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Regional Chair John Henry reflects on 2020

The following statement is being issued on behalf of John Henry, Regional Chair and Chief Executive Officer:

“As we move into the new year, our thoughts turn towards the future. I am hopeful that 2021 will bring reason for optimism and recovery after a long road in the face of COVID-19.

With a vaccine rollout on the horizon, we are very much looking forward to what 2021 will bring. However, just as the end of the year is a time to be hopeful for the next, it is also a time to reflect on the year that was.

Last year was one of the toughest in Durham Region’s history. Since I declared a state of emergency on March 24, COVID-19 has changed many aspects of our daily lives.

For Regional staff, our work continued—and while some aspects of the work changed, it became more important than ever.

Our Health Department was an integral part of the COVID-19 response. From their guidance on best health practices and guidelines to their contact tracing and case management, they have done remarkable work to help keep us as safe as possible.

They created the COVID-19 data tracker with the help of our IT team to help residents stay up to date on the latest status of COVID-19 in Durham, a platform that was accessed more than 1.1 million times in 2020.

Not to mention that, as of December 2, our Health Department team conducted 2,379 investigations, handled 40,720 nursing assessments, and fielded 127,323 phone calls related to COVID-19. More statistics can be found in this Public Health Protects infographic.

Social Services staff partnered with local agencies to create the In and Out of the Crisis program at Camp Samac, where unsheltered residents were provided with a roof over their heads while maintaining their health and receiving the support they need. They also offered emergency child care to health care and front-line workers in Durham Region, providing ongoing support to early learning and child care centres to ensure health and safety. Our Long-Term Care staff continued to provide much-needed care for senior residents in the face of COVID-19 outbreaks and hardships. Their dedication and support during this tumultuous time have been nothing short of heroic.

The Planning, Economic Development and Tourism team played an essential role in supporting our local economy. Since its creation, the Durham Economic Task Force has met regularly to develop and deploy initiatives in support of local businesses. Innovative new programs and initiatives were launched, such as Downtowns of DurhamShop in Durham Week, and the Shop Durham Region online marketplace. Partnerships were strengthened with Durham Farm Fresh in continued support of our agricultural sector, and local restaurants were supported through RITUAL ONE—an accessible, online method of contactless food ordering.

The Works Department continued to provide the consistent service our residents have come to expect every day, such as waste collection, water, road construction and traffic safety.

Durham Region Transit continued its reliable service—offering free rides during the initial spike of the crisis and continually adapting its service model to best serve residents during the pandemic, with health and safety remaining a top priority.

Our internal teams, such as Finance, Communications, Human Resources, IT, Legal, Legislative, and the CAO’s Office have been doing excellent work behind the scenes to continue supporting residents. Work that is incredibly important, focused on ensuring key initiatives and projects were completed as we battle this pandemic. 

These are just a few examples of the tremendous efforts carried out by Regional staff and local partners. To say I am proud of the work they have all done would be a huge understatement.

While COVID-19 was the major focus last year, there were still plenty of bright spots beyond the pandemic.

  • General Motors announced that they aim to bring an estimated $1 billion to $1.3 billion investment and 1,400 to 1,700 hourly jobs back to Oshawa.
  • Amazon announced the building of a one-million-square-foot distribution facility with 1,000 new jobs in the Town of Ajax and a 354,000-square-foot facility in the Town of Whitby, with hundreds of full and part-time jobs.
  • The Lakeshore GO East expansion project has made significant progress. We look forward to these expanded transit options for our residents in the near future.
  • Durham Region Transit launched the new On-Demand service, which has had a significant improvement for northern residents’ access to transit services. There are 11 major Durham Region Transit projects underway with provincial and federal investment in order to modernize our operations, such as the Bus Rapid Transit System that will connect Oshawa to Scarborough along Highway 2.
  • Both the federal and provincial governments recently announced significant funding into broadband. And we are looking forward to securing the funding necessary to achieve our vision of a fully connected Durham.

There were also some very important developments last year in identifying and addressing anti-Black racism. The Region hosted an Anti-Black Racism Town Hall, and Council approved the Anti-Black Racism Town Hall and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Follow-Up report in order to take measurable steps towards addressing anti-Black racism, diversity and inclusion. I remain committed to ensuring our policies and programs are built on equity and opportunity. The Region is continuing this important and necessary journey in 2021 and well beyond.

There is plenty to look forward to this year. We will continue to cultivate a high quality of life for our diverse and growing population, backed by strong support services. We will aim to lead the way in technology and jobs of the future, to help our growing economy stay strong.

Guided by the 2020 to 2024 Durham Region Strategic Plan, we are taking steps to implement our vision of a better Durham Region; the best place to live, work, play, innovate and invest. View our Momentum 2020 video for more information on our upcoming priorities and how we plan to achieve our vision.

We wouldn’t be able to achieve our vision without the support from you, our amazing community. Thank you for helping us get through 2020 and forge ahead to a better year in 2021. Your commitment to listening to public health advice, your resilience, and your unyielding spirit has been an inspiration. From the decorated windows and sidewalks to the messages of thanks and respect for our front-line heroes, thank you for exemplifying the values that make me proud to call Durham Region home.

As always, we remain #DurhamStrong.

For media inquiries, please contact Durham Region's Corporate Communications.

View this notice on the Region of Durham's website.

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