These past 15 months, no matter how “hard” or “easy” any of us had it, we’ve learned a lot. Good stuff even. Our learning, you could say, has been one of the pandemic’s silver linings. To acknowledge some of those Silver Learnings, we’ve invited friends from different walks of life to share what they’ve learned from the pandemic. Our guess is you’ll hear some voices that sound like your own, and some that offer a window into a world you’ve not known but from which we can all now learn.
Paul Feiner has been the Town Supervisor in Greenburgh, New York, for 30 years. He’s married to attorney Sherrie Brown with whom he shares a wonderful daughter, Julia.
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During the pandemic, as Town Supervisor my major concern has been to keep services in the town operational, and to make sure that employees knew that we were concerned about them. Any employee who had major medical issues was able to work from home. To keep employees safe during the initial months of Covid, we rotated days when employees would come in. We were worried that if one person got sick everyone in the department would have to be isolated, so we kept half at home at different times.
We created a medical advisory committee consisting of local residents who are doctors and medical professionals, providing us with advice. We also organized efforts to get donations of masks (which were in short supply).
Many residents were unemployed and we helped them navigate the system so they could receive their unemployment checks.
Many town employees (including the current and former police chief) got Covid, and one died from it. We installed plexiglass partitions in the workplace areas less than six feet apart and between office cubicles and at public reception areas. We upgraded air filters in the ventilation systems to MERV 13 standards or better, and purchased advance fogger disinfectant equipment used by our Building Maintenance department. Public access beyond the lobby area of town hall was restricted.
Town Board meetings have been held by Zoom and all meetings I have attended in over a year have also been Zoom. For me, one of the most frustrating parts of the job was my fear of going near people during the height of the pandemic. I did not attend Black Lives Matter protests this past year (which I would have wanted to attend) because of my worries about getting Covid and getting others sick. It was only this past summer that I started interacting with people outside.
When vaccines became available we formed a Covid angels committee, which grew to 300+ volunteers. We expedited the vaccination process for 4000 residents and called over 6000 senior citizens asking if they needed help getting their vaccine. Now that the end is near for the pandemic, we’ve formed a vaccine hesitancy committee to help persuade those reluctant to get the vaccine to do so.
Personally speaking, during much of the pandemic I worked from home. I didn’t go shopping, was worried about getting my 96-year-old mother sick so I didn’t have much contact with anyone. I was fearful about catching Covid or getting others sick and knew people who died, got very sick from Covid or lost friends from the illness.
I didn’t want to be locked inside my house so decided to either jog or bicycle around town every day. If I saw another human being walking, running or cycling, I’d go across the street. I made it a point to spend at least an hour a day outdoors and also made it a point to bike, run on different streets each day.
Thanks to the pandemic, I started appreciating things I never noticed before. I enjoyed looking at different colored birds flying. I marveled at the beauty of flowers and landscaping that some people planted in their yards. I also enjoyed looking at the different architecture, reflecting on the designs of different homes. Everyday I would see something else that caught my attention or never noticed before
During the pandemic I became more observant about the different kinds of wildlife we share the world with. And I reflected on how differently people reacted to the pandemic – some were careless, others overly careful. I see life so much differently today than I did before the pandemic.