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Health secretary: Local health officers merit Sun’s praises | READER COMMENTARY

The 2021 Marylanders of the Year are the 24 health officers from around the state, 13 of whom are pictured here. Front row, left to right: Letitia Dzirasa of Baltimore City, Laurence Polsky of Calvert County, Maura Rossman of Howard County and Sue Doyle of Carroll County. Middle row, left to right: Dianna Abney of Charles County, Lori Brewster of Wicomico County, Maria Maguire of Talbot County and Lauren Levy of Cecil County. Back row, left to right: Meena Brewster of St. Mary’s County, William Webb of Kent County, Gregory Branch of Baltimore County, Nilesh Kalayanaraman of Anne Arundel County and Roger Harrell of Dorchester County. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun).
The 2021 Marylanders of the Year are the 24 health officers from around the state, 13 of whom are pictured here. Front row, left to right: Letitia Dzirasa of Baltimore City, Laurence Polsky of Calvert County, Maura Rossman of Howard County and Sue Doyle of Carroll County. Middle row, left to right: Dianna Abney of Charles County, Lori Brewster of Wicomico County, Maria Maguire of Talbot County and Lauren Levy of Cecil County. Back row, left to right: Meena Brewster of St. Mary’s County, William Webb of Kent County, Gregory Branch of Baltimore County, Nilesh Kalayanaraman of Anne Arundel County and Roger Harrell of Dorchester County. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun). (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun)

I would like to commend The Baltimore Sun for recognizing Maryland’s 24 local health officers as the 2021 Marylanders of the Year (”2021 Marylanders of the Year: the state’s 24 health officers,” Dec. 26). Our health officers leading health departments in our 23 counties and the city of Baltimore are truly heroes on the front lines of this pandemic and have been for nearly two years now.

Despite unprecedented challenges, they have worked tirelessly — often seven days a week — to do their best to protect the lives of all Marylanders, often putting their own health and well-being on the line to do so. At the Maryland Department of Health, we have relied heavily on the skill, expertise and dedication of our health officers to help us fight COVID-19 by standing up testing centers, ramping up contact tracing, organizing vaccination clinics, educating the public about prevention protocols and much more. We could not have come as far as we have in battling this pandemic without their unwavering commitment and the experience that they bring to all of these endeavors.

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And, as The Sun aptly pointed out, while dedicating countless hours to the pandemic, other responsibilities and priorities have not disappeared, including providing routine childhood vaccinations, supporting those with substance use disorders and mental health issues, helping residents prevent or manage chronic diseases, supporting pregnant woman and healthy babies, addressing the needs of the medically fragile and vulnerable, as well as many more ongoing issues.

As we continue to forge ahead — combating spikes in cases, managing capacity in our hospitals, encouraging the unvaccinated to protect themselves and others by vaccinating, keeping children safe in schools and residents safe in congregate care settings, helping businesses remain open by employing established safety protocols — we cannot say enough or express adequate gratitude to these selfless individuals who have served our counties so well during these trying times.

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We applaud their efforts and will continue to work and collaborate with them to the best of our abilities at the Maryland Department of Health.

Dennis R. Schrader, Baltimore

The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Health.

Add your voice: Respond to this piece or other Sun content by submitting your own letter.

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