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Critical Infrastructure is Crucial to Community Resilience through COVID-19 Crisis

By Greg Alexander

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is an unprecedented global public health pandemic – this infectious disease has affected more than 208 countries and claimed over 202,660 lives. As of April 25, 2020, there have been more than 37,200 confirmed cases and more than 3,200 deaths reported across the State of Michigan, and some of those have been felt right here in our community.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to increase exponentially across the United States. Though researchers continue to work tirelessly to understand more about the virus from prevention to treatment, there is a lot beyond our control and still unknown as we face this crisis.

To combat and suppress the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order on March 23, 2020, and has now extended through May 15, 2020. While the order called millions of Michiganders to stay home to keep their neighbors safe, the critical infrastructure workforce was asked to remain on the frontlines to ensure the services and functions we need and depend on daily are maintained despite the COIVD-19.

The Department of Homeland Security has provided guidance and a list of 16 critical infrastructure sectors for both public health and safety as well as community well-being including: 

  • Chemical
  • Commercial Facilities
  • Communications
  • Critical Manufacturing
  • Dams
  • Defense Industrial Base
  • Emergency Services
  • Energy
  • Financial Services
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Government Facilities
  • Healthcare and Public Health
  • Information Technology
  • Transportation Systems
  • Water and Wastewater Systems
  • Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste

It is imperative that we understand the importance of functioning critical infrastructure and support the workforce burdened with maintaining them during the response to the COVID-19 emergency on both a national and local level.

Currently serving my third term as the elected Sanilac County Drain Commissioner, the oath I swore was to protect the health, safety, and welfare of our community. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, it is both my responsibility, as well as my number one priority, to follow through on that commitment.

Properly maintained County drains are essential infrastructure, as all State highway, County road, agricultural, natural and private ditches flow into county drains and keeping them maintained is critical to ensure public health and safety.

Your Drain Office is working diligently to perform and complete all projects as planned prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. We have been writing letters to contractors informing them they can continue to work if they have not been exposed to the virus and feel safe doing so. Safety is our number one priority, social distaining and recommended preventive measures have been and will continue to be practiced as we move forward to complete necessary and critical infrastructure projects.

Your Drain Office works daily, working hand-in-hand with our local agricultural community to ensure our land is favorable for farming. As planting season approaches, our office will continue to serve as a resource to our local agricultural community, and we will do our very best to meet their needs as they arise.

The agriculture sector is critical to maintaining our food supply, and it’s also essential to the economic stability and viability of our state and region.

On a state level, Michigan leads the nation in the production of several crops and contributes more than $104.7 billion annually to our state’s economy. Our district is home to 28 highly developed agricultural townships, the majority of which fall within Sanilac County. The agricultural sector employs 10 percent of our local workforce and contributes nearly 5 percent to our state’s annual agriculture production. Home to more than 80,000 cattle, Sanilac County farmers also make significant contributions to the dairy industry.

All residents need reliable roads to move products to market to the benefit of our families. Like the foundation of a house, safe, stable roads can’t exist without positive drainage. Unfortunately, zero dollars from Gov. Whitmer’s $3.5B road bond program were allocated to address drainage needs or concerns. We are working closely with our State Representative, Shane Hernandez, to see if there is a way to get critical drain work included within the existing road bond program or the next state budget and to secure additional funding via alternative programs.

In the meantime, like many others, I pray for this pandemic to come to an end soon. I also have faith that great stories of service, of neighbors helping neighbors and communities working together to protect one another will hold us together and carry us forward to a future filled with brighter days.

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