Coronavirus, in my Cardi B voice. As funny as Cardi B’s video may be, this pandemic is no joking matter. Hundreds of thousands of people are being affected by it, and thousands of lives are being lost. The United States was not prepared for this, nor was the city of New York.
Now is not the time for finger-pointing. But it certainly is the time, on a parallel track, to look at lessons learned and implement policies and procedures that would allow us to have a more prepared response going forward.
Can we control a virus? No, but what we can control is our response to it. We saw the effects in Wuhan and Italy. Even if the federal government was not erring on the side of caution, as was New York City, one of the largest and densest cities of the country, we needed to be prepared.
While you don’t want to create panic, you still need to be effective. So what didn’t work, what would I do as mayor and what are the lessons learned?
What didn’t work?
- Keeping the schools open
- Not locking down the city sooner
- Not having an appropriate stockpile
- Not reaching out to manufacturers to obtain additional PPE and ventilators (My mom and, I am sure, your mom too, always said it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. If you have it, you are operating from a position of strength. If you don’t, you are operating from a sense of desperation.)
What would I do as mayor?
As mayor, going into my first term, the first thing I would do is assess the cost of the items we provided during those difficult times. Then I would develop a plan to continue some of the programs that were implemented during this pandemic. I would:
- Develop a contingency plan, by borough, and then work with the community boards to develop plans, by community;
- Implement required contingency plan testing. This plan would be shared with the public and tested by every city agency;
- Increase our stockpile of items based upon the plans the city has already implemented as well as any of its previous readiness plans;
- Expand the NYC school lunch program to include dinner-to-go meals;
- Expand the mobile device program so that every child obtains a laptop and/or tablet when they enter junior high school/middle school (this program would be expanded in conjunction with Apple and/or Microsoft with the expectation that they would be good corporate citizens and donate to the program);
- Provide more resources for teachers; and
- Invest in public housing to ensure that during a crisis those who are most vulnerable are not forgotten.
What have we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic?
We have learned that when pressed to the wall, the government can find money for:
- Providing quality health care,
- Provide housing for the homeless,
- Buying laptops and/or tablets for kids in schools,
- Increasing SNAP benefits,
- Feeding families three to-go meals a day,
- Providing additional money for public housing, and
- Paying people higher wages.
If you haven’t noticed anything else, notice this. The money is there. We just have not elected the right people to ensure that it does what it is supposed to do, and that is to help the people of the country, state and city. Our priorities continue to be mixed up. There has been fighting on both sides and guess who is winning? No one. The everyday citizen continues to struggle; the everyday citizen still can’t make ends meet. In a city of 8.6 million people, 3.9 million are living at or below the poverty level. If that doesn’t bother you, something is wrong because to the extent that we are all not okay, none of us should be okay. It should bother us all.
The reality is we can all be okay at different levels. Success is not mutually exclusive, and being self-sufficient, and living a good life, is also not mutually exclusive. But in order for that to happen, we have to elect the right people who will CREATE the change I think we all want to see. I know that we all want change and want to support each other, because if we didn’t when things like this happen, we wouldn’t all come together. We come together because we innately want to help each other. We want to ensure that our brothers and sisters are okay. From this moment forward, we must keep that mindset and that feeling going.
This is a pivotal moment and a time for us to be honest about the fact that the greed of a few has not worked out for the many. It is time for us to not just look at this locally and see what needs to change, but for us to demand that there be a shift in priorities at the federal, state and city levels. We need the government to start utilizing our tax dollars for what they were intended, and that is to make our lives better.
If the government starts providing the things we have agreed to pay into the tax system for, all of our lives will be better. If the United States goes back to manufacturing its own goods and employing its own people, we won’t have to rely on others during our times of need. People will make wages that would actually allow them to live comfortably in the country they love, and we can all be okay. That is what would bring the economy back. The greed of big corporations has led to our demise, and I don’t know about you, but, for me, I wouldn’t mind paying a little more if it meant that our citizens were better off. I would be willing to pay a little more to have something say “Made in the USA.” Remember when we used to be proud of that? Let’s bring that back.
We are at a pivotal moment. This is a time that will be remembered in the history books. Let’s take this tragedy and turn it into something we can be proud of.