As a sprawling health care system, Hackensack Meridian Health operates a variety of facilities across the state. But its roots are in Bergen County — the site of the earliest and one of the most deadly COVID-19 hotspots. While many New Jerseyans may be feeling optimistic that the end of the pandemic may be near, last March and April was truly a frightening period. As chief executive officer of HMH, Robert Garrett was in the middle of the early battle and now among the health care executives leading the effort to get vaccinations into as many arms as possible. In this edition of NJBIZ Conversations, Editor Jeff Kanige spoke with Garrett about how HMH responded in the first weeks of the outbreak, what the vaccination program will mean for the state’s residents over the next several months and how COVID-19 is prompting a long-overdue reassessment of the nation’s health care system. “I think we have to really take a hard look at our public health system in this country,” he said. “We literally don’t have a national public health system. We have 50 states that are doing their own thing in terms of public health and funding has been cut over generations. So looking at it from a national perspective and Hackensack Meridian — certainly, we want to contribute to this discussion — I think there needs to be a real [examination of] our national public health policies.” Watch the full interview HERE.