- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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June 9

The Johnson City Press on donating blood:

The novel coronavirus has put a crunch on many aspects of life, including a lifesaving necessity - the blood supply. Starting today, you have an opportunity to help change that.



The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that donor centers have experienced a dramatic reduction in donations because of social distancing and the cancellation of blood drives. The American Red Cross already had halted blood drives in Northeast Tennessee nearly a year ago, citing low demand.

That’s changed. Now that hospitals have resumed surgical procedures and treatments that were temporarily paused for pandemic precautions, an urgent need exists for blood and blood products.

So the American Red Cross is resuming blood drives in Northeast Tennessee. You can schedule an appointment time in advance by calling the regional office at 423-765-4222.

If you’re healthy enough to donate and have the time, please donate. A little of your blood can go a long way for someone in need.

Online: https://www.johnsoncitypress.com/

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June 8

The Kingsport Times-News on farm workers testing positive for the coronavirus:

Northeast Tennessee’s largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases occurred because of a failure to regularly test farm workers, which has shut down one the region’s most successful operations.

Scott Strawberry & Tomato Farms Inc. was founded in 1959 by Wayne Scott, a high school agriculture teacher. Sons Steve and David earned degrees in horticulture and agriculture and joined their parents in operating the business.

Thirty-eight employees are in isolation and one is hospitalized after they tested positive for the coronavirus. As a result, the business closed its operations, including its market in Unicoi and 10 well-known retail strawberry stands across the region.

Dr. David Kirschke, medical director of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office, said the first case was identified when an employee began showing symptoms. Health office personnel worked with Scott Farms to test all remaining workers and found widespread infection. Of the 39 who tested positive, Kirschke said most were not symptomatic.

“We’ve been concerned for a while about farm workers in general and the potential for outbreaks among them,” he said. “Because of their situation in general, with travel, they work in close proximity and their close living conditions.”

It’s a significant problem right as harvesting is underway. Another farm in Tennessee distributed COVID-19 tests to all of its workers after an employee came down with the virus, and it turned out that every single one of its roughly 200 employees was infected. At Henderson Farms in Evansville, Tennessee, the employees are now all in isolation at the farm, where they live and work.

It’s the latest pandemic threat to our food supply. Farm workers are getting sick and spreading the illness just as the U.S. heads into the peak of the produce season as more than half a million seasonal employees move among farms across the country and get housed together in cramped bunkhouse-style dormitories.

As with the meat industry, produce shortages will result if mass numbers of workers come down with the virus. There are as many as 2.7 million hired farm workers in the United States, including migrant, seasonal, year-round and guest-program workers.

Dr. Kirschke said Scott Farms’ employees arrived in the area more than a month ago, and it likely won’t be possible to determine the source of the outbreak. Kirschke said his office is still investigating to trace the employees’ contacts. Most lived on the farm, although some lived with family members in the surrounding community, he said.

Scott Farms plans to reopen in several weeks after its facilities and equipment are sanitized. Employees will receive daily clinical screenings, temperature checks before each shift, face masks and will observe social distancing measures. But Unicoi officials canceled the June 2 opening of the Farmers Market and Community Yard Sale. The market likely won’t open for at least three weeks.

To prevent infections in the workplace, Kirschke advised employers to monitor employees daily for symptoms and to not let sick employees work. That’s advice that other producers in the region should heed.

Online: https://www.timesnews.net/

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June 4

The Johnson City Press on combating racism:

Two local private citizens have stepped forward to open dialogue about marginalized people amid the tumultuous response to the police slaying of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Area government and law enforcement leaders should take note of both efforts. They set out to effect change and shape understanding between the diverse groups that make up this country. They represent a much-needed start toward rational discussion about institutionalized discrimination and the volatility it inspires.

For far too long, society has given mere lip service to eradicating the firmly entrenched vestiges of our shameful history regarding minorities. We can’t say whether yet another black man’s senseless death will be the necessary catalyst, but people are definitely exercising their First Amendment rights toward that end - many decidedly more responsibly than others.

Like so many cases before it, the George Floyd story eventually will fade out of the national spotlight. Another crisis will supplant it. We must act while the issue remains on the front page.

While Johnson City has not suffered through a Minneapolis-like situation in recent years, it is naive to think this community is wholly respectful of diversity. We have plenty of good people here and civic leaders with the best of intentions, including many in law enforcement, but we have to move beyond intentions.

That’s why we need more people like Dustin Long and Jamie Ferrell to get in the mix.

Long, a local boxer and mixed martial arts fighter, wants to use a basketball game as a forum to bring unity and understanding to the Tri-Cities. Some former Science Hill High School basketball stars have committed to helping, as have local policemen.

“Let the cops explain how they feel when they pull someone over and when people are bad-mouthing them,” Long told Sports Writer Jeff Birchfield. “Then, we will let a few kids and parents talk to let the police know the fears of their black children being viewed as a threat and maybe not making it home because of a mistaken identity, speeding ticket, a $20 debt or sale of a cigarette.”

Meanwhile, Ferrell has launched the “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” initiative to promote unity, peace, acceptance, and love. Business owners will be asked to commit to those principles. After that, they will receive both digital and window stickers to mark their businesses as a safe and inclusive place for anyone.

“I think putting out something that helps people unify and get on the same page - it is a step forward,” Ferrell told Staff Writer Jonathan Roberts, “and I think that’s definitely something people want to see - they no longer want to participate in this divisiveness.”

Kudos to Long and Ferrell. They have offered this community opportunity for communication. What they achieve ultimately will land in a vacuum, however, unless others, especially those in positions of power, seize this moment.

Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock and Police Chief Karl Turner did so to some degree on Tuesday by joining demonstrators in a march for justice on yet another night of protest in the city. The event was decidedly less eruptive than Monday’s lengthy march, which ended in 11 arrests. Nobody went to jail Tuesday night.

Brock told Roberts at Tuesday’s march city leaders had absolutely received the activists’ message. “They don’t need our attention anymore, at all,” she said. “We’ve heard this, but it’s important for them to be heard.”

The mayor seems earnest in her statement. What remains to be seen, however, is just how hard our leaders will work to use what they’ve heard. Johnson City cannot solve the nation’s problems, but this community can do significantly more in the name of healing and social justice in its own back yard.

We know the demonstrators will be looking for action, not just talk, meetings and promises.

Online: https://www.johnsoncitypress.com/

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