Candidates forum in Dennis Saturday

Still undecided about which candidate to support in two critical regional races?

Then head to the Cape Cinema, Route 6A, Dennis, tomorrow to listen to two debates:

•  At 10 a.m., state Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, will face off against Republican challenger John Flores, a member of the Barnstable Town Council.

• At 11 a.m., U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-Bourne, will debate GOP challenger Peter Tedeschi, a longtime businessman from the South Shore.

The forum, sponsored by the Cape Cod Media Group, will be moderated by the League of Women Voters of the Cape Cod Area. No political paraphernalia will be allowed inside the Cinema, but supporters may distribute campaign material outside the theater.

State moves quickly on hepatitis A spike

The opioid crisis is not just limited to overdoses.

It was more than a little disconcerting last month when the state Department of Public Health announced there has been an outbreak of hepatitis A among the state’s homeless populations and people addicted to drugs.

Among the 65 cases diagnosed in the state this year, 17 were from Southeastern Massachusetts, spread out among Barnstable, Bristol and Plymouth counties. More than 20 cases were diagnosed in the first two weeks of September alone. And outbreaks have also been reported in at least 10 other states.

Many of the people infected have also shown signs of hepatitis C, a blood-borne infection common among IV drug users. Hepatitis A is commonly spread through contact with food or drink that has been contaminated by feces. Those living in unsanitary conditions are particularly vulnerable.

In a positive sign, the DPH quickly swung into motion, encouraging local health departments to work with clinics and groups that directly serve the homeless and those with substance abuse disorders. The goal is to educate them about their risks and the fact that there is vaccine available for hepatitis A.

"Vaccination and good hygiene, especially washing hands with soap and warm water, are the most effective ways to prevent the spread of hepatitis A,” said Dr. Jenifer Jaeger, director of the Infectious Disease Bureau at the Boston Public Health Commission.

There have been some encouraging signs in the effort to combat the opioid and fentanyl epidemic this year, with the more widespread use of Narcan, progress in better treatment referrals and the use of non-opioid painkillers at trauma scenes. But as long as intravenous drug use remains common, related problems like the spread of hepatitis will remain a challenge.

It is encouraging to see the state is facing the problem head-on and looking for solutions.

Why such loyalty to the Citgo sign?

We know this may sound sacrilegious to Red Sox fans, but we can't believe the Boston Landmarks Commission is considering a proposal to designate the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square an official city landmark.

The designation would help protect it from future development that might cause the sign to be moved, or block views of the oil company billboard.

More than two years ago, Boston University announced it would sell the building on which the sign stands. Not long after, it reached a deal for the property with the development company Related Beal.

After months of study, the commission cited the sign’s artistic appeal, its status as Boston’s “only surviving ‘spectacular’ neon sign,” and its role in the city’s sports and cultural history.

But making it a landmark could hinder development in the neighborhood, said Pam Beale, head of the Kenmore Square Business Association. She said language in the proposal would preserve views of the sign, and the potential for a so-called “protection area” that would prohibit new buildings that could block those views.

Meanwhile, Related Beal is pushing forward with a plan to redevelop the site with modern office buildings and the sign perched above. The company has reached an agreement with Citgo to continue the oil company’s lease. Related Beal does not, however, support designating the sign as a landmark, saying it would complicate a business relationship between Citgo and its landlords that has existed for decades.

It would be one thing if the sign advertised a longtime Boston-based company, such as Gillette, or even the Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund. But Citgo is owned by the state-owned company of Venezuela. Why are Bostonians so loyal to a foreign oil company? If the neon sign promoted a local business or charity, we suspect Bostonians would soon forget Citgo.