In a letter to the editor, Hoboken 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher says Mayor Ravi Bhalla should’ve acted sooner and swifter to help the senior populations that are at a high risk of contracting COVID-19.
13 deaths. 12 seniors. Confirmed that the first five were all in the HHA, all Hispanic and four of the five lived in our Senior Buildings. Still await confirmation on the rest. It isn’t right.
Nor is the mayor’s back to back emails the last two nights overstating his efforts to help seniors.
For the past month several of my council colleagues and I have begged his administration to take better steps to protect our most vulnerable.
The cleaning the mayor mentioned in last night’s email? This was Councilman Ruben Ramos Jr.’s initiative, having demanded that the HHA do more for its residents (and his 4th ward constituents) to fight the risk of COVID.
He arranged with HHA Director Recko for a local cleaning company to sanitize the entire HHA campus and then reached out to the city to ask for approval to use the recent HUD CDBG increased funding allocation for this purpose.
The city’s role is to facilitate the allocation of the HUD funding.
The meal plan announced by the mayor Wednesday? Finally and amazing!
This happened because several of my council colleagues and members of the public finally got sick of the administration’s lack of response which led to my calling the County directly for help in getting food for our seniors to incentivize them to stay inside.
We also reached out to Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro who acted immediately, not as a “volunteer” as the mayor so disrespectfully states, to deliver safety information, PPE and food to our seniors.
It was these two actions and some calls from angry community members that FINALLY lit a fire under this administration to do something other than just close common rooms and end senior activities.
That something was supposed to be two weeks of meal plans to seniors in ALL SIX of our High Risk senior buildings, which the City Council called for, not just to the three HHA senior buildings as the City announced.
From day one of this crisis, like many of you who continue to express concerns for our most vulnerable, my City Council colleagues and I made helping our most vulnerable our number one priority.
Yes, many of the executive orders put forth by the mayor and his team that are to help keep us all safe, also help our most vulnerable as well.
But can you find any actions or orders that are specific to our seniors other than the senior hotline (council led initiative as well…). Should we really be treating our highest risk residents the same as everyone else?
The issue I have isn’t that the administration didn’t have a plan B for our seniors out of the gate – this is uncharted territory. We all get it. The issue is their delay and continued resistance in doing more to protect our highest risk residents.
And that when they finally do something in the face of community pressure, they try to pass it off as their own doing. Like I said before, it just isn’t right.
The thing that has kept me up at night the most during this crisis is our most vulnerable. People who have food insecurities that they may or may not have ever had before. Seniors with and without underlying health issues being exposed to many who could infect them with the deadly virus. To name just a few.
As you all know my mother recently was hospitalized for lung and heart issues. Thankfully she is comfortable at home in a suburb of Rochester with no need or opportunity to interact with others who may be contagious. But that is not what we have in Hoboken.
In Hoboken, we have ~900 seniors >65 living in 6 senior buildings. Many have lived in Hoboken their whole life. Many only speak Spanish. Many have underlying health issues. These buildings have no restrictions on visitors as of right now. Many don’t get the mayor’s emails.
And according to Assemblywoman Chaparo who spoke with many when she delivered over 100 meals to 221 Jackson this week, many are not fully aware of their heightened risks – 20x to 30x greater chance of dying if infected – and what they need to do to protect themselves and their neighbors.
Governor Murphy said yesterday that we have an issue with nursing homes in New Jersey. Did you know that just three towns away in North Bergen they have had 39 deaths, 30 of which are in nursing homes? How are our senior buildings that different in terms of concentrations of High Risk people?
221 Jackson. 220 Adams. Fox Hill. Marian Towers. Columbus Tower. 76 Bloomfield. Six buildings – 900 seniors. We have another 1,200 seniors concentrated in other affordable buildings as well like Church Towers, Clock Towers and Marine View. And then another 2,000 beyond these across the city.
The night of the very first death in Hoboken we learned through informal channels that the victim was a man in one of our senior buildings whose wife was then in ICU for COVID as well (she soon passed).
Immediately late that night Council President Giattino and Councilman Ramos and I called the administration and the HHA to express concerns and ask about planning to avoid a possible outbreak in our senior / High Risk buildings.
With no meaningful response, the next day, and every day after including at our Council Meeting on Wednesday, as we watched more HHA seniors pass, we continued to offer ideas to keep our seniors inside, to test all of them, and even raised the idea of outside resources like the national guard coming to help.
But according to this article, this pandemic isn’t as bad as a hurricane so we were told there was no need to do any more. Their words.
I am glad that this administration is finally doing something. But we need to do more before it gets even worse.
Hoboken 2nd Ward Councilwoman