A COVID (warning) shot: Holy Name’s Maron concerned N.J., sector are not doing enough to prepare for next pandemic

Holy Name CEO Mike Maron has sounded the warning before. 

On March 14, 2020 — back when many in New Jersey and almost everyone in the country were still unsure how impactful COVID was going to be — his revelations about the conditions inside Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck (arguably the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S.) stunned the millions who read the story within the first 24 hours it was posted.

Maron instantly became a sought-after speaker in the national media. And, within days, Gov. Phil Murphy began shutting down the state.

The good news: There is no immediate threat of another pandemic. But, Maron said, the threat remains. Now is the time to prepare for it.

He said not enough is being done.

“When you look at all the lessons learned — and there was plenty of good and plenty of bad — not a lot has really sunk in and had an impact,” he said. “I think a lot of people are really just hoping COVID goes away. 

“We all want it to go away, but it would be foolish for us to stick our heads in the sand. The reality is, and the statistical probability is, that another pandemic of this magnitude — or, unfortunately, worse — will hit again. And not in 100 years from now, probably in our lifetime. We should be prepared.”


Maron offers two ways the state can be better prepared for the next pandemic.

Sharing information: Everyone from health systems to public health agencies needs to be on the same page.

“I think our surveillance systems need significant improvement,” he said. “We need to better technology to disseminate information through the industry — that’s critical,” he said. “We share a lot of information with the state, but the problem is, we don’t have the systems in place to share a lot of that information back.

“Within our public health system or provider system, there should be mechanisms. They’re there — they are just not robust enough. The technology’s there, but the desire’s been lacking. We really need to improve that.

“If you dial the clock back to February of 2020 — or even into December of 2019 — we knew something was going on. If we were more diligent in our early stages of surveillance, we probably would have responded faster, we would have geared up quicker.”

Supply chain: This is not just about stockpiling, Maron said. After all, what if we stockpile the wrong items? 

“This time, it was ventilators; the next time, it could be something else,” he said.

Maron said we need to make sure we’re taking care of what we have.

“The ventilators we got out of the national stockpile hadn’t been maintained,” he said. “All of their plastic circuits — and many of the things necessary to make them run — were all dried out and cracked. So, the ventilators didn’t work. The same thing happened with the N95s. They were in an unconditioned space. Many of them literally deteriorated when we took them out of the box. You would go to stretch the band around the mask, and it just fell apart.”

Price-gouging needs to be addressed, too, he said. 

“People who try to profit during a pandemic need to know they are breaking the law,” he said.


Getting the word out is not easy. 

The national media has long ago stopped calling Maron for comment.

Politicians? Who thinks COVID is a rallying point in an election year?

The state? You saw the $54.5 billion budget — there are plenty of items that have moved ahead of pandemic preparation.

Maron has to pick his spots. 

Last week, it was during a keynote address at the Quadrennial Convention at the International Longshoremen’s Association — the largest union of maritime workers in North America, one that was impacted greatly by the pandemic, losing many members due to a lack of understanding of how to handle the situation.

The first step, he told the crowd, is being honest.

“Let’s talk about ways we can improve the good, but — more importantly — alleviate the bad,” he said. “We don’t want to have to go through this again the same way. We all will deserve to be criticized if we don’t take to heart the lessons learned.”

Being burned out is not an excuse for inaction. 

“I get that everybody’s tired of COVID in the community at large — everybody is tired in our profession, too,” he said. “But, guess what: We have an obligation to act. And we’re going to feel a lot worse down the line if we let tiredness be that the card that says, ‘I’m not doing anything.’

“If we think the blame game was bad the first time around, imagine if this hits again three years with something similar or worse and we weren’t prepared.”


Maron feels it would be difficult for him — or anyone on the provider side — to drive this.

“You need the policymakers and the lawmakers and the public health officials to lead this reassessment,” he said. 

And it needs to be done now — before revisionist history sets in, he said.

History, after all, should be the driver of all of this.

“The last time this happened, we were looking back at the Spanish flu of 1918 in search of answers,” he said. “We owe it to those who lost their lives during COVID to make sure that our next responses is significantly better than what we did this go-around.”