Prisons overrun with 

COVID-19 threaten us all


To the Editor:

It appears that Gov. Roy Cooper would rather wait to address the needs of the North Carolina prison and jails during the COVID-19 pandemic and deal later with what is sure to be the dire consequences of ignoring them.

Two weeks ago I wrote a letter to the editor discussing the urgent need for early release of non-violent inmates with less than a year left on their sentence to assist with the overcrowding in the prisons and jails in North Carolina and the effect it would have on the arrival of the COVID-19 within them. This letter also included a number of recommendations on how to assist and protect those that were not released. I have sent numerous pleas to Gov. Cooper others to urge them to follow the lead of some states that have been proactive and prepared their prisons and jails to help the situation.

To date, I have received only one reply back from Sen. Thom Tillis, providing me with information regarding what he has done for the federal prison system. It did not address the North Carolina system.

I am not alone in making these recommendations. On April 3 civil rights leaders, faith leaders, medical leaders and academics called on Gov. Cooper to use his executive powers to release some inmates due to the COVID-19. They argued that unless the population is reduced and access to hygiene products are made available this will ultimately take over the jails and prisons.

By April 8 a group lawsuit was filed by the ACLU of North Carolina, Disability Rights North Carolina, Emancipate NC, Forward Justice and the National Juvenile Justice Network seeking emergency action to prevent the deadly spread of COVID-19 in North Carolina prisons and jails. The emergency petition was filed in the N.C. Supreme Court and asserts that Gov. Cooper and N.C. Department of Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks have a legal duty to take action before a large-scale outbreak of COVID-19 in these facilities results in severe illness and death among incarcerated people, prison staff and surrounding communities.

And so it begins. I read an article regarding the Lansing Correctional Center in Kansas where the inmates rioted in response to COVID-19 within their center. The response of the inmates is not surprising given that the virus spreads like wildfire and this fear causes a fight or flight response. This is just the start of what I fear are many more riots as more prisons and jails are overtaken by COVID-19 and inmate tensions and fears justifiably rise.

Prisons in North Carolina still have little soap and no sanitizer. Massive overcrowding exists. In many cases, there are more than 60 inmates living in a room. Gloves and masks are makeshift by the prisoners using socks and shirts. Prisons that are overrun with COVID-19 affects us all! How many staff, inmates and communities have to be affected before Gov. Cooper will act? How many people have to die?

Lisa Whan,



COVID-19 will pale in comparison to climate change


To the Editor:

The surgeon general said that COVID-19 is our 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. Not so, because those two disasters were surprises!

The virus pandemic was not a surprise, but we weren’t prepared because early warnings were ignored, the advice of experts wasn’t followed, the response was too slow and the administration downplayed the severity of the virus.

Many health experts call efforts to defeat the virus a battle, and a costly battle it is. As of April 11 we have 505,015 confirmed cases, 18,771 deaths, and about 17 million have filed for unemployment. Whatever the statistics will be when the battle is won, it will be won!

The war should be battles on many fronts to combat the climate/environmental crisis. Some of the fronts are electricity and heat generation (25 percent of emissions); agriculture, forestry and land use (about 25 percent of emissions); and transportation.

We are understandably preoccupied with the pandemic, but we must simultaneously fight the war. Scientists have been warning us for decades that planet earth is in danger and evidence of our abuse and neglect is all around – devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, more frequent and more severe storms. Rising sea levels have reduced Isle De Jean Charles, Louisiana from 22,000 acres to 320, and some Pacific island villages have had to move further inland. In spite of these realities the president has withdrawn the U.S. from the Paris Climate accord, denied climate science, gutted the EPA, and repealed or reduced emission standards. This in spite of the fact that the U.S. is one of the top emitters of carbon.

What have we learned from COVID-19 that should inform the climate/environment war? When we drive less and produce less, air quality improves dramatically. Expert advice and relevant science that produces a timely response is critical. We are playing catch-up in the battle against the virus and have not seriously begun the war against climate change. It is crucial to have coordination and clear policies at the federal level. The poor and people of color have been hit the hardest by the virus. These groups already are and will continue to be the most impacted by the climate crisis.

A major weapon in the war is H.R. 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. A primary benefit of the carbon tax is that money comes back to citizens in monthly dividend checks. We can do things individually to help the war effort: drive less, reduce use of plastics, eat less red meat and recycle. We can’t solve the climate crisis by changing our personal behaviors but we can contribute by being good citizens.

Earth Day is April 22. Be a good citizen by urging your members of Congress to pass H.R. 763. The impact of the coronavirus has been terrible, but it will pale in comparison to losing the climate war. For the sake of our children, grandchildren, and the whole world, we must win this war. There is no planet B.

Gene Tunnell,



A platform for what?


To the Editor:

As a descendant of an alcoholic I consider myself one. Therefore, I read A.A. literature daily in the hope of learning how to think and behave more reasonably according to sound A.A. philosophy.

On April 8, these words from the booklet “Twenty Four Hours a Day” stood out to me: “Be known by the marks that distinguish a believer in God. These are honesty, purity, unselfishness, love, gratitude and humility.”

Are these not virtues that people should live by today? What does it say about evangelical Christians who ignore/tolerate the lies steadily told by President Donald Trump? What do some mean when they say Trump provides a “platform” for them?

Kenny Rogers sang, “…a powerful man but you surround yourself with people who demand so little of you.” Is this any way to deal with the most powerful man on earth? Should we not demand more? Should the president of the United States not set himself a high bar? What has Trump provided a platform for?

Dave Waldrop,



Road closure would be catastrophic


To the Editor:

As the owner of Harold’s Supermarket, we were dismayed to see the front-page story about the closing of the Dillsboro Bridge. As you might imagine during our current crisis, we here at Harold’s are focused on keeping our community and employees safe and providing our community access to food and needed supplies.

The statement made by Ted Adams of the DOT “a lot business have written the year off” seems shortsighted. As we are only at the end of the first quarter, this is disturbing and inaccurate to our business. The closing of this road could be catastrophically detrimental to mine and other local businesses and is quite frankly heartbreaking and shows complete disregard for these area businesses.

We were previously advised the plan was to put in a temporary bridge during this construction project. The pros and cons of this were previously addressed and this decision was reached by the Dillsboro leaders. We were counting on this, as that solution allows us to continue serving our customers. Now our livelihood as well as the livelihood of all our employees, surrounding businesses and their employees have been put in extreme jeopardy.

We pride ourselves on being a part of this community and would at the very least request our officials consider a virtual town hall meeting or some communication platform in which our voices and concerns could be heard and considered.

James and Jane Brabson,