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New report released with recommendations to help guide Howard County through post-COVID life

The HoCo RISE Collaborative report was released Monday with recommendations for how Howard County can recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement came on the one-year anniversary of the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the county.

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The recommendations from the report include establishing a COVID-19 Vaccine Communications Steering Committee, incorporating software for making telephone calls over the internet to all county employees’ computers to enable enhanced remote business, and evaluating post-COVID data to expand a pipeline for community college/career school training and workforce system in emerging areas of occupational need, among 12 others.

In November, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced the formation of the 50-person HoCo RISE Collaborative, which includes five independent workgroups that provided recommendations to the administration in five areas in terms of coronavirus recovery: jobs and the economy, workforce development, health care, quality of life and government response.

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“Throughout the winter surge, the HoCo RISE Collaborative met to develop and provide key recommendations to the county executive to ensure that every business, organization and resident can thrive in every setting, as Howard County responds and recovers from the pandemic,” the report reads.

“Top business leaders were working through this pandemic to help prepare our community for the future, including leaders from our critical health entities, the Howard County Health Department, the Howard County General Hospital and the Horizon Foundation.”

The other 12 recommendations from the collaborative include:

  • Create and implement a vaccine equity outreach plan
  • Recruit trust brokers and other key endorsers, provide training and necessary supports and manage outcomes for vaccine outreach
  • Implement a digital visitor system to increase the accuracy of contacting tracing of those who have been in and out of county buildings
  • Reduce footprint of county vehicles to accommodate telework for the long term
  • Modernize and streamline government processes that ensure the county remains business friendly
  • 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
  • Establish more apps that connect residents to local businesses
  • Collaborate across industries to generate an inventory of available training programs to identify gaps, duplications and opportunities
  • Leveraging industry data, retrain individuals who lost their jobs during the pandemic into new occupations
  • Create a one-source landing page translated into multiple languages for resources that contain food service locations, times and types of food to assist families
  • Provide targeted support and incentives to close the digital divide and create a new long-term road map to meaningfully increase digital inclusion
  • Increase additional forms of transportation to vaccine clinics for those with significant barriers

Ken Ulman, former Howard County executive, served as chair of the collaborative. Since the group’s formation, the group has advised Ball and others on the county’s response to COVID-19.

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“The devastation, loss and trauma from this pandemic will reverberate throughout generations,” Ball said at a news conference in Columbia on Monday. “Our health care workers and first responders, all of those who are deemed essential, have worked around the clock for a year.”

Since March 2020, there have been more than 16,000 coronavirus cases in the county and 223 deaths.

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