Senator Vin Gopal (D-11) submitted the following response to Tom DeSeno’s column criticizing his response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Senator Vin Gopal
I appreciate Tommy DeSeno more than he knows.
I know we disagree on a lot, but I firmly believe that if we hadn’t implemented aggressive social distancing measures over the past 2 months, we could have 80,000 deaths instead of the 10,000 horrific deaths that we’ve seen in New Jersey. That’s not my opinion: That’s according to every public health report–including the President’s.
With that said, we need to move towards responsibly opening up the economy. Those steps started this week and will continue.
Monday morning quarterbacking–are there things we could have done differently, collectively? Absolutely–and in many areas. There’s no doubt in my mind that we need to learn from this crisis, both as a state and as a country, and correct our approach for next time.
Yes–we launched a committee to coordinate communication and strategies among towns and business leaders in my district to make sure that we are coordinating and opening responsibly. For example, it makes little sense for Mcloone’s Restaurant to be fully open in Long Branch, but not Asbury Park. That’s why this committee will focus on coordinating our efforts and making sure that all voices are heard as we work together through this recovery.
One project I’m looking forward to tackling with this committee: giving restaurants access to vacant public areas to expand outdoor tent space, allowing them to go beyond their eventual 25 percent capacity. To do that, we’ll need collaboration and buy-in, not only from the towns across our district, but from the restaurants themselves as well.
Coordination is important. In fact, the other Monmouth Senators–Senator O’Scanlon, Senator Singer, and Senator Thompson–have already begun to set up economic recovery committees of their own to help coordinate reopening efforts in their districts. Freeholder Director Arnone has told me personally that he loves the idea so much that he hopes to bring our four committees together to coordinate and discuss our county’s efforts from time to time.
I respect Tommy’s passion and dedication, but we disagree strongly on our view of COVID-19. Volunteer committees are a common and useful way to bring our public and private sectors together, and a priceless opportunity to make sure all voices are being heard. Truth be told, I’m not sure why this particular committee offends him–but regardless of our disagreement here, I consider Tommy a friend, and know that there are areas we can and do agree on. I hope that, no matter our current disagreement, we can continue to work together on those other areas.