Franklin officials look back on pandemic, ahead to 2021 during State of the City

Franklin Mayor Ken Moore (left) spoke on the city's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)
Franklin Mayor Ken Moore (left) spoke on the city's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)

Franklin Mayor Ken Moore (left) spoke on the city's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)

After holding the event virtually in 2020, residents returned in person to hear Franklin Mayor Ken Moore give his annual State of the City address, which also featured speakers from the county as well as local health officials.

The event, held May 19 in the Franklin Park amphitheater, offered a look back at how the city was affected during the pandemic. Behind the stage were 217 American flags, each representing a death in Williamson County attributed to the virus.

Moore detailed how the area responded to the news that the coronavirus had arrived in the county in early March 2020.

"In March of 2020, I—along with the city's leadership team and the communication team—were in meetings daily with each other, our partners at the county, our neighboring cities and the state," Moore said. "This truly was a unified response on the part of everyone in Williamson County, including the emergency management agency."

Shortly after the virus began to spread in the area, the county and city turned the Williamson County Ag Expo Center into a COVID-19 testing center, which has since become a vaccine site.

"Early on, we knew this pandemic was not going to go away anytime soon, and we knew most of the challenges we would face in the need to deliver both testing and the vaccination process," said Todd Horton, director for the Williamson County Emergency Management Agency.

Officials also discussed how the city and county have made progress toward vaccine distribution.

According to Dr. Andy Russell, chief medical officer for Williamson Medical Center, while conditions surrounding the virus have improved, the pandemic is still ongoing, and the medical center is still seeing multiple COVID-19 cases each day, so unvaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks in public.

"These are not short hospitalizations," Russel said. "The average person with COVID is in the hospital for over six days, and we've had several people who have been there almost two months."

Russell said the key for moving beyond the pandemic is for residents to get a vaccine; the county has seen about 42% of county residents get vaccinated, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. He said this is only about halfway to achieving herd immunity, which experts believe could require between 70%-90% getting vaccinated.

During the event, officials also looked toward the future, discussing ongoing projects slated to be complete this year.

According to City Administrator Eric Stuckey, the first phases of the northwest extension of the Mack C. Hatcher Parkway will wrap up on schedule this fall, and improvements to Franklin Road just north of downtown are slated to be complete as well. Construction was able to continue throughout 2020, despite the pandemic.

"We still are one of the fastest-growing cities in America; we have projects we need to deliver on so we can respond and maintain the quality of life that we have grown to expect and that we want to build on every day in Franklin," Stuckey said.

As restrictions around the coronavirus continue to be relaxed, Moore urged residents to support those in the hospitality industry, which he said was hit particularly hard by widespread closures last year.

"2020, needless to say was a very tough year for all of us, but I particularly want to call out the hospitality industry and our restaurants that struggled during this time because we were all in pandemic mode," Moore said.
By Wendy Sturges
A Houston native and graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin, Wendy Sturges has worked as a community journalist covering local government, health care, business and development since 2011. She has worked with Community Impact since 2015 as a reporter and editor and moved to Tennessee in 2019.


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