In 2022 OR 2023 Leadership Can’t Take a HoIiday

For a couple of years during the pandemic here in the Northeast where COVID hit hardest and first we got used to a kind of hands on-24-7-style leadership from Governors Cuomo and Murphy.

During the worst of it, when we had to resort to storing the dead in refrigerated truck trailers, we got daily TV briefings from them as some of us had to go out to work to feed our families, that would be the same family we were putting at risk by leaving our home.

Now, three years in, the COVID daily death toll, though recently on the upswing, is in that 300 to 400 range per day. That’s in that same sweet spot as the average daily number of Americans killed or wounded by gun violence that the largely corrupt power structure has absolutely no trouble ignoring. Sure, multiplied out, you get into the tens of thousands dying annually from a virus that wasn’t on our radar in 2019, but all the focus group say COVID has to be over.

And we are a big country with 333 million people, so 1.1 million dead, well, it’s evidently just not statistically significant to a power structure fixated on getting commerce back up and running to those halcyon per-pandemic levels. The headlines are gone so surely the public health crisis is over. Why we are certainly healthy enough for the Federal Reserve to be back at their “toolbox” to raise interest rates to relieve that upward pressure on wages that would come after a mass death event that made labor scarcer.

How can you build up the family fortune if the masses keep insisting on getting paid more? It’s time for them to feel the discipline from the whip of austerity.

Here in New Jersey, where everything is evidently under control, Gov. Murphy is down in Costa Rica vacationing while essential public employees and their families stress out around the kitchen table wondering how they will pay for the massive healthcare premium hikes due to Trenton’s inaction. Forget hazard pay, the Governor and the State legislature did. Essential workers would have been better off starting their working life at Goldman Sachs, making a killing AND then giving back with public service. It’s all sequencing like the say in those money management ads.

And we can’t say getting away for a tropical vacation isn’t capital P Presidential.

President Biden was whisked off to a holiday on St. Croix after he got Congress to compel railroad workers to work under a contract they rejected because it lacked paid sick days. Ah, the juxtaposition. Engineers can sniffle at the locomotive controls as they glide America’s steel on steel grinding on across the rust belt buried in snow.

Now, Biden’s done his job forcing the railroad workers to stay on their job making record profits for America’s 21st century robber barons and ensuring the President can vacation at the home of yet another massive donor getting the rest and relaxation with his family he so richly deserves. Watching out for the interests of the owners is truly a daunting task no matter how old you are.

Meanwhile, back here on planet Neptune, Walgreens says they are out of COVID tests. Folks with infants are STILL scrambling for infant formula and there’s a similar shortage of over-the-counter pediatric cold medications. How could this be? Isn’t this the same country where Congress just approved a $1.7 trillion Omnibus spending bill that spends $858 billion on the military?

Evidently, the Omnibus spending bill was so important it was flown down to St. Croix to get the President’s signature. In their parallel universe where titans fly first class or on their own plane, this all makes sense.  Once you do things like spend $8.5 billion for 61 F-35 fighter jets, it’s all gravy.

While federal, state, and municipal elected officials have been promoting a so-called return to a ‘post-COVID’ normal, public health experts across the country have been warning about a brewing so-called tridemic — COVID, the flu and pediatric respiratory virus all surging simultaneously.

Evidently, this must be no big deal. Nobody’s doing any TV briefings on it.

More than three-quarters of pediatric hospital beds nationwide are at capacity,” reported PBS. “And some states are reporting that more than 90 percent of pediatric beds are occupied. Seniors are also being hospitalized at a higher rate to respiratory illness. And hospitalizations from the flu are at a decade-level high.”

“I am in the Bronx today and there must have been six or seven fever, cough, cardiac arrests that have come over the radio — the hospitals are just jammed,” said FDNY EMS Lt. Anthony Almajore, the vice-president of DC 37’s Local 3621. “I was at Bronx Lebanon Hospital and there were 23 ambulances sitting there with patients waiting to be triaged.”

Here on planet Neptune, Walgreens says they are out of COVID tests. Folks with infants are STILL scrambling for infant formula and there’s a similar shortage of over-the-counter pediatric cold medications. How could this be? It’s only logical. This is the same country where Congress just approved spending $858 billion on the military but choked on fully funding the 9/11 WTC Health Program.

While President Biden and Gov. Murphy worked remotely, there was Newark Mayor Ras Baraka holding a Dec. 30 in person news briefing with what appeared on the city’s Facebook feed to be a handful of reporters.

Baraka announced that in the past year, Newark had seen a 20 percent drop in gun homicides and a 36 percent decline in non-fatal shooting victims. In fact, the state’s largest city had recorded its lowest murder rate in 60 years, with murders going from 112 in 2013, the year before Baraka took office, to 50 in 2022.

These statistics came with law enforcement maintaining a 78 percent close out on homicide cases and 777 illegal firearms being confiscated and taken off the street. Baraka credited the city’s county, state, and federal partners as well as broad based community engagement that enlisted the residents of Newark themselves.

“Using the strategy of crime or violence as a public health kind of issue, the same as we would treat any other public health problem, presently COVID, the way that we bring all of our resources to bear down on COVID,” Baraka told reporters.  “Historically, public health responses to issues have worked whether it’s the measles, mumps, polio or making people wear their seatbelts. So, this is the same thing -the same strategy we want to use—involving community-based health interventionists in this area beginning to target areas that are more susceptible to violence and crime.”

You felt Baraka’s intensity and that focus was reflected in the leaders that joined him including New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin. It was a gravitas that Newark’s residents deserved, a focus that dares to believe that life can get better, but you have to be present to carry it off and to make it stick.

Luckily for New Jersey, Baraka’s not alone.

Over at Paterson City Hall InsiderNJ reached Mayor Andre Sayegh late Friday, Dec. 30.

I asked him was there ever a good time for a mayor of a city to take time off for that work live balance that Governors and Presidents seem to require.

“It’s interesting you should ask me that because I just let all the employees out at 2:00 pm today and I am still at City Hall and someone told me ‘Just go home’ and I said there’s so much work to do and I have to call back Bob Hennelly,” Sayegh laughed. Sayegh, who has gotten high marks from public health experts for his city’s response to COVID, said he was well aware of how the COVID challenge was morphing into something else that still required his total focus.

“We are gearing up this Thursday with an announcement we are actually tripling down on the tripledemic,” Sayegh said. “We will have a multi-purpose unit we will be unveiling for the first time that will have COVID testing, COVID vaccination, flu testing, flu vaccination. We will also by testing for RSV [respiratory syncytial virus] and other chronic illnesses.”.

He continued. “We don’t punch a clock. We work around it. We’re not out of this. The pandemic is not over. We are still trying to turn the page.”

Both Baraka and Sayegh seem to get the fact that pre-COVID normal in their cities is what set the stage for it in the first place. As it turns out, healing places like Newark and Paterson can’t be done remotely.

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