After I defeated a case of COVID-19 over a year ago, I asked Ed Forbes, a NorthJersey.com editor who oversees the opinion pages, if I could write a weekly column during the pandemic. He said yes, and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity that he and this newspaper have afforded me to offer the public information and assurance that this dire situation will improve.

As we continue to make progress in our war against this invisible but not invincible enemy, it is the appropriate time to sunset this weekly column. Although I will not be writing as frequently, I do plan to contribute to this periodical’s opinion page on occasion.

Reflecting on the events that have unfolded over the course of the last 12 months, it is still somewhat surreal that life as we all know it has been upended. We have lost a lot, but I hope that this crisis teaches us to love what we have and who we have a lot more.

I am profoundly proud of Paterson’s response to the pandemic. The nation took notice of what our city was doing with contact tracing and acknowledged our efforts from the onset to provide our first responders and health care workers with desperately needed supplies of personal protective equipment. Since March 2020, we have led and will continue to lead from the front.

Despite the difficulty that a once-in-a-century crisis poses, we were still able to advance several signature initiatives in our city. After it was fallow for almost 25 years, we are restoring one of only two ballparks that hosted Negro League games in the country, Hinchliffe Stadium. At the groundbreaking a few weeks ago, we were joined by CC Sabathia, Harold Reynolds, Omar Minaya, Willie Randolph and Larry Doby Jr., solidifying the fact that this historic project has garnered national attention and will help put Paterson back on the map.

We also announced the creation of the Financial Empowerment Center, which will help Paterson residents struggling with money management to reduce their debt, repair their credit scores and establish a bank account if needed. Moreover, we launched the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income initiative. The program will provide 110 randomly selected residents with $400 a month for one year. This could have a significant impact for those who had very little before the pandemic and as a result have even less.

We repurposed the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign, which allowed us to espouse the value of exercise and eating clean during this public health crisis, and our efforts were recognized by the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute. Paterson was one of only eight municipalities designated a healthy town by the organization.

Conquering COVID-19 has catalyzed our city like never before. Since December of last year, we have led the way with our ambitious vaccination operation. Early on in the effort, we proved that Paterson will never fail a friend, vaccinating any eligible resident in the state of New Jersey. We believed then and still do now that this virus does not discriminate, and neither should we.

Partnerships have played a role in our response to the pandemic. We have worked with our federal, state and county allies to secure significant funding to help our schools reopen safely. This has been a total team effort.

It has been an honor to communicate to the community through this column for the past year. As we proceed to put this pandemic behind us, I will continue to underscore the importance of mitigation measures such as social distancing, mask wearing and getting vaccinated. I understand that my role as mayor is also to be a multiplier. Therefore, I hope that through this venue I was able to multiply confidence in our readers that this virus was no match for our resolve and our resilience.

Andre Sayegh is mayor of Paterson.

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