Federal government money is raining down on Connecticut state government and municipal governments every day and yet, according to the Connecticut Mirror, state and municipal officials say there is no money anywhere for renovating or replacing school ventilation systems, despite the danger of the COVID-19 virus epidemic.

While state government long has reimbursed municipalities for a huge portion of school construction and renovation projects — maybe too generously amid Connecticut’s declining student population — state government policy has been not to pay for school ventilation work but to leave that to the towns.

Deputy state budget director Konstantinos Diamantis, state government’s overseer of school construction projects, faults municipalities for deferring maintenance of school ventilation systems. How ironic and hypocritical.

 

First, state government itself is notorious for deferring maintenance of its transportation system — roads, bridges, and Connecticut’s section of the Metro-North commuter railroad, some of whose bridges are a century old.

Second, state government has imposed on municipalities a system of binding arbitration of government employee union contracts. This robs municipalities of discretion over the great majority of their budgets. Under binding arbitration and the state law forbidding municipalities from reducing school spending even as enrollment declines, employee compensation has first claim on all municipal revenue.

There’s no binding arbitration for building maintenance.

If student health really mattered amid the epidemic, those laws would be suspended in favor of renovating school ventilation systems. Using his emergency powers, Governor Lamont could do that — if he wasn’t more scared of the teacher unions than the virus.

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MORE ON IVERMECTIN: Warren McGrath’s Aug. 30 letter in the Journal Inquirer, “Powell Is Off-Base Regarding Ivermectin,” misrepresented this writer’s July 26 column on the drug and COVID-19.

 

Contrary to McGrath’s assertion, the column did not suggest that in classifying ivermectin as an “essential medicine” the World Health Organization had endorsed its use against the virus. To the contrary, the column complained of the failure of the WHO and other authorities to endorse using ivermectin against the virus. The column said:

“Then there is the indifference shown by the government and mainstream journalism to the growing evidence that the inexpensive anti-parasite drug ivermectin, classified by the World Health Organization as an ‘essential medicine’ and established as safe by 40 years of use, successfully treats and prevents COVID-19 infection.”

McGrath cites the withdrawal of a study asserting ivermectin’s effectiveness against the virus. But many other studies have drawn a similarly favorable conclusion. Last month a study by Sheba Medical Center in Israel confirmed ivermectin’s effectiveness as a cure and preventive for the virus.

McGrath asserts falsely that ivermectin has been approved only for use with animals. In fact ivermectin long has been approved and used safely for millions of people suffering parasite infections, especially what is called river blindness in Africa. The drug turns out to have strong anti-viral properties as well.

McGrath may be somewhat forgiven for his mistake, for misinformation about ivermectin is coming from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration itself. Last month the FDA also dishonestly suggested that ivermectin is used exclusively with animals, issuing a statement mocking people in the South who were said to be taking animal dosages of the drug as a remedy for the virus. “You’re not a horse,” the FDA said. “You’re not a cow.”

But some drugs, like antibiotics, are used with both people and animals, if in different dosages. Ivermectin is one, though the FDA pretends otherwise.

McGrath’s absolute trust in government medical agencies is as misplaced as absolute trust in government agencies dealing with foreign policy and war. Government agencies always need to be questioned critically.

After all, a drug that lately has been causing even more controversy than ivermectin, the painkiller OxyContin, which is said to be responsible for thousands of deaths, was approved by the FDA in 1995. A year later an FDA official involved in OxyContin’s approval was hired by the drug’s manufacturer, the now-infamous Purdue Pharma, at a salary of $400,000 a year.

 
 

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer.

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