Darts and Laurels: Cheerwine Festival cancellation understandable amid COVID-19 risks

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 5, 2021

Laurel to the decision to cancel the Cheerwine Festival last week.

In what has proven to be the largest gathering of people at a single event, there was too great a risk that the festival could lead to a spike in cases here and elsewhere. That’s a particularly dangerous proposition because cases already are coming at their fastest rate and 44% of the population is fully vaccinated. With new variants, it’s no longer enough to only receive one dose of a two-shot vaccine.

Imagine if the same number of people showed up for this year’s Cheerwine Festival as in 2019, when organizers said tens of thousands of people turned out for the daytime festivities, and they packed shoulder-to-shoulder. It’s a realistic possibility because enough people are ready and willing to attend large community events across the region to cancel out any folks who might be too nervous to turn out. Enforcing mask-wearing in a downtown area is impossible, and businesses would face a tough time, too, because of the number of people looking for a cold drink or something to eat.

Sure, the event is outdoors. There might be zero new COVID-19 cases, but any significant increase could be statewide news that’s bad for the city of Salisbury and Cheerwine in addition to the potential for unnecessary hospitalizations and deaths. It’s better to avoid that altogether.

The next cancellation questions focus on the Rowan County Fair and Autumn Jubilee. With proper precautions in place, there may be a path for one or both to continue, but event organizers will need to carefully weigh the possibility for viral spread against benefits of continuing.

Dart to the sentence received by Michael Chunn, who pleaded guilty last week to felony hit and run, misdemeanor death by vehicle and two counts of driving while license revoked for impaired driving.

Chunn was accused of killing Wendell Rhodes, a well-liked veteran who was walking his dog, and then fleeing the scene. He came back later, but he can’t change his immediate reaction. And it’s hard to feel that a minimum of six months — five of which are for killing Rhodes — is appropriate for the crime. One of the two driving while license revoked charges was for another, unrelated incident.

The maximum term in prison is 15 months for killing Rhodes, but it’s worth wondering whether that’s an appropriate sentence for the crime to which Chunn pleaded guilty, too.

Laurel to the Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education for voting to keep a mask mandate in place.

The most important task for administrators and the board is keeping kids in class for as long as possible and keeping the spread of COVID-19 in schools to a minimum. With precautions in place, RSS kept in-school spread pretty low. Its two-cohort schedule left something to be desired for in-school learning.

This year, RSS got off to a rough start keeping students in class because it made masks optional. That often meant a higher-than-needed number of quarantines whenever a student or teacher tested positive.

School board members Dean Hunter and Travis Allen recognized this, but they failed to budge from their personal political opinions that masks shouldn’t be required.

The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education should keep mandatory masks in place for as long as needed to provide an in-person education. When board members fill the open school board seat that was formerly filled by Susan Cox, they should ask candidates about masks, too.