MontClairVoyant: A Prickly Panorama of the Pandemic

It’s almost impossible to comment a lot on the unfunny COVID-19 when you’re a humor columnist. But the pandemic is worsening again in Montclair and elsewhere, so it’s time for you to bite the bullet. Am I clear?

Dentist Seeking More Business

I have no idea if you’re clear. Get a COVID test and find out.

In Montclair, cumulative cases sadly rose from 769 on November 11 to 860 on November 17, according to the township website. Your reaction?

Up, Up, and Astray

The website’s look is basic yet functional.

I wasn’t seeking your reaction to the website’s design. This past Monday, November 16, Montclair announced a “COVID-19 Recovery Task Force.” A good idea?

May the Force Be With You

Yes, and our town’s leaders have addressed the coronavirus crisis in other ways, too. But I wish there had been a more vocal, more comprehensive response the past few months. I also wish plastic LEGO people acted in film versions of Henry James’ most literary novels.

And local non-government entities continue to do wonderful work during the pandemic — with one example the Northeast Earth Coalition, Montclair Mutual Aid, and First Congregational Church starting a “Little Free Food Pantry” on church grounds. Comment?

Pantry Pride

Reminds me of the “Little Free Library” concept. If those two great ideas ever merge, we could have “Little Free Edible Books.”

Gives a new meaning to three square meals a day — or, rather, rectangular meals when people eat books. Can you name another free food effort?

To Feed Those in Need

Former councilwoman Dr. Renee Baskerville is among those involved in a food-box giveaway scheduled for tomorrow, November 20, from 3-6 at 328 Orange Road West. That’s in the South End business district, which is closer to the South Pole than Montclair State.

You’ve previously mentioned the massive pandemic-time efforts of Toni’s Kitchen. What’s the latest?

New Nutrition

More than 7,000 pounds of food was collected from 113 Montclair and Glen Ridge homes on November 1 to restock TK’s shelves. I’d tell you how many ounces 7,000 pounds is, but my phone calculator is in shock after trying to make a Trump tweet’s “facts” add up.

What’s been your family’s coronavirus experience?

Pry Like an Eagle

My adult daughter (Montclair High Class of 2007) and her husband were quite sick with COVID this spring but recovered. They live in Manhattan — which is shaped like Glen Ridge but is bigger, I think.

You don’t say. What about your middle-school daughter?

Pry Pry Again

She was recently near several people who tested positive for COVID, so we got her tested, too. Fortunately, the results came back negative on November 16 — significantly, the 100th anniversary of Qantas Airways.

Um…what’s the connection between the coronavirus and that Australian airline?

The Seekers (of Answers)

Actor Tom Hanks got COVID while in “The Land Down Under” and flew back after he recovered. You didn’t expect him to walk, did you?

Because of the pandemic’s upsurge, Montclair’s public-school instruction will remain all-remote for the time being. Have any students hallucinated from looking at screens so much?

Long, Strange Trip

Some bleary-eyed students reported seeing Hanks as Forrest Gump meet even more celebrities: Montclair’s teachers.

Sports teams have continued to play during the pandemic, and Montclair High’s female and male soccer squads have had particularly amazing seasons. Try to relate THAT to Tom Hanks!

Goal Models

Wilson the soccer ball was a character of sorts in Hanks’ “Cast Away” movie, which gave that ball the confidence to perform during the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence’s November 7 “ShowUP” event. Wilson sang “Kicks.”

The long-ago Paul Revere & the Raiders hit? Don’t think so. But I do know that the virtual MFEE event raised nearly $65,000. What do you think of THAT?

Rose in Cash

“That” is a useful word. Also useful are masks and social distancing. Masks do fog up my glasses, so don’t ask me if I’m clear.



Dave Astor, author, is the MontClairVoyant. His opinions about politics and local events are strictly his own and do not represent or reflect the views of Baristanet.



Click here to sign up for Baristanet's free daily emails and news alerts.


  1. I sincerely hope the task force can make the Council modify the free meter parking. We are facing the risk of dramatic COVID case counts here. We have premium on-street spaces that will be used for 2-hr parking. Is that how we want to use these spaces?


  2. And Small Business Saturday???? Really? I understand closing schools to get ahead of the spread, but now we want people to congregate and shop? In both cases, we are going for economic mitigation. Ok. It’s a choice. But, I hope parents of students now get it.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Frank. In some ways, there’s not much any single town’s officials can do. But, at minimum, it would be/would’ve been nice if the current and previous mayors would hold/had held Zoom press conference-type events several days a week with COVID updates and info. (I realize being mayor is a part-time job with part-time pay, so maybe another high Montclair official could handle something like that.)

    Also, while perhaps it would’ve been futile, did Montclair officials help local businesses try to get federal relief money earlier in the year when that money was available? Officials might have been involved in that kind of coordination; I’m not sure.

    I hear you about the dangers of people congregating and shopping, but in order to keep businesses from going under I can see encouraging the patronizing of those businesses to some extent — while of course requiring masks and social distancing.

  4. Dave,
    We share similar views. The goal after the first surge was to get ahead of the next surge…and we had 9 months to do so. Without adequate testing, not opening schools to indoor instruction was a no brainer. They should be shut until we are well along flattening the curve. It is that simple.

    We don’t have anywhere near a level adequate testing in Montclair or the State. Ask our Health Department. You can disregard what the Governor is saying (or not saying) about he level of testing. NYC schools shut down not for cases, but because of lack of testing. A rule of pandemic leadership is being a straight-shooter as much as possible.

    Finally, I am of the opinion that income producing activities should be prioritized over educational, social and religious activities. Again, in chaos, look for simplicity in the short term. But, prioritizing income producing activities can never dilute the COVID protocols when facing a next to exponential amount of community spread. So, bringing everyone out to shop Saturday afternoon in Upper Montclair business district after a reclusive Thanksgiving, is pretty inconsistent.

    I can guarantee you I’m not shopping local businesses in person on Small Business Saturday. But, if the Council still wants to do this thing, then close off street sections, create one day pickup zones with the metered spaces. Ya know, plan it, design it. Having a foot traffic, free-for-all is not good retail. It is selfish retail. And that is on the business district leaders.

  5. Frank, I like the idea in your last paragraph.

    As for not-enough testing and other COVID-era problems, a lot of that can be laid at the feet of Trump’s pathetic response to the pandemic, not enough/no second round of federal relief, the very problematic/inequitable U.S. healthcare system, etc. Those things obviously/ultimately have a big impact on what individual towns can and cannot do.

    In Montclair, non-government entities have certainly excelled this year in getting food to people who need it; many kudos to them for that!

    Finally, in retrospect, bringing students to Montclair’s various public schools for some outdoor learning when the weather was warmer in September and October would have been worth a try.

  6. Yes, the food distribution execution seems to be Montclair’s biggest accomplishment. So many different organization and just individuals of all ages contributing. The Council leadership was very strong off the mark on the food insecurity initiative. I think municipally we should be doing more, e.g. funding, logistics. Still, kudos to both the outgoing Council and this Council.

    Yes, the failure of this Administration is well documented. However, the CDC & FEMA deserve special recognition for a long pattern their own failures & of their own doing. FEMA got its act together. The CDC is still really bad; I would call them institutionally broken. This means they are functionally broken.

    A pandemic preparedness to the CDC is the same as nuclear war preparedness to our military. Hopefully our military has a better grasp on their responsibilities than the CDC.

    What a combination – Trump & the CDC.

  7. You’re right, Frank — food-distribution execution in Montclair has been absolutely stellar, on the non-governmental level with some help from Montclair’s government. If everything could only work that way…

    And, yes, Trump is not the only person to blame at the federal level in terms of response to the pandemic.

    One problem with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s response has been the Trump administration’s unceasing efforts to politicize things and try to prevent CDC decisions from being made strictly on a medical and scientific basis.

  8. Dave,

    The CDC lost all credibility back in March. They said it was not necessary to wear a mask. They knew the science. The science was common knowledge. They are as much responsible for the additional, needless deaths as Trump and our Legislative branch. Mo masks. The funny part was when the CDC just this month came out and said that studies show masks are also effective protecting the wearers. Really? You scientists figured that out all on your own? Wow, I am impressed.

  9. Do you remember the infamous ‘desktop simulation’ the Obama administration ran 18 months before Trump? Maybe the NYT and The Washington Post should get off their rear ends, put their books on pause, and actually do some journalism. Some writing that gives its readers some context.

    This is their blind spot. It’s exacerbated because they no longer pursue high journalistic standards. It’s totally unprofitable. Now their standards are of the lowest common denominator in search of every buck they can find.

    I don’t blame the reporters with what the NYT pays them. But jeez, why should I read your books? You compromise your standards one hand and then try to sell a higher standard on the other. A little honesty would be refreshing.

  10. Frank, granted that the CDC hasn’t acquitted itself well in every instance, but it hasn’t been consistently wrong about, and dismissive of, the pandemic like Trump has.

    Re The New York Times and The Washington Post: I have mixed feelings about those newspapers (they’re both certainly not as liberal as the right claims), but they’ve each done some excellent journalism during this COVID year. The books written by their reporters and columnists? Some have been better than others. As for pay, NYT salaries are pretty good. My daughter is a full-time reporter there and is paid well despite being one of the youngest journalists on the staff. It helps that the paper is unionized.

  11. My next favorite paragraph, immediately after my favorite is:
    (A recent employee survey for the first time asked C.D.C. employees whether they were considering leaving the agency, and whether their job satisfaction had changed during the pandemic.)

    OK, maybe the editor might have made a suggestion on the purpose of this paragraph. Maybe ask someone what the results of the survey showed? Also, is it newsworthy that a survey asked these standard questions? I don’t think so. Did the reporter bother to ask who was running the survey? That would have been newsworthy. Nope. Too bad, it is interesting.

  12. Frank, Trump meddled with and harmed the reputation of the CDC to try to make himself look better, like he meddled with and harmed the reputations of various other agencies to try to make himself look better.

    And, yes, a number of stories in The New York Times and other newspapers could be written and structured better. Tight deadlines are one of the reasons for that. And the Times is better than most other U.S. dailies.

  13. For just your edification, you should ask your daughter to ask the reporter who did the CDC employee survey.

    No worries. WAPO will run that one down because there is a story there. The NYT can said say it was first.

  14. Dave,

    You know this is all in good fun, right? In that spirit, I ask you to step back and consider….

    Why would the CDC leadership, subjected to the oppressive head of the executive branch, authorize an employee survey on how they feel or may be driven to do?

    Do you think the NYT editor caught this, let’s call it a non-contributing factual detail to their story that Trump is driving the CDC’s lack of performance? So, the NYT is saying the CDC leadership, in spite of all that unrelenting WH pressure, decided to risk it all to conducti an employee survey whether the pandemic affected morale?

    I’m just having fun with the NYT ex-pat outpost here. FYI, I don’t recall the NYT using parenthesis in the good old days. Brackets yes, parentheses, no.

  15. I’m truly curious if the CDC did the survey in the middle of the 1st surge, during the Summer migration West, or during this 2nd surge. I’ve never heard a call for ‘all hands are on deck’ combined with a call to please complete & return the employee survey (your opinion is important to management).

  16. Control & Prevention? No way! The CDC should (must?) have follow-up employee surveys so we can all see the progress – on morale (& retention!!)- the CDC has made. This is some real important stuff. They need to track change over periods. They have to follow science. Maybe they could do a post-Xmas survey – say Jan 10-15?

Comments are closed.