family members. Nearly all were asymptomatic.

RAPID-RESPONSE TESTING

That’s what needs to happen: rapid-response testing. If you have an outbreak at your workplace, get everyone tested. For those who test positive, keep them home and isolated. For those who test negative, they can keep on working and you’re back in business.

When the outbreak hit Fry Foods, company officials made the decision to shut the plant down.

Without adequate testing, that’s unfortunately the right thing to do. Without testing, you have no idea whether you have seven infected employees, 70 or 270.

We applaud Fry Foods company officials for making the tough call to shut down, even though they were given the green light by the Southwest District Health Department to resume operations.

Coronavirus is stealthy. A person can carry coronavirus longer without symptoms, potentially spreading to others unwittingly. Some people who carry coronavirus have no symptoms at all.

We are encouraged that Crush the Curve Idaho stepped up and stepped in here.

But Idaho needs a more concerted and organized plan to do rapid-response testing.

We are a fragmented health system. Health providers include Saint Alphonsus, St. Luke’s, Primary Health, Saltzer, among others. Then think about all the entities who pay for health care: Blue Cross of Idaho, Regence BlueShield, PacificSource, SelectHealth, etc. Throw in Medicare, Medicaid and those who are uninsured.

Even our own government health management system is fragmented, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and seven independent health districts not operated by the state.

And, in the case of Fry Foods, situated in a city bordering Oregon, workers were from two states.

NO COORIDINATED EFFORTS

No wonder Fry Foods officials were at a loss for where to turn for help. Without some sort of coordinated effort to test all employees and somehow pay for those tests, shutting down the plant was the best option.

It’s worth noting that the Fry Foods employee who initially had coronavirus was at a family gathering of a larger number than outlined in the governor’s reopening plan and was with visitors from out of state, two violations of the governor’s guidelines. That’s why we have the guidelines, and that’s why it’s important to follow the guidelines. Otherwise, this is what you get: an outbreak that shuts down an entire food manufacturing plant.

Unfortunately, shutting down operations every time there’s an outbreak is not going to get the job done.

And there will be more outbreaks as we reopen our economy, reopen factories and workplaces.

Idaho has a lot to be optimistic about, and we have a golden opportunity to lead the nation in reopening our economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. We have had relatively few cases (around 2,300) and few deaths (77). Our early efforts to shut down parts of our social interactions and Little’s quick call to issue a statewide stay-home order clearly have paid off. Idahoans’ adherence to the stay-home order has helped to flatten the curve and control the number of new cases. Residents and businesses, alike, have done their part to make this happen.

Our hope is that Idaho can chug along through the stages of reopening. Our fear is that if we don’t do this the right way, we’ll have a surge and we’ll be back to a statewide stay-home order. Nobody wants that.

Idaho’s structure of electing governors and LG’s completely separately — different from many states which bind them together — allows for the office holders to come from different points of view.

For future historians and artists who'll chronicle today's health and economic crisis, one humble item will stand out as the chief cultural emblem of the times: wearing a mask. Or not.

Imagine if you killed somebody on your job, and all you got that day was fired. You go into work the next day, return the keycard you swipe every morning when you get on the elevator, pack the things from your desk, toss out whatever food you have in the pantry refrigerator and say goodbye to your co-workers before two security guards escort you out of the building. And, let's just say this ...

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