On Wednesday, Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly announced on Facebook that he and his wife were dealing with the coronavirus and the city’s many residents were happy to hear that they had recovered from the terrible virus, safe and strong.
“Although I am a public figure, I am someone, like many of you, who values personal and family privacy,” O’Reilly said in a statement on the city’s Facebook page. “But I feel compelled to share my recent experience with you, because it may mirror your own challenges, or that of your loved ones.
“It also is a message of both caution and of optimism. As of April 28, I am recovered from COVID-19, as is my wife, Christina. We are very grateful to have made it through this illness, and now feel restored to our usual vitality.”
He added: “All along, I had been directing the city’s public safety operations, as well as all of our financial, information, maintenance and other efforts, while being isolated at home. I was participating in public meetings held electronically, and making decisions that were widely conveyed. But I am very thankful to be back in my office at the Dearborn Administrative Center and once again providing our hard-working city employees leadership onsite.”
Where was the mayor while the virus ravaged this community and turned life upside down? No one heard from this large city’s leader, even as others all over the world were mobilizing their administrations to respond to an unprecedented crisis, appearing in almost daily public addresses. The mayor certainly has some explaining to do about his absence and for not informing his residents that he himself had been ill with the virus.
While we understand that some people want to keep health matters private, public officials owe their constituents more transparency, especially at a time of crisis. Dearborn is not North Korea and the mayor isn’t Kim Jong-un. The mayor should have followed other public officials who personally dealt with this virus. Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul announced their infections to their constituents when they occurred, and so did U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Slideshow: Rapid COVID-19 testing at Dearborn Public Library (Photos – Imad Mohamad)
Detroit Police Chief James Craig announced his infection with the COVID-19 virus as soon as it happened. State Rep. Karen Whitsett out of Detroit and Dearborn made her struggle with the disease public. So did Democratic U.S. Reps. Nydia Velazquez from New York, Joe Cunningham from South Carolina and Ben McAdams from Utah.
As of Thursday, April 30, 74 Dearbornites had lost their lives to the virus, more than 650 had been infected and the city didn’t hear a word of condolences or comfort from Mayor O’Reilly.
City Council President Susan Dabaja, Council President Pro Tem Mike Sareini and Wayne County Commissioner Sam Baydoun, among others, had no clue that the mayor was battling the coronavirus. A City Council whose support the mayor is now counting on.
Many in the city have wondered about the mayor’s absence and have been confused by a lack of an official acknowledgment of it. If Mayor O’Reilly was transparent from the beginning, he would have helped people realize early on that coronavirus is among us, is very serious and that no one is immune from its effects. That would have been better leadership.