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Sen. J.B. Jennings: A year later, time to replace anger and fear of COVID-19 to move forward | COMMENTARY

One of a series of weekly commentaries from Harford County state legislators regarding the 2021 Maryland General Assembly session.

This month marks one full year since a state of emergency was declared in Maryland due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has taken unthinkable tolls on some. Lives and jobs have been lost, businesses have permanently closed and our everyday lives have been upended in a variety of ways that we never could have imagined.

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Simply put, the last year has been really hard. There’s no denying it. However, with the vaccine becoming more readily available and numbers trending in a more positive direction statewide, I think most would agree that there’s a renewed sense of optimism in the air that we’ve desperately needed for months.

Sen. J.B. Jennings is a Republican representing District 7 (Baltimore and Harford counties).
Sen. J.B. Jennings is a Republican representing District 7 (Baltimore and Harford counties). (Courtesy photo)

I say we breathe in the good for a change — even if we have to do it through a mask — and replace the anger and fear with hope as we look to a future of rebuilding together.

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Just think about how far we’ve come and the importance lessons we’ve learned in 12 short months. Not just with fighting the virus — which is a testament to our amazing healthcare infrastructure — but as individuals. Many people have channeled fear into helping others. I can’t tell you how many people reached out to me last spring when the world was completely off tilt, asking where they could donate items like hand-sewn masks, hand sanitizer, non-perishable foods and money to people in crisis despite their own needs.

People have become conscious of the world around them. A more civic-minded, well-informed citizenry will only result in better government accountability. How many parents can honestly say they knew the names of their school board members before now? Until COVID, a lot of people didn’t know which legislative or congressional district they lived in, and now they are emailing their elected officials on a weekly basis. I can attest that my inbox has never been fuller. Keep it up. We need to hear from you!

Think about how far we’ve come as families. There’s been a lot of togetherness over the last year, and while I’m sure it hasn’t always been pretty, it has reinforced that time is a gift.

Think about how far we’ve come as neighbors. We are finally acknowledging the true heroes of our communities: medical personnel, grocery and retail workers, waste management specialists, teachers and small businesses owners to name a few.

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Granted, there have been shortcomings. Schools are still not fully open despite recommendations from the medical community and millions of dollars in funding for safety measures, small businesses continue to needlessly suffer due to prolonged closures and restrictions and systems meant to serve people in their time of need have not measured up. Government can and should do better. It is crucial that we strike a healthy balance between public health and economic and personal vitality. All of us — citizens, businesses and elected officials — need to work together for a common-sense approach to living with COVID-19, not in fear of it.

We will always remember the victims and acknowledge the hardships that so many have faced over these last 12 months, no matter how great or small. But for today, let’s focus on that light at the end of the tunnel, take a collective deep breath, and vow to keep moving forward as a stronger, more united and better informed community.

J.B. Jennings is a Republican representing District 7 in the Maryland Senate.

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