ERIE, Pa. — Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper delivered her final State of The County address Thursday.
She applauded the local health departments and healthcare workers, as well as citizens, and reaffirmed the county’s commitment to rebuilding the community and economy following the unprecedented crises of the past year.
“Against all odds, we made progress,” Dahlkemper, who is not running for re-election this year, said. “And I am confident we will see much more of that progress in 2021.”
In the past year, Erie County was able to put $15 million toward rebuilding through funding provided by the CARES Act and other grants.
County government plans to see progress continue in the form of “reconciling with the inequities that COVID-19 has magnified in Erie County,” Dahlkemper said.
This will be done in part by a greater focus on public health than has been in past years. The focus on public health, Dahlkemper said, includes developments to the county’s parks and outdoor environments to help promote public health through exercise long after the pandemic has been eradicated.
Additionally, the county has been working with local internet service providers to expand broadband internet access to Erie residents, making crucial resources for school, work, and healthcare accessible.
In efforts so far to mitigate the local spread of COVID-19, Dahlkemper applauded the Erie County Department of health as well as Erie residents.
“Because of this united herculean effort, Erie County did not experience a high level of disease incidents for COVID-19 until late fall of 2020. And many lives were spared,” Dahlkemper said.
Looking forward, Dahlkemper noted the greatest obstacle the county faces when trying to distribute vaccines.
As of Thursday, Pennsylvania receives roughly 140,000 doses of the vaccine per week. This is distributed to the entire commonwealth, minus Philadelphia, which receives its own federal allotment.
“We could quickly set up a vaccination clinic, but we don’t have enough supply to do so at this point,” Dahlkemper said, adding that the County will collaborate “with our federal, state, and local partners to get the vaccine into the arms of all residents who want it” as more vaccines become available.
In the new year, the county will continue to push for equal access to education and learning resources. This will be accomplished in large part by the recently established Erie County Community College, which is in a position to “set the precedent for all educational institutions,” Dahlkemper said.
“If we do this work, if we rebuild, reconcile, and recover we will see and be the light,” Dahlkemper said.