County Executive Steuart Pittman Virtual Town Hall Remarks on Covid-19 4.4.20

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Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman hosts 4th virtual town hall for information on Covid-19.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman hosts 4th virtual town hall for information on Covid-19.

by Steuart Pittman

April 4, 2020:

Here we are. Week 4. COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall #4.

I am not going to review, as I did last week, all of the creative work that our county departments are doing to serve our residents. You can sort through all of that yourself by going to aacounty.org/coronavirus.

I do, however, want to thank all county employees. They are truly dedicated public servants, and I will continue to thank them every chance I get. 

On that note, I want to give a special thanks to the people you are about to hear from.

Our County Health Officer, Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, is the Commander in this battle. His work, and the work of his Health Department team will save a lot of lives.

Our Schools Superintendent George Arlotto is overseeing an extraordinary effort to deliver the education that our kids need without bringing them to school. I can think of nobody better equipped to take on that challenge, but he’ll be the first to tell you that it’s our teachers who will be the real heroes, as they always are.

I’m also thrilled to have Christine Feldman here to talk about how our libraries are continuing to educate and engage our residents of all ages, and to boost morale countywide.

While I’m thanking people, I especially want to thank everybody who works in health care, particularly those who work in our hospitals. You are the soldiers in this battle and we will forever be indebted to you for your service. We must protect you, as you protect us.

And finally, I want to thank community leaders. Last week I was asked at this town hall what people could do to help their neighbors. I went back to our Community Engagement and Constituent Services staff (we call them CECS) and asked the same question. The next day they launched a survey asking community leaders what they are doing. The response was overwhelming. Some told stories of volunteer networks, and others asked for ideas so that they could do more. 

We’ll be putting out best practices, and offering tools to help you engage, but it’s up to you. When we say that Anne Arundel County is the Best Place For All, it’s more of a challenge than a fact. I challenge every one of you to make your community, or your neighborhood The Best Place For All. And please let our CECS staff know what you’re doing by contacting them at CECS@aacounty.org.

On that note, I’ve noticed some very good things happening.

It seems to me that people are being a little kinder to each other lately?

Have you gone outside and walked around the block, just to get out?

Have you talked to a neighbor down the street for the very first time? 

Have you felt the urge to ask someone you really don’t like, how they are doing? 

Have you been thinking about the 9000 people in our county who filed for unemployment last week?

That’s the kind of thing I’m seeing all over this county. 

I did a shift here at the Call Center this week. The number is 410-222-0600. It’s the place you should call, whether you need help or want to help. Everyone I spoke to was very understanding and very appreciative of anything that we could do for them.

I also met this week with county employees:  at a waste management facility, at a park, and at our new Donation Management Center. All of their jobs have changed in some way, and all of them are taking a risk by doing their essential jobs. But none complained. They all showed that strength that comes from having a purpose.

I spoke on Monday by teleconference with the leaders of our hospitals. They are planning a 60% expansion of bed capacity and training their staff to manage a patient surge beyond what any have ever seen.

But they were fearlessly and methodically preparing their teams. 

Some of us are frustrated, and also afraid. How could the federal government have failed so miserably in its obligation to prepare for a pandemic like this when so many experts were demanding action? 

Why can’t I get tested? How will I stay in my house when the bank’s forbearance ends in 60 or 90 days and I’ve lost my income? How will I be able to reopen my business at the end of all this? How can I take care of my kids, or my parents, if I get sick?

These are very good questions for which there are no good answers.

But they are not new questions. They are the same questions that millions of American families have been asking themselves even in what most of us experienced as good economic times. 

What has changed with the coronavirus is that many more people are in trouble. 

What’s changed is that nobody can ignore the suffering. 

The Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County publishes a report called Poverty Amidst Plenty. It is about poverty in our county that most people didn’t see, and that government usually ignores. 

What we’re looking at now is more like Poverty Amidst Everyone. 

Reverend Steve Tillett of Broadneck Asbury United Methodist Church said last night on the Feed Anne Arundel Virtual Benefit Concert that unlike before, now we are all in this together. 

I think he’s right. That’s why Congress was able to unanimously pass the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES Act) that expands unemployment benefits and puts money where it’s needed to rebuild our economy after this crisis – from the bottom up.

That’s why the Republican Governor and the Democratic General Assembly were able to draft and pass state legislation to help working families and small businesses in record time before early adjournment. 

That’s why I was able to call Councilman Nathan Volke, a vocal opponent of my budget last year,  and seek his advice a few days ago on how best to build a balanced county budget for FY21 in the face of drastically lower revenue projections.

So, my message today, is that this truly is our moment to be better than we’ve ever been. To make peace with our adversaries, give thanks for the grace that connects us, and build community everywhere.

Even if that means doing things that just don’t feel normal.

I will now make a very public step into the not-so-normal.

You heard yesterday that the CDC is now encouraging us to cover our faces when we are in public. 

My mother-in-law, like so many otherwise and caring people around the world was a step ahead of the government. She found some old quilting material, sat down at her sewing machine, and created this. Thank you, Sue.

I hope you’ll participate in this new fashion trend. It is all a part of acting as though all of us may be carriers of COVID-19. Stay at home, wash your hands, get plenty of sleep, eat well, and exercise. We need you to be healthy and resilient.

Posted on County Site: 04/05/2020

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