Grappling with hesitancy as the crisis deepensMonday, September 13, 2021
Prime Minister Andrew Holness is caught between his effort to protect his people and his fear of offending anti-vaxxers. Although employers are obliged under the law to provide a safe environment for their workers and customers, some unions have come out against a vaccine mandate.
Our unions have fiercely protected Jamaican workers, so we would expect them to join the Government, the Opposition, and the private sector in advocating for the COVID-19 vaccination. If we can reach the 70 per cent target for herd immunity, we can look forward to face-to-face classes for our children, a reduced workload for our health-care workers, and a return to our path of economic growth.
Another obstacle is the misleading advice of religious charlatans. One doctor has bemoaned the long hours spent convincing his patients that the taking of the vaccine is not denying one's faith in God, but acknowledging God's gift of knowledge to our scientists.
There is the story of a man whose house was flooded in a storm. As he stood on the roof a boat came by, but he refused their help, telling them “God will save me”. As the waters rose higher, a helicopter hovered over, and rescuers came down on a rope to get him but, again, he refused, telling them that God would save him. The waters rose and he drowned. When he went to heaven, he confronted God: “Why didn't you save me?” he demanded. God shook his head. “My son, I sent you a boat and you refused, then a helicopter and you sent them way — what more could you want?”
We heard of one Jamaican pastor who refused the vaccine and called for seven days of prayer when he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He died before the seven days were up, and we can only imagine the dialogue he has had with his Maker.
Health-care workers and lab technicians who must analyse COVID-19 tests are working around the clock. They are weary and traumatised by the continuous cries of pain, the deaths, the distraught relatives to whom they must break the bad news. Paramedics have been driving from one hospital to the next trying find beds for patients. Television Jamaica (TVJ) news interviewed one paramedic who showed the marks on his arm from the grip of a dying young woman as she begged him to save her. The situation has now become so dire that people have been receiving oxygen while sitting outside of hospital buildings.
President Joe Biden's declaration of a vaccine mandate for all health-care workers and for companies with more than 100 staff members is an example of strong leadership. We are blessed in Jamaica that both of our major political parties are endorsing the vaccine; however, we need to go at least one step further and mandate that health-care workers, teachers, and students over 12 years be vaccinated.
Twenty years since 9/11
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on three landmarks in the US changed the world forever. The three locations were the twin towers of the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. There was a targeted fourth — the Capitol in Washington, DC — but the passengers on United Airlines 093 were able to change the direction of the flight and perished in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
Someone asked on social media, “Where were you when you learned of the attacks?” The numerous responses show how this dark day in history has been seared into our memories. Jamaicans were among those lives lost on 9/11 and the many who witnessed the horrific scenes unfolding.
This was the very day that Ambassador Sue Cobb assumed her new post as United States ambassador to Jamaica. “I watched my television in disbelief, in shock, as a second passenger plane hit the World Trade Center,” she wrote in her riveting book, Lady of Silk and Steel — from Everest to Embassies. “I knew immediately that it was an act of terrorism. I also knew immediately that there would not be one single person in Washington during the next four years who would care one bit about what happened in Jamaica.” Whether Washington cared or not, Ambassador Cobb proceeded to pour her heart and soul into her assignment, supporting significant projects in Jamaica's development.
“Jamaicans were extraordinarily sympathetic over 9/11... The church community, supported by the Government, held a massive candlelight memorial,” she shared. We were at that memorial service and were moved to see Ambassador Cobb warmly greeting the Jamaican Imam. She signalled that we were not to brand all Muslims, most of whom are peace-loving people. Let the memories of 9/11 remind us to stand strong for justice and peace — the only path to a better, safer world.
UDC general manager has made her mark
Heather Pinnock-Dadag has resigned from the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) after four brilliant years, first as deputy general manager and then as general manager for the past three years. Heather oversaw the construction and opening of the Harmony Beach Park in Montego Bay, the hosting of the design competition for the new Houses of Parliament, and the achievement of the ISO 9001 certification for the UDC's core business processes.
Heather, who studied architecture and completed postgraduate studies in development and management, regards the ISO Certification as her greatest success. “UDC had tried and failed before, so the team members were doubtful at first, but we stuck to it and got it done,” she said. “They proved to themselves that they can operate at world class. Structural improvements are the basis of good operations and, by extension, more transformational projects.”
Throughout the novel coronavirus pandemic Heather's management of the UDC focused on “staff welfare, financial recovery, and the long-term transformation of the corporation to meet its mandate”, according to a release from the UDC.
The release further states: “The board of directors will commence the search to find a new general manager. Ms Pinnock has committed her support during the period of transition”
Whatever her next move, we know Heather will bring to bear her dedication to excellence, thereby making our country and our world a better place.
Farewell to those who have passed
There have been so many deaths in recent times that the word 'condolence' has been trending on social media. Among the many fine Jamaicans who have passed recently are promoter and co-founder of Reggae Sunsplash Michael Johnston and later his granddaughter Stephanie Gregg, a charismatic young woman.
Two weeks ago we read of the passing of the legendary, retired mathematics teacher and principal of St Andrew High School for Girls, Joan Reader. She was also a leader in the Jamaica Girls Guide movement.
Just this weekend we lost “Jamaica's Songbird” Karen Smith, who lifted our spirits with her amazing vocals and her sparkling smile.
We also lost the brilliant Dr Rose Davies, early childhood education specialist, whose work as former head of the Institute of Education at The University of the West Indies contributed to the shaping of our early childhood education policy.
We are also mourning the passing of Howard Hamilton, QC, Jamaica's first public defender, who also served as a famous attorney-at-law for 60 years.
We give thanks for the vision, excellence, and love displayed by these unforgettable Jamaicans. Our deepest sympathy to their families and friends.