Today, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball marked the one-year anniversary of Howard County’s first COVID-19 case and released the HoCo RISE Collaborative Report, outlining recommendations and a path forward for continued response and recovery from the pandemic. County Executive Ball launched the Collaborative in November 2020 and charged the 50 members to provide key recommendations in five areas: Public Health Response, Government Response, Jobs and the Economy, Education and Workforce, and Family Opportunities. Photos of the event can be found here. Video can be found here. To read the full report, please click here 

“The devastation, loss, and trauma, from this pandemic will reverberate through generations,” said Ball. “With all the challenges of the past year, we know that this moment calls for reflection, and to find the opportunities to improve and move forward stronger, together. Stakeholders from around our County met my ambitious goal to produce recommendations for these areas in 100 working days. Thank you to former County Executive Ken Ulman, our workgroup chairs, members, and all our staff who dedicated their time to this vital report. I’m positive that by working together, we will rise.”  

“Thank you to the County Executive for having the forethought during this moment, to bring together a group of staff and residents across the public and private sector to address the challenges we’re facing right now, but also in the future,” said Ken Ulman, Chair of the HoCo RISE Collaborative. “Thank you to everyone who spent time and energy on this report. These recommendations are intended to move Howard County forward, so that we come out of this pandemic in a stronger and more equitable way.”    

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The Collaborative included an extensive group of stakeholders, who provided immediate response suggestions and recommendations for the long-term. The completed report includes an overview of the COVID-19 crisis in Howard County, and recommendations based on the current outlook. Given the fluidity of the situation, County Executive Ball and Chair Ken Ulman dialogued throughout the development of recommendations, and Chair Ulman relayed recommendations that did not have to wait for the development and implementation of the report.   

“Our recommendations center on steps that the County can take to increase vaccine acceptance, with particular emphasis in communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” said Dr. Elizabeth Kromm, Vice President of Population Health and Advancement at Howard County General Hospital and Public Health Response Workgroup Chair. “Key recommendations are already being implemented – the communication steering committee is already up and running, and outreach efforts are underway to these communities. COVID has shown us many things, including the importance of a strong public health infrastructure and a well-equipped local health department.”  

“This past year has challenged all of governance, every aspect in every way,” said Lonnie Robbins, Howard County Government Chief Administrative Officer and Government Response Workgroup Chair. “I’m pleased that we developed recommendations to keep us evolving and modernized. It was important to me that our workgroup members recommend both what we need to adopt, and what we need to leave behind, so that we can more adequately address the needs of Howard County’s employees and residents facing this pandemic.” 

“Perhaps the most significant finding from this process is that it demonstrates how interconnected we all are,” said Marcellous Frye, Economic Development Authority Board member and Jobs and Economy Workgroup Chair. “While each workgroup had its specific issues to examine and provide recommendations, our entire community truly is a collaboration and the better we work together, the better our community becomes.” 

“The pandemic has greatly accelerated the pace of change due to the advances in technology, such as AI and automation, and the advances in infrastructure, such as 5G, that rapidly changed the nature of the jobs we have today,” said Minah Woo Associate Vice President, Continuing Education/Workforce Development at Howard Community College and Education and Workforce Workgroup Chair. “The post-pandemic world will require everyone to embrace the concept of lifelong learning, to continuously engage in training to learn new evolving skills to be relevant and to thrive in this new workplace. Creative, outside-the-box solutions, such as apprenticeships and work-based learning partnerships, will provide a pathway to those who previously could not access them.” 

“It was an honor to serve as the Family Opportunities Workgroup chair and collaborate with a team that didn’t just identify solutions to address Howard County’s immediate food, housing, transportation, child care, and digital equity challenges, but also made recommendations for sustainable and long-term change,” said Shonte’ Eldridge, Executive Government Advisor for Amazon Web Services and Family Opportunities Chair.  

Top 15 Recommendations of the Collaborative  

Public Health Response 

1.    Establish a COVID-19 Vaccine Communications Steering Committee 

2.    Create and implement Vaccine Equity Outreach plan. 

3.    Recruit trust brokers and other key endorsers, provide training and necessary supports and manage to outcomes for vaccine outreach. 

Government Response 

4.    Implement a digital visitor system. 

5.    Reduce fleet footprint to accommodate telework for the long-term. 

6.    Incorporate softphones to all County employees’ computers to enable enhanced remote business.  

Jobs and the Economy 

7.    Modernize and streamline government processes that ensures that the County remains business friendly. 

8.    Establish an “opt-in” text message alert system for businesses to receive important information regarding any new changes with the County that may significantly affect their organizations. 

9.    Establish more applications (apps) that connect residents to local businesses.  

Education and Workforce 

10. Collaborate across industry sectors to generate an inventory of available training programs to identify gaps, duplications, and opportunities. 

11. Leveraging industry data, retrain individuals who lost their jobs during the pandemic into new occupations. 

12. Evaluate post-COVID-19 data to expand a pipeline for community college/career school training and workforce system in emerging areas of occupational need. 

Family Opportunities 

13. Create a one source landing page/flier translated into multiple languages for resources that contain food service location, times, and types of food to assist families. 

14. Provide targeted support and incentives to close the digital divide and create a new long-term roadmap to meaningfully increase digital inclusion in Howard County. 

15. Increase additional forms of transportation to vaccine clinics for those with significant barriers  

To read the full report, please click here. 

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Scott E