Regional COVID-19 task force further develops vision for economic renewal and social equity in the DMV
PRESS RELEASE WASHINGTON, D.C., August 20, 2020 – Connected DMV’s COVID-19 Strategic Renewal Task Force held its fourth meeting on Thursday, further affirming its support for regional collaboration and adopting recommendations for digital equity across the region, the creation of a pandemic prevention and biodefense initiative, and an accelerated pilot program to deploy safe and sanitary environment solutions. “The widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic requires a fundamentally regional response,” said Stu Solomon, President & CEO of Connected DMV. “The Task Force and Connected DMV are meeting this reality head on, instigating true collaboration and cooperation across every vital sector, industry, level of government, and jurisdiction in our region. This collaboration is resulting in specific initiatives that simultaneously accelerate our economic renewal and eliminate social inequities. Not only ambitious and novel, our regional framework brings our region together to work a collaborative plan whereby we can together take bold steps forward." Thursday’s Task Force meeting addressed issues of connectivity, equity, safety, and preparation: Connectivity For All The 51-member Task Force—comprised of regional leaders from the public and private sectors, academia, and community—approved a recommendation to create a formal regional partnership to provide solutions that advance social and digital equity across the region. The partnership would help address the digital divide exacerbated by the pandemic through increased access to internet services, devices, digital literacy, and technology-skills training. The recommendation is based on an analysis of the digital divide across the Greater Washington region which found that more than 300,000 residents live without broadband internet, while 40,000 live in areas where broadband is not available. While initial COVID-19 relief efforts have focused on K-12 students, the recommendation recognizes the need to expand measures to include adult learners, community college students, and seniors. “Digital chasms exist across our region, resulting in disparate access to online services and limiting the potential of many of our most promising young people and adults. The impact of COVID-19 on our nation and region has widened these divides and highlighted how many people are lacking access to critical education, work, health, and social services. This is an issue we must all fight to overcome. The Task Force’s approval of a recommendation to create a formal regional partnership to design and advocate for social and digital equity across the region is a powerful next step." -- Hon. Anthony Williams, CEO & Executive Director, Federal City Council Safe Environments: Accelerated Pilots The Task Force also recommended deploying safe environment solutions alongside existing safety protocols in approximately 12 pilot locations across the region—a public library, place of worship, food bank, K-12 school, community college, commercial foyer, privately-owned art venue, a senior living community, and a food court—to restore confidence in the safety of high-traffic environments and accelerate the return to work and school. Potential solutions address ventilation, lighting, surface protection, cleaning, emergency procedures, environmental sensors/diagnostics, and public education and awareness. “Restoring confidence in the safety of shared physical spaces is critical for social and economic recovery. The magnitude of this task requires a genuine, thoughtful, and methodical application of safe environment solutions and technologies that align with and support public health recommendations. I am proud of the Task Force’s recognition of the importance of safe environment innovations and the necessity of accelerating their adoption through pilot deployments as we embrace the safe return to public spaces in our communities." -- Sameer Bhargava, Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, Clark Construction Pandemic Prevention and Biodefense Initiative The Task Force’s third recommendation from Thursday’s meeting emphasized the need to develop a Pandemic Prevention and Biodefense Initiative. Commissioning a working team and steering committee for six months, the initiative will enable integration and coordination across public, private, and academic organizations, ultimately establishing the DMV as the world’s epicenter for pandemic prevention and avoidance policy, research, and development. The recommendation also includes evaluating “AHEAD100” as the potential launch project to generate best-in-class, neutralizing human antibodies for the 100 most likely sources of epidemics. “COVID-19 has highlighted that preparing pathogen remedies after an outbreak is dramatically more costly than initiating solutions in advance. By developing a comprehensive Pandemic Prevention and Biodefense Initiative that seeks seamless integration and collaboration across the region, we can ensure these contemporary lessons are applied to our future. We must learn from this moment, and the approval of this recommendation is foundational in our efforts to get ahead of the next outbreak. Greater Washington is home to 70 federal labs, 800 life sciences companies, the FDA, NIH, and other critical assets, and we are uniquely positioned to lead the world’s efforts to improve pandemic prevention and preparedness." -- Rich Bendis, President & CEO, BioHealth Innovation Connected DMV is powered by 18 Solution Groups comprised of over 300 volunteers from more than 175 different organizations across the region. These Solution Groups work closely with the core team at Connected DMV to research, discuss, and formulate the recommendations for deliberation by the Task Force, and to develop the corresponding implementation plans. Sixteen regional organizations and many of their members are also participating. The region is collaborating at scale to create a stronger, more resilient, and equitable region for all that live, work, and play in the DMV. Over the course of the next two months, the Task Force will continue to release actionable recommendations that will complement and help connect the efforts of regional governments. The results will set the foundation for a more robust and durable marketplace for innovators, small and large businesses, and other organizations to thrive in our nation’s capital region.