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Submitted by St. Mary’s County Commissioner Eric Colvin
“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” -Abraham Lincoln
No one wants to see a global pandemic or crisis of any kind hit our community, but a beautiful thing happens when our community is faced with a crisis–we see people rising up to meet the challenge and there is a genuine desire to help one another. As an elected official I have been able to see the best side of our community. Countless emails and messages expressing concern for vulnerable members of our population like the homeless or the Amish, and numerous requests for how citizens can help. Not only that, but I have seen local government working at its best, how local government should work. I have participated in Federal level conference calls of local government officials and watched with pride as Governor Hogan takes the necessary steps to control this epidemic, but I’ve had a first-hand seat to see local government excelling.
St. Mary’s County declared the State of Emergency before the virus hit our county in order to be fully prepared. As part of this, the Emergency Operations Center began meeting, and this included leadership from various county departments, the Health Department, Sheriff’s Office, State Troopers, Department of Social Services, the hospital, the School System, Fire and EMS first responders, and other critical stakeholders. Sitting in on these daily meetings I have seen incredible ideas brought forward, resources willingly and openly shared, and vital planning steps being taken. I sat in a room with these amazing leaders and listened to press conferences from Governor Hogan to find out the new direction at the same time as everyone else, and then watched in amazement as the Executive Orders from the state were implemented at a local level. No one panicked, no one broke down. Everyone performed their jobs with the foremost thought in their mind of “what is best for our citizens and our community?”
But the government cannot solve these problems by itself–it takes a country/state/community/people with a desire to fix the problem and move on to better days. And I’ve seen it. This crisis has been a transparent crisis; all of the information has been shared as soon as it is available and, even though the information changes rapidly, people are aware of the status. And they want to help. Local businesses have kept doors open to provide supplies that people need. Churches have adapted and met virtually. Local engineers have developed face mask templates that can be 3-D printed and prototypes for emergency ventilators. Hotels have offered emergency medical overflow space. Donations, both from businesses and individuals have poured in. The need is still there, blood donations are needed nationally and if you are able to donate, please sign up with the Red Cross. Donations to charities working on the frontlines of this pandemic are still important– you can find a list of reputable charities through Governor Hogan’s Maryland Unites website. Even our local Amish and Mennonite community has requested to help out, and sewing patterns for handmade face masks have been provided to them.
Cooperation is the key to success. None of us can predict the future, but continued cooperation between all levels of government, businesses, non-profits, education, and citizens will help us to meet any new challenges as they emerge. And based on what I have seen so far, I have no doubts about our ability to succeed no matter what is thrown at us. Finally, stay informed…information is easily accessible and the needs are being made well known. Keep social distancing, but reach out to friends/family/neighbors and check-in; social distancing comes at a cost so take a few minutes and give someone a call to tell them you love them or you’re thinking of them. And thank our first-responders and healthcare workers. They are heroes walking among us and saving our lives! Pray for all of those working on the frontlines and for a quick resolution to this pandemic. It may get worse, but we will get through this and be a stronger community because of it!