The county has had to make a number of tough decisions this year, Whitley said, including dealing with the need to balance the safety and health of county residents with the potential impact on local businesses and the county’s economy.
“We’ve made decisions after consulting with public health officials and local businesses,” he said. “Only through talking and listening to people can we get a decision that I’m comfortable making.”
Throughout the pandemic, the goal of county officials has been to make sure hospitals stay open, and the county has accomplished that goal, Whitley said.
The county has also sought to alleviate businesses of the financial burden caused by the pandemic, he added.
Using federal dollars from the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security act, the county has distributed more than $200 million to local cities and has spent an additional $150 million on COVID-19 testing and personal protective equipment and $30 million on small business grants, Whitley said.
“[COVID-19] has slowed economic development but has not stopped it,” he said. “The super bowl of rodeos [is] coming to this area in December, and the World Series was played here. Of all the places in this country, they chose Arlington, Texas and Tarrant County.”
Whitley also touched on the 2020 election, which has seen more than 500,000 Tarrant County voters cast a ballot. Voters can go to the Tarrant County elections website for a complete list of vote center locations and the approximate wait time at each polling place, Whitley said.
In addition, Whitley highlighted the ongoing $1.2 billion JPS Health Network project, which will include a teaching hospital and a diversion center for increased emphasis on mental health issues, he said.
“Instead of taking [nonviolent offenders] to the jail and booking them, there will be a diversion center where they can be dropped off,” Whitley said. “It helps the police, and it helps the jail. Most importantly, it helps the individual get the help they need to get back out in the community.”