Messages from the Council Chair

Keeping the public safe, working for the future

November 2020
Charlie Zelle

This is a tough time for Minnesota as we endure a very intense phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are seeing record numbers of new cases and the number of deaths is following that upward curve. It took Minnesota more than six months to get to 100,000 cases of COVID-19. In just six weeks we reached 200,000, and at the rate we are adding new cases today, we will be at 300,000 cases shortly.

We need to wear our masks but keep our chins up; stay at least six feet apart, but also focus on the horizon; and avoid large gatherings while we remain connected to our friends, families, and communities.

Here at the Met Council, we continue to work hard to keep the public safe now as we focus on the region’s future. Even though transit ridership is down, we’re still providing an incredible amount of mobility for people who rely on us. 70% of the 90,000 transit trips a day we provide are people who are bound for work or school. These trips wouldn’t be possible if not for the essential Metro Transit employees who are on the job day after day.

The pandemic has added new relevance to the public health mission of our Environmental Services division, whose essential workers continue to operate nine regional wastewater treatment plants.

At the same time, many of us work from home and hold virtual meetings with partners and coworkers. Our Community Development and Environmental Services staff have provided technical assistance to 189 communities in our region to develop comprehensive plans that will guide local and regional growth for the next decade. Our water supply planners recently marked 15 years of providing long-range planning, technical assistance, and partnerships with local water utilities to ensure adequate drinking water supplies for decades into the future.

Our Metro HRA’s mission to provide affordable housing opportunities to low-income households has never been more vital. During times of social isolation, regional parks have provided critical respite and bolstered our emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.

This pandemic will end. Currently, at least two promising vaccines are in trials, which gives us reason to hope our lives will open back up sooner rather than later. However, tremendous logistical challenges surround the production and equitable distribution of a new vaccine, and it’s difficult to predict how long it will be before it’s safe to open back up.

I’m proud of the work Met Council is doing through this pandemic. We’re helping set the stage in our region for the recovery that will eventually happen. In the meantime: wear a mask.