On Friday, April 17, we spoke with Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren about measures the Village is taking to protect residents, a tremulously successful fundraising campaign for PPE and ventilators, the Village’s innovative mask drive-thrus, and more.
The fundraising campaign you helped spearheaded for Stony Brook Southampton Hospital raised more than $300,000 in just 72 hours. Were you expecting that result?
JW: We were not. In fact, we were hoping maybe to get to $40,000 or $50,000. But we posted the GoFundMe page and we used our social media to promote it. One post led to the next and there were a lot of eyes on this GoFundMe page. What I liked most about it was if you look at who donated, you had a really good cross section of everybody. For every one person that donated thousands of dollars, there was a teacher, an every day resident, that donated $50 or $100 or $250. There are people really stepping up that were really donating probably a big portion of their annual salaries to us, to donate to this. Then we had other people call up that actually ended up donating to the Hamptons Health Society, not on the GoFundMe page, but just privately. One person, an anonymous person, actually said that she would match all the GoFundMe donations up to $100,000. Then there were other people that just wanted to donate anonymously and just donated straight to the Hamptons Health Society.
Not only was that used for ventilators that we were available to procure, but we used the surplus money to go purchase PPE for the Hospital, and to give out free 3-ply surgical masks to residents. We’re expecting a shipment of 1,500 gowns for Southampton Hospital. We’re going to donate it and then we’re getting a few more gowns, which we’ll donate to our police and first responders at the Village. Now that we raised enough money for ventilators, we were able to procure oxygen helmets and some additional PPE.
We’re going to do another fundraiser where we can purchase more PPE. Any surplus we could use for food donations and things like that as well. But there’s so many groups of people need. But, we’re also seeing a lot of people stepping up to participate in philanthropy and community service.
Will that fundraiser be on GoFundMe?
JW: We’ll do another GoFundMe. That was very effective because it was just an easy, accessible way for people to donate. It’s tough when you have small nonprofit organizations that might not have the technology or infrastructure to be accepting direct donations, even though most do, a few don’t. So sometimes GoFundMe is easiest. Plus, it’s nice to be able to keep track live of how the donations are going. With that fundraiser we did, the more donations that were coming in, the more excited people were to participate. It was really a good community wide effort. It was a very inclusive fundraiser.
The Village has been partnering with Hamptons Health Society for these measures. How did that partnership come to be? And could you speak a bit about that organization?
JW: It’s not really the Village per se; it’s really just the volunteers and people participating. Dr. Peter Michalos [founder of The Hamptons Health Society] is a local doctor in Southampton. He’s been doing this for a while. Now, it’s related to the Coronavirus, but in the past, it was working to get equipment for a cardiac patient, for example. I was just fortunate enough to meet Dr. Michalos a couple of years ago, we built a good relationship. He’s very well liked and respected. He is kind of more of a behind the scenes person and he’s really stepped up. He just has been non stop working on procuring whatever the Hospital needs and getting it quickly, raising the money for it and then dropping it off at the Hospital. So, it’s just a relationship that was built over time and we got to know each other and like each other. Definitely a good relationship to have.
Some of the 3-ply surgical masks were recently distributed via a drive-thru. Why did you feel that it was important for the Village to provide masks and when will a date be set for the next drive-thru?
JW: We’re going to do another drive-thru. People were emailing the Mayor’s office and messaging us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. So many messages were coming in and so many emails were coming in, we were having volunteers dispatch them and drop them off at people’s doorsteps, contactless. It got to the point that so many people were requesting it and we were happy to provide it that we thought maybe doing the drive-thru was a faster and easier way to get people PPE and masks. We did one on Wednesday, April 15. The beginning, it was crazy and it kind of leveled off, but there was a lot of demand. So we did another one and the second one we did really just took off. We’ll definitely do another one, we actually ordered more masks through the Hamptons Health Society that will come hopefully in a week to ten days, but we still have more coming in because we anticipated this was going to happen. I also went and issued an executive order regarding mandating masks in supermarkets and grocery stores. But, we think that the New York State Health Department and the Commissioner Howard Zucker took notice of our executive order. Then, days later, actually mandated it in public, but we were prepared because we’re being very proactive. We had reached out to get these masks weeks earlier. So they were already on their way over. We had prepared for this. So when the Governor’s executive order came in, we were being proactive ourselves. We just figured that this would happen.
The other thing is that Dr. Michalos and I were looking at what other countries are doing very effectively. When you look at South Korea, when you look at the Czech Republic, when you look at Hong Kong, everyone is wearing face coverings or masks there. In South Korea in particular, in the Czech Republic in particular, that was very effective. If you look at South Korea, they have a population of I think 45 million people or so, they had less deaths from the Coronavirus with a population of 45 million people than all of Suffolk County. They also had rapid testing available, they were also prepared because of SARS and MERS and H1N1. They were prepared because of other pandemics they had experienced, but also the government in South Korea actually sends every resident three masks per week in the mail or they can go pick it up. We thought that was a great thing that South Korea was doing. We wanted to do something similar in the Village. Of course, this is being paid for by a nonprofit organization, no expense to taxpayers, but we wanted to potentially emulate what South Korea was doing.
(Note: Southampton Village will be distributing masks on Wednesday, April 22, from 4 to 6 p.m., at Southampton High School in the Narrow Lane Parking lot. Masked will be placed underneath windshield wipers for contactless delivery.)
Each Friday at 7 p.m., community members show their support for healthcare workers, first responders, and essential workers during a parade of cars past the Hospital. Could you speak about that initiative and what it has been like to show appreciate for those on the front lines?
JW: It’s really a great celebration and appreciation of all of our health care workers, our first responders, and the essential employees. Each Friday night is getting bigger and bigger. We’ve all been going down, if you can’t go down, everyone’s been clapping on their porches. Every day you’ve got the health care workers, the doctors and nurses. I’d like to personally give a real special shout out to the respiratory therapists who are on the front lines. Everyone’s really on the front lines there. They’re putting their lives at risk, they also come home and there’s not even enough testing, so they come home to their families not even knowing if they’ve contracted the Coronavirus and put their families at risk as well. The health care workers really deserve the most appreciation from this. And I also think that we have younger generations that are inspired by our healthcare workers, because you don’t really hear so many people anymore saying I want to be a doctor. Maybe 10/20 years ago you heard that. But, people want to be different professions now. So, I hope this also inspires a new generation of younger people who want to be healthcare workers, because the Village, as a small community, or the state and country really need as many people who are interested in medicine, in healthcare, in public service and even more so in biotechnology research and things like that. I really hope this inspires a new generation of healthcare leaders.
If someone’s interested in participating in the parade of cars, is there a meeting point and time?
JW: Generally people have just been showing up. When I went last Friday, we just went down to Meeting House Lane [in Southampton]. Again, first responders, everyone’s stepping up to direct traffic.
Are you working on any additional measures?
JW: I was talking to the Town Supervisor, Jay Schneiderman, and we both agree that there’s a big focus, a necessary focus, on making sure we take care of the healthcare workers. But what another serious issue is, which is developing everyday right now, there’s a lot of people, especially on the East End, who work in the service industry, who are either losing their jobs, losing their hours, or losing their tips and other wages. There’s also already a homeless community that we have on the East End that really people don’t think we do have, because they envision the Hamptons as an affluent community, but there’s actually a homeless community that’s just as big as anywhere else. There’s a number of organizations that support homelessness – like Maureen’s Haven. So, we want to work together to essentially step up food pantries, partner with local organizations like Heart of the Hamptons. There’s a building on David Whites Lane and County Road 39 – a vacant building with office space. If need be I can issue an executive order to change the zoning on that to accommodate a food pantry. But, really, we’d like to turn that into a big pantry to help people in need right now.
There’s just a lot of people who maybe have gotten by the first week or two of this shutdown of thousands of non-essential businesses. The stimulus checks, they’re more survival checks, that are going out from the federal government are helpful, but that’s definitely not enough. The PPP going to small businesses, also helpful, but not enough. As a local community, we’re going to need to step up to really make sure that those in need at least are able to come and get food or shelter.
There’s been some talk about re-opening New York State. Do you think the East End/and Southampton is ready?
JW: The reality is that Dr. Fauci said the old normal – going to concerts, going to sporting events – that’s not going to be available for a very long time. We don’t know when that’s going to happen. We might, at some point, be able to return to people in a small setting. But, before that’s going to happen, and in my opinion, also kind of what I’m hearing from the CDC and medical communities, before there could be a re-opening what I think is critical is we really need to have rapid viral testing and/or antibody testing, and we need additional treatments that are available.
The reason why we’re all staying inside and the reason why we’re flattening the curve is because the hospital, and our hospital has done an excellent job – Stony Brook Southampton Hospital has really stepped up – is we just simply don’t have the capacity to treat an additional apex – or worse, a second wave. So, when there is testing available, that people know whether or not they have Coronavirus, that’s when we get a return to normal. That’s really the limiting factor, coupled with face covers, coupled with using social distancing as a tool when you can. But, what they are able to do again, pointing out South Korea, they had the testing available, so anybody who tested positive can then go in quarantine for 14 days and then everyone knows. Everyone knows if they have Coronavirus or not, and if you don’t have Coronavirus, then you can go in public. If you do, you need to stay at home. Until we can differentiate between those who have it, and those who do not, and those who are asymptomatic, and those who just are going about their business, there’s simply no way, in my opinion, to re-open. Otherwise there will be a second wave, as we’ve seen from the 1917/1918 Spanish Flu. The second and third wave were actually worse than the first.
To learn about the latest happenings, follow Mayor Warren on Instagram @MayorWarren, Twitter @MayorJesse, Facebook at Facebook.com/mayorjessewarren, or visit www.southamptonvillage.org.