As the number of COVID-19 positive cases continue to rise, not only across the state and across the U.S., it can sometimes seem as if the information is overwhelming in terms of how this pandemic has and will affect each of us.
It is true that we are seeing community spread and that it is increasing. However, in comparison with other areas, Denton County has seen fewer cases and fatalities. I am proud of our Denton County residents who have taken personal responsibility and also been considerate of others throughout this year. Their actions and precautions have helped keep our cases lower than some other comparable counties. Let me be clear, one fatality is too many. But when we look at the overall numbers, Denton County has fared much better than in some areas across our state and the U.S.
As part of a vibrant area of growth, we have also seen a lower overall economic impact as well as a lower unemployment rate. Denton County continues to see ongoing economic development. Drive along any of our major thoroughfares, and you will see what I mean: construction of restaurants, retail shopping centers, and new housing of all types are ongoing. Even our Economic Development Department is seeing more activity than ever before with queries and calls. I am pleased the Denton County Commissioners Court awarded over $35 million of our federal funds for business grants to our local businesses that were closed, partially closed, or who had financial losses. This has helped stabilize our local economy.
I compiled a starter list, and I welcome your feedback on some additions.
Lessons learned: 2020
Plan for anything; it can happen. In mid-March, before anyone understood the scope of the pandemic, I remember one late night in particular at the county emergency command center when we were working on county pandemic plans at the same time our county was under a tornado warning.
Communicate, communicate and then, communicate again. We have done a lot of communicating on many platforms, but we can always do better.
Preserve for future reflection. Early on, I had our county historians compile accounts of how the 1918 influenza impacted the county. I was amazed at how we responded to that pandemic as well. From the beginning of the pandemic, I realized how important it would be to save all of the information related to the pandemic for future historical purposes. If you have items to share with us such as oral histories, documents or photographs, please let us know.
Looking ahead: 2021
Collaboration is key. We created connections among many parts of our county – from municipal and state officials to hospital CEOs. We also worked closely with non-profit partners, developing new systems to assist our residents where and when help was needed. All of this will serve us well in the years ahead.
Technology is the wave of now. We all quickly learned how to use Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other software that will be part of our lives from now on.
Denton County IS the best place to be. This past year has taught us that we are all fortunate to be part of a county that has kept its hometown feel amid significant growth as we collectively thought outside the box to find solutions. As we forge ahead, we all should strive to keep this generosity of spirit and sense of community at the center of our efforts. It has, and will continue to, serve
In our time of reflection during this holiday season, particularly after one of the toughest years in all of our lifetimes, we find both hard truths and hope. It’s my sincerest wish that we let hope be foremost in our minds as we go into 2021.