FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) — Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner delivered the State of the County address virtually Thursday morning. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, she communicated the year’s highlights and ongoing priorities through a video which aired online.
“This year, 2020, has been a year of stress, anxiety, and frustration for a lot of people and I feel it,” Gardner said in an interview following the announcement. “It’s related to the pandemic, it’s related to the economy, it’s related to isolation, it’s related to politics.”
Therefore, for this year’s address, Gardner crafted a message of HOPE, meaning health, opportunity, prosperity, and equity.
The county has seen a spike in cases of COVID-19. On Thursday, a new record was set for the number of new cases per 100,000 people, and 81 new infections were reported in the last 24 hours.
Gardner highlighted the county-wide pandemic response which has included several testing sites, warehouses filled with PPE in anticipation of another wave, and partnerships with non-profit organizations for services like food distribution.
“And into the new year, 2021, that is going to transition into how we get the vaccine out to people,” Gardner said. “We’ll play a very big role with that through our health department as well as in partnership with Frederick Health Hospital so that will be ongoing.”
Transitioning to the message of opportunity, Gardner focused on education and recommitted to the promise of ending school overcrowding. School construction projects are ongoing in the Urbana, Linganore, and Frederick areas, and a new project will begin in 2021 in the Brunswick community.
Priority, she says, also lies in supporting students who have faced challenges through virtual learning. And speaking on prosperity, Gardener says the county welcomed 1200 new jobs in industries like food and manufacturing.
The county started the year with a 3 percent rate of unemployment that hit a high of 9.5 percent. Gardner says the county is currently reporting a 5.7 percent rate of unemployment.
“Fundamentally, we have a resilient economy and a diverse economy,” said Gardner. Equity will be a focus in light of social justice demonstrations that took place across the country and locally within the streets of Downtown Frederick. Gardner is committed to assembling a county staff that reflects the area’s diversity.
“We’re working on doing some things that will give people to believe, that we’re going to follow through, and some of it will take more time than others, but we’re going to keep marching forward,” Gardner explained. “That’s my commitment.”
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