PATERSON, NJ - While declaring that when it comes to defeating COVID-19 “we are only in the middle rounds,” Mayor Andre Sayegh is pointing to the six new cases of coronavirus, the lowest daily total since March 6, confirmed on Saturday, as evidence that “the rigorous restrictions we’ve put in place are working.”

In total more than 6,000 residents, including Sayegh himself, have contracted the respiratory ailment and 308 residents have died, including longtime community leader, and former councilman, Ed Cotton and Eastside High School Principal of Operations Dr. Gerald Glisson. Paterson Police Officer Francesco Scorpo succumbed to the illness on April 12.

Reflecting on all the lives lost, Sayegh paused for a moment before telling TAPinto Paterson “the damage done by their losses is irreparable, but our resolve to defeat this enemy is indefatigable.”

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Acknowledging that there was no “roadmap” or “playbook” when it came to the initial response to the global pandemic, Sayegh gave credit to several members of his inner circle, including most notably Fire Chief Brian McDermott, for their “24-7” commitment to restoring health back to Paterson.

“Our first responders have proven again that they are the best in the nation, our health department has gotten national recognition for their efforts at contact tracing,” he said, again pausing, before adding that “it is however our residents that deserve the most credit.”

With Eastside Park and the Great Falls National Park officially reopened on Friday, and a loosening of restrictions on group gatherings by Governor Phil Murphy, a return to “normalcy” is on the horizon, Sayegh said with a hint of optimism.

However, he added, “we have to continue to toe the line on measures that we believe will bring us back to full health in our community,” and then, he said, “we can focus on our long term economic health of Paterson.”

In addition to continuing to practice social distancing and enhanced health measures, Sayegh said that Paterson is currently on phase four of a six-phase plan to continue expanding testing for Paterson residents. "First responders came first so that we could keep them on the frontline, and then we moved to private testing at two sites, and a partnership with the Paterson Housing Authority to look after our senior citizens," Sayegh said. With free testing currently available for all residents at four sites across Paterson, Sayegh shared his hope that additional announcements will be forthcoming on an expanded relationship with St. Joseph's Health and, finally, the launch of a mobile testing unit.

“This isn’t the first time Paterson has been down on the mat,” Sayegh said, perhaps channeling his good friend Ed Cotton who refereed some of professional boxing’s biggest matches. “But we are ready to go the distance against coronavirus, and we will come out with our hands, hearts, and heads held high.”

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