In the reception area of Mayor Glen Gilmore's office in Hamilton Township, N.J., hangs a colorful poster from Mrs. Mehedin's first-grade class at Wilson Elementary. It shows 13 hand-colored "awards," each thanking Gilmore for providing the community of about 90,000 with parks, snowplows, garbage collection and the like. Soon the poster may have to be updated: THANK YOU FOR THE CIPRO.
Life in Hamilton changed on Oct. 13 when the tuxedo-clad mayor was diverted from a fund-raising event by news that the anthrax-tainted letter sent to NBC was postmarked Trenton. That was bad for the citizens of Hamilton: mail postmarked Trenton is actually processed in their hometown. It's a sore point that the mail is stamped with the name of the state capital, some 10 miles away. Gilmore spent the next few days passing on reassurances of public-health officials that the risk of exposure for Hamiltonians was "infinitesimal."
But on Oct. 18, it was confirmed that two New Jersey postal workers, one from Hamilton, had been infected with anthrax. Gilmore knew from sources at Hamilton's Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital that there was not enough Cipro on hand to treat hundreds of postal workers and that many area pharmacies had run out. When he found out that state officials were planning to advise all Hamilton postal workers to contact their doctors and seek antibiotics, he was appalled. "The decision is made that they have to start a seven-day prescription of Cipro to maybe save their lives," he said. "But they're told to talk to their personal physician, get a prescription and get it filled. On a Friday. Good luck."
Gilmore, a former paratrooper who has fed his jail inmates surplus army rations, is a man of action. So on the afternoon of Oct. 19, he and the hospital sent a Hamilton patrol car to pick up 18,000 Cipro pills from a supplier in south Jersey. It arrived back in Hamilton just as a news conference was being held to announce another case of anthrax. Knowing that the local hospital now had a stash on hand, Gilmore stepped to the microphone and told workers they could get free treatment in his township. Some 1,500 postal workers have since gone to Robert Wood Johnson for their Cipro. When the initial supply ran out on Tuesday, Senator Robert Torricelli helped speed a new shipment from the CDC. Gilmore and postal officials insisted late last week that the operation had been a team effort. Still, it was the mayor who received a standing ovation from postal workers last Thursday. And he continues to play an aggressive role on their behalf. When doctors discovered last week that two Hamilton employees had suspected cases of inhalation anthrax, postal workers were told they would have to take antibiotics for a full 60 days instead of seven. The orange plastic bottles of Cipro they had been given were no longer enough. On Friday another Hamilton police car headed south, to pick up a new supply.
--By Amanda Bower