Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:
The Brunswick News on virus safety for college students amid the coronavirus pandemic:
There has been a lot of buzz locally and around if schools should be reopening in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and how they can do so safely. That focus has been primarily on high schools, middle schools and elementary schools. The same challenges that grade schools are facing are also abundant in colleges across Georgia.
To see just how different this year’s start has been for colleges, look no further than our own College of Coastal Georgia. The college has done a great job of fostering more community among the students the last few years with more housing on campus and more social activities.
A big part of building up that community has been the engagement the college provides during the first few weeks. A global pandemic has changed the way the college is doing things this year.
Students were greeted with staff handing out snacks, water and maps on their first day Monday, but as a sign of the times, they were also handing out masks. Students also got a schedule of events that included some in-person events, but also some virtual ones like Monday’s virtual comedy show.
It is probably not the start that students envisioned when they imagined what a first day on a college campus would be like. The pandemic has forced colleges across the nation to adjust to the threat of the coronavirus, so the normal college experience could be out the window this year.
Some colleges, like the University of North Carolina, are going virtual with all of their classes. There are some things that just cannot be learned online though. Technical colleges, like the new Coastal Pines campus that is opening up in Kingsland soon, have to have that in-person learning for lab work. Coastal Pines is limiting the number of students in the lab, and those students will have to wear masks and social distance.
While learning is important, what students do with their free time is also very important. Parties are an inevitability of college life, but this year it is important for students to be mindful of how their actions could affect those around them. Large crowds in an enclosed space isn’t the best thing when it comes to avoiding catching an extremely contagious and dangerous disease.
We encourage all students to follow the guidelines that have been laid out by their universities. Doing simple things like social distancing, frequently washing your hands, avoiding large gatherings and wearing a mask will go a long way to controlling this outbreak. The sooner we can do that, the sooner college life — and all the fun that entails — can go back to normal.
Valdosta Daily Times on Georgia teens who got their driver’s licenses without having to take a road test during the coronavirus pandemic being required to take the test by Sept. 30:
Strange days for young drivers in Georgia.
OK, it’s been strange days for everyone, everywhere, this year.
But thousands of Georgia teens have had a particularly strange experience in getting and retaining their driver’s licenses.
In late April, Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order waiving the usually mandatory road test for teens who have a learner’s permit, meaning they could obtain their Class D intermediate driver’s license online as long as they had completed all other requirements, including driver education.
The decision was touted as making things easier on new drivers who wanted to maintain “social distancing” due to COVID-19 pandemic concerns.
The applications for Class D licenses could be made online by teens who had held a learner’s permit for at least a year and a day, and temporary licenses could be printed out on a home printer.
And those licenses were printed out by Georgia teens, reportedly in the tens of thousands.
At least, until mid May.
That’s when the governor and the state made a policy U-turn regarding young drivers.
Kemp issued a new executive order stating people who got their driver’s licenses under the road-test waiver would have to take the test after all.
The new order read: “The Department of Driver’s Services shall correct public guidance documents … to reflect that the on-the-road test was only temporarily suspended” by the previous order.
Now, those young drivers who received a license online must report to the Department of Drivers Services to take a road test by the end of Sept. 30.
Young drivers are urged to make an appointment in advance by visiting dds.georgia.gov.
Whether a teen received the license during the online period, has already taken a road test to confirm that license or is waiting to take the test, we urge parents to reinforce the dangers of distracted driving and to model good behavior.
An AAA report released last fall revealed a changing trend in teen licensure from when the AAA Foundation first evaluated the issue in 2012. At the time, the country was just emerging from a recession and many young people cited their family’s inability to afford the high cost of driving as a reason why they did not obtain their license sooner.
The new AAA Foundation study surveyed young adults ages 18-24 to determine when they obtained their license and found that nationally, 40.8% got their license at or before age 16 and 60.3% got their license before the age of 18.
We urge young drivers to put the phone down. Texting and driving kills. Drivers have been warned about it. Laws have been passed to prevent it.
Everyone has heard about all the serious injuries and deaths caused by distracted driving but our roadways are still full of people texting and driving.
That is sound advice no matter the year.
This year, we also urge young drivers issued licenses earlier this year to plan now to take the road test. Make the appointment. Take the test.
Yes, granting a license online then mandating that those who received a license online must take a test after months of legally driving is strange.
But as noted earlier, everything is strange this year.
The Daily Citizen-News on the cancelation of a county fair due to the coronavirus pandemic:
Whitfield County will miss an old friend this fall.
The annual Prater’s Mill Country Fair has become the county’s signature event, drawing exhibitors, artisans and attendees from all over the South. Amid a backdrop of the historic grist mill and signs of autumn all around, the Prater’s Mill area near Varnell teems with activity during the fair’s two days in October. The event celebrating the music, food and culture of North Georgia and the Appalachian region routinely draws about 8,000 visitors annually.
But like many events in our lives -- from church outings to attending Major League Baseball games to game nights with friends -- Prater’s Mill has been canceled this year, taken out by the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This will be the first time in 49 years Whitfield County has not hosted the Prater’s Mill Country Fair.
Not only does the fair impact our local tourism industry, scores of artists, craftsmen and craftswomen, vendors, nonprofits and organizations rely on money generated from the two-day event to help them throughout the entire year.
“It was a hard decision,” Prater’s Mill Foundation President Melanie Millican Chapman told this newspaper. “We kept hoping things would get better. But they haven’t. And we just don’t think we can do it and follow CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines.”
A hard decision, but the right decision. Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through the air, and large gatherings can aid in the virus’ spread, fair officials had no choice but to cancel the festival.
One of the CDC’s main recommendations is social distance. That’s not easy to do at a packed fair that has so many built-in attractions that are personal -- watching a blacksmith in action, getting a front row seat to watch the cloggers, speaking to an artist about his or her inspiration for work of art.
COVID-19 has sidelined many of our favorite local events: the Off the Rails summer concert series at Burr Performing Arts Park that brings thousands to downtown Dalton; the educational Chief Vann House Days; and the informative reenactment of the Civil War Battle of Tunnel Hill, among others.
We empathize with all of you who have lost loved ones and friends to COVID-19, or those who have had their live impacted by the nefarious virus -- whether that be physically, financially, emotionally, spiritually, etc. There seems to be a never-ending parade of grim news pertaining to the virus. We wonder when life will get back to normal.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to follow those CDC guidelines to help stop the virus from spreading:
Wash your hands often.
Avoid close contact.
Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others.
Cover coughs and sneezes.
Clean and disinfect.
Monitor your health daily.
If we remain diligent and true to these guidelines, we can help tamp down the spread of COVID-19.